The Vinyl Revival: Bad Timing Records
By Brittany Oblak, News Editor
**Editor's note: Since this interview took place, Bad Timing Records has a total of 27 releases.
Lately, it seems the word “revival” follows just about everything, especially in music. Even when something wasn’t really defunct to begin with, its shift back into the center of the cultural zeitgeist is incorrectly analyzed as some long-awaited resurrection.
However, there is a specific resurgence that truly deserves the title--the one pertaining to the renewed popularity in vinyl records. The vinyl revival has been colossally growing since the conception of Record Store Day in 2007, and the positive correlation seems obvious. Since the second RSD in 2008, American vinyl sales alone have increased a gargantuan 223% to a little more than 6 million sales as of 2014. However, RSD is certainly not the only catalyst in this renewed music medium. Why the resurgence of popularity? Does it have to do with accessibility? Aesthetics? Or it just because we’re so far along in culture that every “cool” idea will henceforth be a recycled one?
It would be remiss to think that there is alone one answer or that anyone has all the answers, but there is someone who comes fairly close. Zack Zarrillo, whose teenage angst has a success story instead of a body count, co-founded independent label Bad Timing Records with friend and fellow music-enthusiast Thomas Nassiff after the sizable success of the recently disbanded alternative music blog, PropertyOfZack. I interviewed Zarrillo to try and make sense of this phenomenon as well as talk about a few other things vinyl related, including the bizarre things people want pressed into records.
First off, can we say that this resurgence of what seems to be most things ‘90s/all these general "revivals" in music are responsible for the same trend in vinyl?
I don’t think that’s the case at all, actually. For those who love music, part of the relationship is about emotional connection, and part is about a collection--at least that’s what I believe. The emotional bond we all, as music lovers, have has not dwindled, but collections, once CDs went out of style, certainly did. I believe that the push to digital and retiring of CDs made many music fans yearn for a physical collection alongside their digital one. Vinyl is perfect for that and is much more beautiful in terms of artwork in its showing.
How much of a role do you think RSD has played in this?
Certainly some. Oddly enough, if I had to point to a main player in its resurgence it would be Urban Outfitters. The company, through selling Crosley turntables, opened up several generations to vinyl for the first time. Over time, I think these buyers trickled down their support to indie bands, labels and stores. I think Record Store Day, Urban Outfitters and digital’s uptick all resurged vinyl.
You now have an extremely successful record label called Bad Timing Records. Your first release was a pressing of Phantoms by Acceptance, one of the most loved and best pop punk records to date. You're now on your 23rd** release. So it goes without saying vinyl resurgence has been a huge part of BTR's success. Inversely, what do you feel your record label's fundamental role is in this resurgence's success?
That’s a good question. Nearly two years into the label’s history, I would say anywhere from 90-95% of our sales have been solely vinyl. This clearly could or would not have been the case 10 years ago, or even five. Thomas and I focus on making beautiful vinyl variants spinning around great music. I believe our role is making great music find a larger audience, and at this point I think our vinyl care has helped that happen.
Do you see more of a demand for new releases or re-presses?
Can I answer both? All of our reissues, save for one, have been incredibly successful. However, a great amount of our new releases have been successful too. I think there’s a good mix and balance for a lot of labels.
What is the most bizarre thing that someone has ever wanted pressed into their band's vinyl?
I don’t have any bands on the label that have asked for anything bizarre, but I know recently an artist sought to put menstrual blood in their vinyl--and I think that actually happened. Paper + Plastick put ashes into vinyl once as well.
What bands and types of bands do you see have the most success with vinyl sales and why do you think that is?
As always, mainstream artists and label artists tend to move the most vinyl. The new Arctic Monkeys album is the most successful vinyl release of the year, and Jack White had his crown last year. That being said, many indie and punk releases see constant and strong vinyl sales. Brand New’s discography is the best example of this.
In addition to the way they sound, do you think the other aesthetics of vinyl contribute to the popularity as well?
I think the aesthetics of vinyl matter largely more than their sound. A lot of people think I’m crazy, but I bet a large majority of our customers never play our vinyl. Like I mentioned, it’s about building a collection--some build off of art/vinyl variants, and some build off of sound.
It's a fact that up to 15% of the vinyl purchased doesn't even get unwrapped. How do you feel about a large part of this being for display, and why do you think that's important to people?
I’m completely okay with it. Frankly, I don’t listen to too much vinyl as well. But I love having the collection, and frankly I love supporting artists I love.
Urban Outfitters is one of the top three vinyl selling companies in America, but many people seem to have a huge problem with this. What is your take on the matter personally?
I think any massive and influential retailer that is happy to take a risk and push “a dying medium” to millions of people is incredible. I’m fully on board with Urban Outfitters and their music program.
Do you think there's a ceiling on the vinyl market?
I think there’s a ceiling on most things, but I really don’t have an answer yet on vinyl. If there is a ceiling, I don’t quite think we’re approaching it yet. Not at least for another generation.
What are your personal top three favorite vinyl releases you own?
One of the first I ever found was The Alchemy Index set of vinyl by Thrice in a Newbury Comics in Boston while visiting Northeastern University. Having blink-182’s Untitled on vinyl is important to me, as is Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit.
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