Online vinyl record sales – a new business model

Online Vinyl Record Sales – A New Business Model

The music industry is an ever changing business entity. Slowly, CDs are disappearing as the format of choice and the sales leader of retail music. However, there is an old and friendly favorite emerging for millions of music lovers and competing for that almighty music dollar.

Vinyl records are back, as the youth of today are finding the listening experience is greatly enriched when utilizing this historic music medium. In fact, the resurgent vinyl record market shows no signs of a slowdown. Nielsen SoundScan has released estimated figures that indicate that sales of vinyl in the US are up 50% through the first five months of 2009. The counting giant also predicts that vinyl record sales will reach over 2.7 million units sold in 2009; up from 1.9 million units in 2008.

To be fair, these numbers are somewhat underestimated because of the sale of used vinyl in our ever shrinking record stores. Additionally, they don’t count some of the independent record stores where vinyl sells the best. However, there is a new vinyl model emerging, places where millions do their ‘vinyl shopping,’ the online record store. Although shopping online can never replace the experience of visiting your local record store, vinyl consumers can visit hundreds of online record sellers and find records that may not be offered at their local store, such as rare imports, picture discs, boxed sets or obscure releases from other countries. There are websites that cater to strictly jazz, some that offer classic rock or psychedelic music, rap or R&B, and some that deal with 45rpm records; why they still sell 78 rpm records for those who are in need of this rustic medium. There are some that specialize in audiophile vinyl, rare and out-of-print records as well. But most online vinyl retailers offer an eclectic array of music to choose from and millions of music lovers are now satisfying their musical palette and finding the online record website to suit their needs.

Let’s explore this phenomenon in greater detail with the owner of www.recordsontheweb.com, Laura Miller, who started in the music business as a DJ at KVMR, a community radio station in Nevada City, California; so she has a keen understanding and love for the format.

“I felt compelled to open a record store and as a vinyl enthusiast wanted to help people find reasonable vinyl records at a reasonable price,” explained Laura.

She started in the business of selling vinyl records in 1988 near Sacramento, California, running a retail store named “In The Groove Records.” After operating the ‘brick and mortar’ store for more than nine years, she sold her business and has been supplying fine vinyl records online with her web site and as an ebay ‘Power Seller.’

However one of the obstacles of the business is actually finding records to sell, Laura is always looking for collections.

“I buy collections from individuals and estates,” explains Laura. “Three years ago I bought an incredible large collection (6,000 records) from a music critic. Finding collections is the most challenging part of my business. I am always looking for large collections of vinyl records (LPs and 45s) and music memorabilia, especially from people who have been in the music business; music critics, former record company folks or broadcasters. I am mainly interested in 1950’s & 1960’s jazz, blues, rock, soul and country and will travel for large collections. I also offer finder’s fees for tips that lead to the purchase of large collections.”

Laura also explained some of the advantages & disadvantages of selling online.

“The advantage of selling on line is that I can receive orders 24 hours a day and I have an international clientele. A record store has limited hours, it has to be staffed and it has a limited geographical reach. One of the disadvantages of selling online is shipping records by media mail within the United States. The post office claims that it takes 4-14 days to ship by media mail, but it can take up to three weeks or longer. Most people don’t realize how long it takes, and we do get occasional e-mails from angry customers asking where is my order?”

Tell us more about your online business.

“We carry multiple genres of music including jazz, rock, blues, country, and soul and have over 10,000 records in stock. I would say that the jazz and rock LPs are our bestsellers. We grade conservatively according to the Goldmine Magazine Standards and the highest grade we give a record would be near mint (NM),” explained Laura. “As an ebay power seller (seller name is littlelam), I am very careful about grading records.”

There are literally hundreds of vinyl retailers online who carry on this tradition of offering quality used vinyl at reasonable prices. Record buyers must weed out the best and worst and the great aspect of this retailing method is that it is quite easy to find an online vendor that suits your needs. Now, if they can only be counted….

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