Chicago vinyl stores spin into decline

(Photo: Racks of vinyl at Dave's Records in Chicago. Credit: Brandon Ousley)

(Photo: Racks of vinyl at Dave’s Records in Chicago. Credit: Brandon Ousley)

Inside the Oak Park music store Val’s Halla Records there are rows of vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs. Glancing at the store’s diverse selections, you might believe it’s resilient.

But, it’s one of the many record stores in Chicago in bad shape, and possibly closing its doors soon.

“We also, like a lot of record stores, are in a crisis situation that was begun with the whole world of downloading,” says Val Camilletti, the owner of Val’s for 40 years.

According to Camilleti, a fundraiser is being held to help keep its doors open.

“It’s because we have already an extraordinary selection of used vinyl, and not enough of a selection, at this point, of new vinyl that there is a campaign going for us to raise some funds, so that we can be prepared even immediately for this Christmas season,” she says. “Our focus is to pay down some of the debt that we already owe to our distributors, in order to be sure that we’re positioned well to take care of the customers.”

Like Camilleti, many record store owners have tried to keep the vinyl business afloat in Chicago. But, vinyl retail is dwindling in digital times.

“Some of those record stores, when they made the switch from vinyl and cassette to CD, they made it completely,” says Camilletti. “They let go of their vinyl stock. That’s the thing we never did.”

According to Camilletti, the challenge of keeping vinyl retail afloat is finding the cash to keep records in the racks.

“People always had an option, they had an option of either cash or trade,” she says. “Because of this horrible cash crunch, we have not been able to pay cash as frequently or generously as we would like to.”

Dave Crain, owner of Dave’s Records in Lincoln Park, says the decline of CD sales caused problems for stores.

“A lot of the stores that have closed were probably a mixture of CD and vinyl, and part of what happened to those stores was the bottom fell out of CD sales,” says Crain. “A lot of stores that have survived have survived by boosting up their vinyl sales.”

Crain says his store doesn’t retail CDs because of the sound and value of vinyl.

“It is the perfect time for vinyl,” he says. “When CDs took over, a lot of people got the impression that they just didn’t make vinyl anymore, which wasn’t the case. … I think vinyl would still survive, but I think you still need the connection as a record store to the new music that’s coming out as well.”

As Val Camilletti struggles to keep Val’s Halla Records afloat, she says the fundraiser makes her hopeful.

“Part of this campaign is to generate those new customers, especially the young customers, and to give younger customers the idea of what it was like to hang out in your favorite record store,” she says. “Not just to listen to vinyl. Not just to buy vinyl to take it home, but to share in that experience that never happened with CDs. … Those discussions and those stories about the last 50 years of the music industry, since the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Val’s fundraiser will be held at 835 N. Kenilworth Ave., on Dec. 13 from 7-10 p.m.

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Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’: Has the thrill held up?

Music icon Michael Jackson set new heights with the release of his seminal album, “Thriller,” in 1982, and it sets new heights 30 years after its release and lasting success.

The impact of “Thriller” didn’t rely on ‘80s excess, MTV, and pop radio alone, as its music and success is felt by many today.

According to a Rolling Stone report, “Thriller” has been an extremely influential album. … Perhaps its biggest accomplishment has been its influence on other black musicians.

In today’s music world, several artists and producers attempt to embark on their own “Thriller” moment. However, times have changed in the music world.

F.Y.E. music store worker, Eric Burgess stated that Michael Jackson’s influence spanned not only nationwide, but globally as well.

“His biggest influence was probably the videos he made,” Burgess says. “He was an entertainer first. … He wasn’t just popular here in the states, he was a worldwide superstar. You can go anywhere in the world, he’s a huge star. You can’t say that about anybody else.”

The other factor behind “Thriller” was its producer Quincy Jones, who worked with Jackson on other albums such as, “Off The Wall” and “Bad.”

“I also think Quincy Jones was also a mastermind because he was the one who produced that album, he came up with a lot of the ideas for it musically,” Burgess says. “So I think a lot of people think it was only Michael Jackson, but I think Quincy Jones had a major impact on the album as well.”

As it is known as the ‘biggest selling album in music history,’ there are some who have never brought or listened to a copy of “Thriller.” Roosevelt University student Angelina Bauer stated that even though she never heard the album, she understood the impact of the artist himself.

“He’s called the King of Pop for a reason, he’s inspired a lot of people,” she says. “I think it’s admirable how much he’s inspired people. … I think it’s sad how he went down.”

A statistical note for the readers

Since the emergence of the blog, “Brandosoul” earlier this year, its audience continues to grow and expand, through its use of podcasts, news stories, and other engaging media.

Based on statistical information, the blog has generated more than 2, 500 overall views, with 50 comments from viewers, since February 2012. Some of the popular categories include, “entertainment,” “classic albums,” and “podcast,” with “music” at the top, garnering 13 views.

Additionally, statistics show that various search engines and websites have made an impact on the viewership of the blog, allowing people to explore and share it with others around the world. As of November 2012, viewers have mostly used search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Bing, in referring to this blog.

Along with the help of search engines, the common search terms tells another story. People have come across this blog using terms ranging from “Prince the musician,” to “Chicago skyline.”

News stories have also become an integral part of this blog, as they have given insight about upcoming artists and music updates. From September to November, more than 500 people have viewed news stories concerning musicians and music updates. The most viewed featured story was the Jesse Jenkins Q-and-A interview.

The blog has generated a varied audience from around the world, with the top viewers coming from U.S. Surprisingly, U.K. ranks second with 180 views, while Spain ranks third with 164 views.

As the blog’s main focus is on artists Prince, Michael Jackson, and other music, “Brandosoul” has become a flagship community for upcoming artists and music fanatics alike.

Digging in the Vaults: The Black Album (25th Anniversary Show)

Hello fellow Brandosoul listeners and fans,

It has been awhile since we dropped a podcast, so we have decided to reach into the vaults and give you an oldie, but goodie! 1987’s The Black Album is one of the most controversial project Prince was ever associated with and it remains one of the most well-known bootlegged albums. Its stories and myth often clash with the music, but it is such an interesting album and era. Here I was joined with my co-host Jesse Jenkins and we are offering an in-depth album critique, along with new insights about this remarkable era and album.

In this episode, we also get into:
– Prince’s “Welcome 2 Chicago” shows
– Andy Allo
– Larry Graham
– Prince’s new cut, “Rock ‘N Roll Affair” 

* This episode was recorded September 2012

Listen to or download the podcast here

Prince’s first ‘Welcome to Chicago’ show showered with controversy

When music icon Prince announced he’d be performing three consecutive shows in Chicago at the United Center as part of his two-year tour “Welcome 2 America,” the fan community and Chicagoans welcomed the news with showers of praise. But controversy has floated around the first concert of the three-night extravaganza, and it is centering on “the Purple One” himself.

The bad news began the night of Sept. 24, when an audience of fans and attendees anxiously waited for Prince to open his show. It was supposed to have begun at 9 p.m. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, he and his band hadn’t appeared on the United Center stage for almost an hour after the show was supposed to begin.

Shortly after the bewildering lateness, Prince and his band finally took the stage as planned. One attendee of the first show in Chicago, Shonda Dudlicek, offered an alternate description of what happened.

“I don’t understand how everyone said he was late. When I go to a concert, I expect that the time listed on the ticket is when the opening act will come on and that the headline won’t come on until at least an hour or later. That’s the way it’s always been,” she says.

According to Chicago Now Magazine, Prince’s band members were rehearsing backstage and the funk legend himself was hiding in an undisclosed location. Additionally, there were a couple of people in the audience who began to shout profanities and even booed, before Prince took the stage.

“Like with any big show or any big artist, Prince was there. He was just a little late getting on stage,” according to Live Nation event coordinator Megan McKenna. “Things happen. … I believe there were some technical things going on from their end that they were dealing with.”

One other bewildering moment took many attendees by surprise. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, when Prince’s official set ended — with an assortment of funk-drenched hits, medleys and covers — he decided to do an encore with two more songs. The only issue, however, was that he waited too long to take the stage and half of the audience had already left.

“It did suck that we had to wait so long, and that he didn’t come back on until the lights came up,” said Dudlicek. “Normally that’s a cue that the show is over, and everyone knows that. If there was a problem with the personnel, it should’ve been communicated.”

Nevertheless, the first show of the “Welcome to Chicago” series proved a mixed blessing for many, who expected the main attraction to be precise and focused. As Live Nation event coordinator Megan McKenna stated, “Prince gives an actual show … He did apologize for the lateness, but I think that people made it bigger than what it actually was.”

We’re Back….

Hello people,

I know it’s been a two weeks since our last podcast, but I am proud to say that we have some new and exciting stuff coming up. We will be dropping two new podcasts soon (one of them may be dropping today, you never know!) I am also in the process of doing a special post on some new and unsigned artists that are amazingly dope. There is so much that is going on as far as BrandoSoul is concerned. I would like to thank everybody for responding to this blog and our shows with the warmest and generous gratitude. The BrandoSoul Family really appreciates everything and it’s just going to get better. So people: stay posted, keep love and peace in your hearts always!

Again thanks….

BRANDON OUSLEY