This week's issue of Billboard magazine ranks Chicago's Jazz Record Mart among its list of top U.S. shops for vinyl junkies, calling the local institution a "must for friends looking for live tunes on Record Store Day."
Record Store Day is this Saturday -- a commercial holiday that began five years ago as a spirited international campaign to encourage patronage of local brick-and-mortar record shops. Now, on the third Saturday every April, participating independent record stores open early, have sales, spotlight live bands and stock what they can from an eagerly anticipated list of records released especially for the occasion.
It's the zenith of the market's recent flip-flop: As more consumers turn to digital sources to buy new music, the physical shops are doing well selling music's original physical product. A couple of years ago I noted the switch in Chicago shops from CDs on the floor and vinyl against the wall to the other way around, and this week a new report revealed that vinyl record sales in 2012 hit their highest point since 1997, up 52 percent from the previous year for a $171 million total.
"Owners of vinyl want people to ask about them, about the music they love, because it allows them to do what they desire to do: talk about the music they love," says George Howard, COO of the online Concert Vault and Daytrotter music services (launched by northwestern alum Bill Sagan). "Vinyl is, essentially, the conversation starter that a download can never be."
At Jazz Record Mart, vinyl accounts for 70 percent of sales.
On Saturday the Jazz Record Mart, 27 E. Illinois (312-222-1467, jazzmart.com), will feature jazz from Nick Mazarella, Mike Reed and Devin Hoff (noon) and blues singer Tail Dragger with Rockin' Johnny and Martin Lang (2 p.m.).
Other local RSD events of note:
-- Music all day at Record Breakers, the shop at Reggie's club, 2105 S. State, features Cloud Cult (10 a.m.), the Kickback (1:15 p.m.), a solo Joan of Arc set (5 p.m.) and more. Open at 8 a.m., free hot dogs. (312) 949-0120; reggieslive.com/show/record-store-day
-- Metalheads will want to be at the Reckless Records at 1532 N. Milwaukee for an in-store performance by Lair of the Minotaur (4 p.m.), among others. Opens at 10 a.m. (773) 235-3727; reckless.com
-- Tote bags (stuffed with goodies for the early birds) and a great lineup of in-store performances by Dolly Varden, Cinchel and more at Laurie's Planet of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln, open at 9 a.m. (773) 271-3569; lauriesplanetofsound.blogspot.com
-- The wonderful Saki, 3716 W. Fullerton, opens at 9 a.m., and online radio angels from CHIRP will be hosting a "Price Is Right"-style game for customers at noon. Live in-stores from Radar Eyes, Twin Peaks and more. (773) 486-3997; sakistore.net
-- One of the most fun RSD events, the Numero Group Pop-Up Shop, this year will be at Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee, selling its own awesome wares (Shoes reissues!), including some handmade cassette mixes by Numero staff. numerogroup.wordpress.com
For a complete list of Chicago shop RSD events, complete with a nifty map, look to this round-up from the Chicago Reader.
A database of all the limited-edition vinyl records issued on the occasion, see recordstoreday.com. (The Reader also has a fine list of these.) They won't be available at all shops, of course. Be kind to your friendly neighborhood record shop folks, and take note of these shopping tips I blogged last year.