For South Street’s Repo Records, Record Store Day brings in as much revenue as the business would in any other two-week period. That’s how big it is.
“It’s the biggest day of the year,” Repo’s owner, Dan Matherson, said. “Bigger than Christmas.”
According to Nielsen Music, vinyl experienced sales growth for the 13th consecutive year in 2018, and South Philly record stores have been cashing in. Matherson isn’t the only one.
“All in all, we’ve maintained customers and found new ones,” said Colin McMahon, owner of Sit & Spin Records, located at the corner of Lambert and Passyunk Avenue. “I think a lot of people want a physical form of media and not just something that’s stored on their phone that they lose when it breaks.”
Sit & Spin is primarily geared toward punk, hard rock and heavy metal, which is reflected among the store’s best-selling albums as of late. According to McMahon, those albums include The Cosmo Cleaners by Uranium Club and Posthumous Humiliation by a local Philadelphia-based band called Pissgrave.
Molly Russakoff, the owner of Molly’s Books & Records, which is located in the Italian Market neighborhood, says her store sells only used records. As a result, music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, like soul, R&B, modern jazz, classic rock and punk rock, sell the best in her store.
“My husband started collecting records in 1964 and still loves the Rolling Stones and the Beatles,” she said. “Classics always sell well.”
She called records “the gold standard of listening to music.”
“It’s a warmer sound,” said Russakoff. “They’re actually more durable, and it’s more of an involving way of listening to music. Now you can just push a button, and there’s music all day and it turns into wallpaper.”
Matherson said that classic rock artists, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and David Bowie, will perennially sell very well. He’s especially sold a lot of Queen lately, which he attributes to the recently released Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course, newer indie artists sell very well, also, which is stereotypically seen as the vinyl boom’s core demographic’s favorite genre. Some records that top the charts in those categories, according to Matherson, are Snail Mail’s Lush, Soccer Mommy’s Clean and the eponymous debuts of bands boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center.
“And all the hip hop stuff,” Matherson said, citing Frank Ocean as just one example. “Hip hop vinyl is huge. A lot of kids are buying hip hop stuff now, too.”
Russakoff said that her store, which also sells books, “can’t find enough” used records to sell.
“We’re always out looking,” she said.
Despite the vinyl boom, the medium was never actually dead, according to Matherson.
“They always say it was a record revival thing, but we were always selling records,” he explained. “We never stopped selling records. But more and more people are buying them now, and I think Record Store Day has helped with people wanting to buy records.”
He added that Repo is “selling more records now than we ever have.”
“I think people just like the sound of it,” he said. “I think they like the aesthetics of it. They like holding the records. They look cool. I think it’s a neat medium. People like it.”