David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, I'm David Payne. And on today's episode, we're going to be looking at the vinyl revival, the renewed interest and the increase sales of the gramophone record and how it ties in with MCPL second annual vinyl day. And who better to have as our guest today than MCPL's very own music man Twinbrook Branch Manager Eric Carzon. Welcome back, Eric.
Eric Carzon: Hi, good to be back.
David Payne: Eric, of course, has been on several podcast talking about music-related matters and he's also in charge of Twinbrook's collection of musical instruments. How is it going Eric?
Eric Carzon: Oh, it's going great.
David Payne: Oh, very good. So let's start off by talking about the upcoming Vinyl Records Day. What do we need to know? Where, when, what?
Eric Carzon: All righty. So, Vinyl Record Day is on Saturday, April 27th at the Silver Spring Library and it's from 12 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., so you do not need to register in advance. And some of the highlights of what's going to be going on at the vinyl record day, we're going to preview some clips from the upcoming documentary, Feast Your Ears, that's about the famous radio station WHFS 102.3, so the original HFS. And one of their deejays, Cerphe Colwell is going to be there to kick that off and also signs some of his books. WHFS was very famous starting in the '60s, played a very eclectic mix of music.
Some folks in more recent years might remember it as WHFS 99.1 where it played a progressive alternative rock for a number of years before being bought out in 2005 and changing formats. And then it sort of has a colored history after that, going in and out of different formats and bouncing around all over the country in different incarnations. We also are going to have a panel discussion on vinyl record recording a collecting with some folks that are in the industry and we are going to have our – do again our famous arts and crafts with vinyl records, which was a big hit last year. So that's a great family activity.
We also are going to have our first ever Make Music Montgomery Talent Showcase, so we did some auditions earlier in the year. We're going to have several talented folks from our community play us some music. We're going to have a couple celebrity community judges who do local things in the music scene here. And they're going to provide some commentary and select some of the best acts from Make Music Montgomery. There'll also be a record sale during the whole thing, so you would be able to buy some vinyl records from the Friends of the Library, Montgomery County. And, of course, you can dress up as your favorite artist if you wish. And then to cap it all off, we have a volunteer group who's going to have a record-listening room after the event's over so you'll be able to head up to the fifth floor and listen to some records after 4:00 o'clock.
David Payne: That's great. So something for everybody.
Eric Carzon: Yeah exactly.
David Payne: Will you be taking over the whole building the whole library or this is –
Eric Carzon: No. This year, most of the actions are going to happen on the third floor and the fifth floor.
David Payne: Great.
Eric Carzon: So the fifth floor is where the arts and crafts are going to be and the record listening at the end of the day. And then all of the main events are going to be on the third floor.
David Payne: Great. You mentioned the – sorry. You mentioned the Make Music Montgomery contest, tell us a bit more about that and how did the auditions go with that?
Eric Carzon: Oh, great. Yeah, so the auditions for Make Music Montgomery went great. Well, we tried to make it as easy as possible. So if you're interested in doing this next year, we do it next year. We had people submit audio files basically and/or video files we said, you know. Basically, submit us any current format that's readable. We didn't have any problem with reading the files. We did have a live audition and a couple of folks took advantage of that. We just basically made a recording of them. So we had sort of a subpanel of judges go through the acts and select the best ones. And so those acts will perform at Make Music Montgomery on Vinyl Record Day. And that should be a good time. We sort of stole the page from America's Got Talent. So, we're going to do a nice version. You know, there's no mean judge in there.
David Payne: Was there a great diversity in the type of performances and the type of –
Eric Carzon: We tried to get as much diversities as we can. You're going to see, there's a – some – from the Chinese community, there's going to be – they're playing the zither, a Chinese instrument, and doing some dance along with the zither playing. We got some ukulele guitar. We have original songs from the diversity of artists. And then, so we'll pick like an overall best act and the most physically challenging, the most original, the best tribute to an artist, and the most charming, the sort of the crowd-pleaser acts are some of the categories that we have.
David Payne: So we had a very first Vinyl Day last year. From that, what learned from that kickoff? What are the changes that you made this year? How did you go about sort of thinking about this second year?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I think we tried to tighten the focus a little bit. So that's why most of the actions are on the third floor, a little bit on the fifth floor. We put in Make Music Montgomery to break up the panel. I think we had, like, a speech and two panels last year. So we tried to make it a little more active in terms of our – in terms of our programming.
David Payne: Do you anticipate a large crowd this year?
Eric Carzon: I certainly hope so.
David Payne: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eric Carzon: You know, but, you know, as long as – as long as whoever comes has fun, then we'll be happy.
David Payne: And, again, looking back at last year, what are some of your favorite moments from that first one?
Eric Carzon: I think watching the kids eat up their crafts was really great. You know, there's a lot of energy there. Just people enjoying the records, you know, because there are some – there are some gold in there – in those records, you never know what you're going to find.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: And then the people are really engaged in the panel discussion. They had a nice discussion about collection, about playing them on the radio and about the artists.
David Payne: And what can we expect from the Friends of the Library record sale this year?
Eric Carzon: There's a good diversity of records because, you know, people donate constantly to the Friends of the Library. So a lot of the genres are represented. You know, sometimes you'll encounter something fairly rare. You might encounter – you know, I've got one that I bought that was signed by the artist. So, you know, there are stuffs that sometimes people don't know what they have. They throw it away and don't realize that oh, you know, I've got a, you know, I've got a Michael Jackson records signed by Michael Jackson or something.
David Payne: So it's clear from Vinyl Day and your experience it and the trends that we're seeing that people are still very clearly listening to vinyl. Why do you think in a world in which technology has greatly changed the way in which we listen to music, what is it about, a basic glossy seven or 12-inch disc that makes it so attractive to people?
Eric Carzon: Oh, yeah, there's a few things about vinyl. I think that the vinyl record highlights the album experience. So, you know, some of the restrictions of the format are actually some of the benefits. So you've got a fixed amount of time, about 50 minutes to make that impression. And for decades, artists, you know, utilized that to really craft an experience. So I think that is still a benefit of the vinyl record experience. And, you know, it's sort of a reaction to the digital, which, you know, has its benefits. I mean, I – I'm a fan of both. And, you know, the great thing about digital music is it's very portable.
You got thousand songs in your pocket. You can make mixes. So, you know, you can have Sting and Elton John and Nickelback on the same mix if you want. And, you know, if you want to throw Ella Fitzgerald, great. But there is something to be said for absorbing an artist conception of, like, you know, "I'm an artist, you like me. You like my music, I'm going to give you 15 minutes of an experience." It's like listening to a story or reading somebody's book. So that is also an experience. I think another thing about it is there's an element of nostalgia.
David Payne: Yes.
Eric Carzon: I mean, you know, a lot of us grew up with vinyl records, you know, that was my first music experience. So I think we have fond memories when we re-experience vinyl. And, you know, we like the scratch or the sort of – the rhythmic pulse of the thing going up and down and there's sort of a slight background hiss that's there, and turning the record over and the A side and the B side. So those are all things that resonate with people.
David Payne: Plus the actual covers themselves.
Eric Carzon: Yeah, I agree. And that's a – you have a lot more flexibility with the cover art. You can do a lot more, you can actually read. I mean, the frustrating thing with CDs is you really can't read the words or any of the things in the cover art. So I think that is also an element. And, you know, like I said before, it's not an all or nothing proposition. The way I like to think about vinyl records now is it's kind of a luxury experience, you know. It's kind of like the dessert to your meal or your after-dinner coffee or maybe owning an antique car. You know, you're probably not going to drive your antique car to the grocery store but on that perfect Sunday or if you're having people over, you know, you're going to show them to your garage and say, "Here's my antique car."
So I look at vinyl records the same way. It's like you want to have a sort of special experience, you'll like, "Hey, let's have a special music listening experience." And then you can – and you can pull it out. And, you know, there is also an element of it's a different sound experience. And I'm not an audio file but there are arguments to trade back and forth over which formats have which advantages. You know, there are certainly people in the camp that will say that the vinyl record is actually the superior audio experience. That the analogue recording and playback captures more fully the actual intent of the artist in the full sound spectrum as opposed to the digital music.
There are digital audio file that will tell you, "No, no, no, it's the opposite," you know, if you look at the parameters or whatever, you know, if you listen to high fidelity, high quality digital audio, it's like, you know, sonically better. You know, for me, I ditched all that and just go, "Well, you know, what are you in the mood for? And what is your purpose?" you know. If I'm going on a six-hour drive, then digital music is great and I can make – I can make a six-hour mix if I want to very easily. You're not going to do that with vinyl. But, you know, if I want the vinyl experience then, it definitely has its benefits.
David Payne: So that takes me to my next question that you partially answered. How does the sound quality of the vinyl record compare with other recording formats?
Eric Carzon: And I think for me, it's just mostly a difference in the experience, you know, the – one of the things – especially I remember back when CD started to come in to play, the absence of the background noise threw some people because vinyl records have a very distinctive beginning and end background noise and mechanical noise. And, you know, some people like that. Digital music actually there are so many different qualities of digital music like, you know, the MP3 format. It's intentionally less music. So there is less there. And if your ears are that attuned, you would be able to tell the difference in listening the MP3 file, there is less sound there and they do that in order to compress it down and create less data so you can fit more songs on to a given length of digital media. But, you know, CD quality versus vinyl quality is sort of one of those arguments on media that the people argue back and forth. But to me, it's really more about the experience.
David Payne: So are there any new developments in vinyl, particularly thinking of how they're made these days?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. Apparently so. I've done a lot of research. You know, I'm no expert but I did read up on a couple of articles in our area, for instance, there is a new vinyl record press, and that's sort of a trend. So there's been a few and – like I was reading an article from the vinylrecordfactory.com and they said that – they were talking about how presses were opening up in five different continents, including United States. And one of the more recent ones in our area in 2018, the Furnace Record Pressing Company opened a new press in Alexandria, Virginia. And if you go to their website, you'll see they're very active.
They've got pricing and you can – if you want to go press yourself a vinyl record, you've got a new source to do that. And the other thing that – I was reading an article in Popular Science magazine and they were talking about a company called Viryl Technologies that developed a new vinyl record press. And that was an accomplishment because up until a couple of years ago, most of these record presses were basically scouring the world for old vinyl presses that had been left over an then they were refurbishing them and restoring them to working order and then running their presses.
And so there's actually been a lot of pent up demand because that was a very slow process, they break down a lot, it's a very messy and difficult manufacturing process. So this company invested and created a brand new. I think the model number is called WarmTone. But they created a brand new record press which hadn't happened in awhile. And according to their website, the Furnace Record Press, for instance, is using one of their new models and so are few other companies around the world. So the fact that they're sort of reinventing the pressing process and, you know, taking 20 or 30 years' worth of technology advancements, I'm sure that the new press is probably more efficient than the old press.
David Payne: Right. How much do you think as an aside institutional knowledge about the whole process, the record press process, I mean, was it Sony I was reading when they decided to go back into the world of gramophone records? They had a hard time finding somebody old enough to remember how to – how to manufacture them.
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I'm sure it's an issue, and that's one of the questions that we'll probably come up in the panel discussions at the event because I think we're all interested to hear a little bit about that.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: I did. You know, in fact, there are some new tech – the other new technology I was reading about is there is supposedly some work going on on a new vinyl format, so really like high definition vinyl. So that would be interesting. But the fact that the Viryl company, you know, they had to gain enough expertise to be able to invent a new format. So that's – I think that's a probably good for the industry that they're, you know, getting some people to invest in new knowledge. And, theoretically, they probably had to catch up on the old knowledge in order to be able to do that.
David Payne: So for anybody who wants to get into the world or develop their collection of vinyl records, how does one go about developing a great collection of vinyl?
Eric Carzon: Well, if you got a relative that might be a starting point. But, actually, there are – we're blessed with a lot of local record shops. A few that come to mind; there's Joe's Record Paradise and The Record Exchange. Those are both in Silver Spring, pretty close to each other. Barns & Noble has a pretty – I'd like to say about a third of their media section is devoted to vinyl now. And it's interesting, it's a mixed of old and new vinyl. So, you know, if you go and you browse, you're going to see like remix of classic vinyl albums but then you'll also see like the latest, you know, the artist's very latest album, you know, pressed out there vinyl.
So a little of both is going on. Now, the Barns & Noble and the new – the new records are actually more expensive than CDs but, you know, by a – not insubstantial factors as far as I can tell. But there is a wealth of used records as well. So the Friends of the Library bookstores, both of them, one Rockville and the one in Colesville Road, the old Silver Spring Library site, and eventually will move back to the Wheaton Library when Wheaton reopens. Both of the Friends of the Library book sales have a substantial record collection that you'll see at the festival. And the other place that has a pretty substantial used record collection that I've seen is Wonder Book in Gaithersburg.
David Payne: Yes, yes.
Eric Carzon: And they've got like a whole room dedicated to vinyl. So there are lots of different places, you know. You could probably hit yard sales as well. Although, the – since you don't know what temperature control the user kept their records in, so a little more dicey.
David Payne: That's right, yeah, buy everywhere. Yeah.
Eric Carzon: Yeah, absolutely.
David Payne: Would you know particularly with new vinyl, are we seeing new vinyl in sort of across the board in terms of the various musical genres and classical, jazz, rock or is it more confined to a particular type of music?
Eric Carzon: I haven't shopped enough to fully tell. But as far as I can tell, there is a bit of diversity. Yeah. Especially with the – I'd say the more I've seen is actually the pop.
David Payne: Oh, yes, yeah.
Eric Carzon: You know, like soft – the sort of pop artist seemed to have a lot of vinyl coming out.
David Payne: Yeah. Looking ahead, do you see the vinyl revival continuing to grow as much as it has in recent years?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I think the jury is out on that as well. I think that the fact that the industry is invested in new pressing factories because that is a substantial capital investment.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: So, I think that suggest that they believe that the trend will continue enough to remain stable enough for them to make that investment.
David Payne: Right. Yeah.
Eric Carzon: Personally, I don't see vinyl ever resuming its dominant role.
David Payne: No.
Eric Carzon: But I could totally see it as kind of this stable niche of this luxury music experience.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: You know, it's not going to be for everybody and it's, you know, not even for people who like it. It might not be their mainstay of how they absorb music but, you know, it's kind of a – it's a reachable luxury, you know, it's a hobby you can have. And I personally think that it will remain that way for some time.
David Payne: And who would have thought that it would have developed the way it did, so.
Eric Carzon: Yeah, yeah.
David Payne: So, amongst your vinyl collection, do you have a favorite album or song you listened to on vinyl?
Eric Carzon: Yeah. I've got a couple. My favorite vinyl album of all time, I think, Janis Ian, Between the Lines. And I like the whole album experience. I love that. My mom was a big Gordon Lightfoot.
David Payne: Oh, yeah.
Eric Carzon: So I got the bug as well and I love his first album actually. It's his very first album that was great and I listened to it over and over again. I used to listen to Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Volume 2 over and over again, Billy Joel and Elton John. And one I've actually been looking for, I regret, I don't know – you know, I was a kid when I listened to it but I don't know how it got lost or destroyed or whatever, but I used to have a soundtrack of Star Wars that had the music and the dialogue.
David Payne: Oh, nice. Yeah.
Eric Carzon: And so, you know, and I got it right when the movie first came out in '79 and I listened to that thing to death. And I had the whole dialogue memorized. And I have looked high and low for that record, even in CD format and I cannot find it. So that was one of my favorites. And one of these days, I hope to find it again in any format.
David Payne: Sounds like a collectable.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: Yeah.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing your personal record collection with us. And we normally each episode by asking our guest what they're currently reading or a book or something they've recently enjoyed. So while you're listening to your vinyl records, what are you reading?
Eric Carzon: No, absolutely. So I just finished Adventures of an IT Leader. And it's a great book. It teaches sort of serious IT management principles that you would, you know, take in graduate school, but it does it in a guise of story. So it's like very entertaining, very educational. It was actually assigned to me in a graduate class so I read it. And it's in the MCPL collection on RB Digital as an audiobook and I highly recommend it. I'm about to start the book City on the Line which is by our Chief Administrative Officer. His name is Andrew Kleine. And he writes about his experience as the budget chief in Baltimore City during the Great Recession.
David Payne: Right.
Eric Carzon: And then, finally, since I am the manager of the Library of Things: Music, I do read the Daily Ukulele almost daily. It's got 365 ukulele songs. I use it for my monthly program. And it's a staple of MCPL's music collection, so you can find it in a lot of branches.
David Payne: Great.
Eric Carzon: And if you're starting out on uke that is the book you want.
David Payne: And you're developing your repertoire.
Eric Carzon: Yeah, right.
David Payne: Yeah. And for our listeners, you can find details of all those on our show notes. So, Eric, thank you very much for sharing your vinyl record knowledge. I hope the Vinyl Day 2019 goes very well. Good luck with that.
Eric Carzon: It's my pleasure.
David Payne: And we look forward to Vinyl Day 2020.
Eric Carzon: Yeah.
David Payne: Keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcasts app, Stitcher or where you get your podcast. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts. We love to know what you think. Thank you for listening to our conversation today and see you next time.