Saturday, April 30, 2022

Revolver Records thrives on vinyl ‘relics’


Revolver Records owner, Phil Machemer, sorts through new inventory of vinyl

By Elijah Robinson and Thomas Tedesco

            It was just 15 years ago that vinyl records were considered a relic of the past that were wallowing in a long period of obsolescence.

            The large black discs had been phased out of the mainstream music consciousness for the likes of the compact disc and subsequently, digital downloads.

            Then a cultural shift started to happen.

Music community members slowly and steadily began to embrace vinyl records once again as a complement to their digital music collections.

            “I felt kind of silly paying $15 for the CD, and then be putting it on the shelf and never touching it,” Phil Machemer said. “I can get this vinyl and I can have something cooler, and then it would come with a download code so I could also have it on my iPod.”

            Machemer, who is the owner and founder of Revolver Records, 831 Elmwood Ave., has found himself and his business amid a growing resurgence in the sales of vinyl records.

            According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl exceeded sales of CDs for the first time in 2020 and continued to do so in 2021.

            Machemer, who used to live on Elmwood and started selling records at an antique market called The Peddler, 656 Elmwood Ave., said he always saw the need for a record store on the West Side.

            “Elmwood Avenue always needed a record store and I always thought, ‘Why couldn’t it be me?’ It's where people go to hang out. People want to have a good time, they want to shop, it's very hip and it was a no brainer,” he said.

            Machemer says he has felt this shift among music lovers of various ages and demographics on the West Side.

            “It's very diverse. There are people of all different likenesses that buy records here, you can't pigeonhole it,” he said.

            The vinyl craze has most notably transcended age groups, as individuals in their 20s are almost just as likely to purchase a vinyl record as someone in their 50s, according to a study from Statista.

            “The first time I went to Revolver was actually the first time I went to a record store,” Joey Bastian, a 20-year-old music major at SUNY Buffalo State College, said. “It’s a hotspot for me and it’s a great place to shop.”

            Around the same time that vinyl began to resurge in popularity, a cultural phenomenon known as Record Store Day began to spread across the approximately 1, 400 independent record stores in the United States and soon, across the world.

            Record Store Day coordinator Rick Johnson describes Record Store Day as the largest one-day celebration of music in the world.


Record Store Day Coordinator, Rick Johnson talks about how vinyl has seen a shift in cultural perspective since the inception of Record Store Day in 2007.

            Usually celebrated on the third Sunday in April, record labels, distributors and artists of all genres release limited edition records that are sold exclusively at independent record stores.

            “It was all started with trying to make the independent record store viable and trying to help the independent record store,” Johnson said.

            Machemer describes the day as the biggest on his store’s calendar and one that can have big rewards, but also carries big risks.

            “It's a gamble. I mean, we're essentially putting thousands of dollars into this idea that people are going to come and want this stuff, and we just have to hope and assume that they will,” Machemer said.

            Most years, Revolver Records has seen significant boosts in business due to Record Store Day, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the celebration split into three separate days.

            “I laid everybody off, ran the business just by myself and it was difficult. It was really ramshackle, but it worked,” Machemer said.

            Johnson said that not only was Record Store Day an integral part of independent record stores to surviving the pandemic, but it is also a testament to the loyalty of record collectors.

            “Vinyl customers are very tenacious, and they want their vinyl,” Johnson said. “They want the community of going to the record shop and they want their small businesses to stay in business and they want their small businesses to thrive.”

            While there has been significant growth in the sales of vinyl, it still leaves many wondering as to when it will reach its peak and subsequently decline.

            Johnson said that he doesn’t expect the interest of vinyl and its sales to dissipate anytime soon.

            “Every trend or every company has a trajectory and there is a point where the trajectory levels off. So, I've been anticipating it for a while, and it hasn't happened yet,” he said.