On the Record

The Eugene Record Convention is stronger than ever after 25 years

In an era when iTunes and iPods reign supreme, when acquiring music for free on the internet is as easy as keeping tabs on Lindsay Lohan, a funny thing has happened; there’s a growing resurgence of interest in vinyl, one of the oldest physical formats for recorded music. The trend begs for tired clichés such as “what’s old is new again,” and yet it also proves that even today’s youth market isn’t so quick to disregard, as some would like to believe, the sentimentality of beloved objects.

“Records have been around a long, long time,” says Bill Finneran, Eugene Record Convention coordinator. “The record companies did a pretty good job trying to kill the thing, but when I was a kid every house had a pile of records. There’s still so much stuff out there.” The Eugene Record Convention, celebrating 25 years this February, isn’t just a place to find moldy oldies; with a resurgence of record sales, more and more new music is being released on vinyl.

And local businesses like House of Records and Skip’s Records & CD World are reaping the rewards. Vinyl records make up nearly 25 percent of sales locally at Skip’s Records & CD World, a store that only began carrying the format seven years ago. “We started to change the name of the business from CD World to Skip’s Records & CD World,” owner and founder Skip Hermens says, “just to let everyone know that we were now back in the vinyl business.”

Recalling the early days of the convention, Finneran says he had no idea it would last as long as it has.  He attributes the success of his event to Eugene’s unique personality. “In just an average town you might not do so well,” he says, also noting the event’s ideal location between California and Portland.

Over the past quarter-century the selection of music at the convention has, of course, changed. “There’s stuff people are looking for now that wasn’t even out 25 years ago,” Finneran says. At the beginning, people wanted ’50s rock and classic country, but now there’s a demand for metal, punk, hip hop and contemporary pop. New vinyl also gives listeners the best of both worlds and the most bang for their buck, typically coming with a free digital album download coupon.

“A lot of people download their music these days. It’s a very instant way of attaining music,” says Ryan Boyd, a Eugene record collector who has attended the convention for 14 years. “The quality leaves something to be desired, and I think it’s easier to take the music for granted when it’s a file on your hard drive or iPod. You engage physically with a record: You hold it in your hands; you pull it out of its sleeve, set it on your turntable and drop the needle.  And the sound experience you get is rich, warm and organic.  Records are also things to be taken care of, preserved and even displayed in one’s home. No matter how convenience-oriented we become, human beings out there will desire the latter experience.”

The 25th Annual Eugene Record Convention will be hosted 10 am to 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Eugene Hilton.

Illustration by Trask Bedortha.

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