Last weekend marked the seventh time Spin Records has celebrated the annual Record Store Day.
“It’s our biggest day of the year,” says Ken Kosta, who brought Spin Records to Carlsbad 23 years ago. “We do three or four times what we would normally do on a Saturday.”
Hundreds of people shuffled through the store as Trouble in the Wind, John Meeks, Nena Anderson, and the Scruffies played out back.
Kosta says things are better at his Grand Avenue store but admits Spin barely survived the “decade from hell.”
“It was touch-and-go during most of the noughts,” Kosta says. “It was a struggle every year from 2000 until 2010. That’s when Napster and Amazon really affected us. People just weren’t buying vinyl and CDs as much. It’s not as good now as it was in the good old days [of the ’80s]. But there was a time where I wasn’t sure record stores would even be around in ten years.”
Because Kosta and Spin did survive, he’s buoyed by a new business reality: sales of new vinyl LPs were up 30 percent last year over 2014. “We’re up 20 percent compared to this time last year.”
But the mini-boom in vinyl hurt one beloved L.A. record store. The L.A. Times recently reported that Echo Park’s Origami Vinyl shuttered in part because major chains like Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters are now jumping on the vinyl bandwagon.
“It is hard to compete at their price level, considering how big they are,” Kosta says of the corporate vinyl outlets.
But the big chains don’t have the soul of a Spin. Five of Kosta’s seven employees play in a band. “People are attracted to the old-school record-store vibe. We’re not a neat and clean mall store.”
And Spin carries local product.
“We get vinyl by [local bands] Mrs. Magician, Harsh Toke, and Joy from their national distributor. Trouble in the Wind and Sacri Monti bring it in themselves.”
The flip side of vinyl, says Kosta, is that as record-pressing plants struggle to keep up with demand by rushing their output, their quality diminishes. “And nowadays, they won’t take back any records even if they are defective. When people bring them back, we have to eat them.”