What’s old is new again.
That saying gets thrown around a lot, but could not ring truer than when it comes to the rising popularity of the vinyl record.
Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s the tone of the music. Maybe it’s something else altogether.
“It seems like it’s become some kind of shorthand for some kind of physical meaning in a world of less and less meaning,” said Paul Epstein, owner of Twist & Shout record store in Denver. “It’s kind of a larger cultural realization that with the digital world, while there is access to a huge amount of stuff, it’s less meaningful.”
Epstein said he thinks this is part of the reason why people are flocking to record stores to buy vinyl albums.
And maybe why its popularity has only been increasing in the last 10 to 15 years.
“The physical proof of culture and art is a good thing,” Epstein said. “That’s what lets us know we’re human and alive.”
That feeling might be why Twist & Shout is selling records, and why, just down the street, Adam Baumeister is making a modest living off something that piggybacks off vinyl’s popularity.
“Vinyl is very hip and trendy right now -- for good reason,” Baumeister said. It’s cool, I love it.”
Baumeister started his business, Meep Records, about five years ago. He bought a recording lathe, and got to work in his living room.
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“There’s several companies that made these in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s—and I think they made tons of them, but there are not a lot around,” Baumeister said. “All that old music was recorded this way—two microphones in a room, cutting into a lacquered disk.”
But it wasn’t just music that was recorded this way. The machine Baumeister owns to make his records, which are plastic and not vinyl, was likely used for something a little more common. Lathes, like his, were often used to record personal messages, to send to family and friends decades ago. They were found at nearly every corner drug store—and people even had them in their homes.
“So during WWII this stuff was huge,” Baumeister said. “You’d get these little acetate records, and you’d buy them and record a message or a song.”
Baumeister’s lathe is from the 1950s. He can take any type of recording—a song, a message, any piece of audio—master it on his computer, and record that audio onto a blank record. He described the process as the opposite of a record player.
“Instead of the needle catching the groove and making the sound, the sound is coming out into the stylus and wiggling and putting the grooves on the record,” Baumeister said.
Initially, he said he bought the lathe to record his own music. Then other bands wanted a few records here and there. But what he’s making most of his money off of, surprised him.
“Just a lot of it has turned to everyday people who have sound they want to keep in a physical way,” Baumeister said.
He has made records of baby’s first words and marriage proposals, to name a few.
“There’s all sorts of weird stuff you can do with these records,” Baumeister said. “The sky is the limit with what you want to do with them.”