You might be tickled to learn that Philly-based Urban Outfitters will showcase a "Make Your Own Vinyl Record" station in its pop-up concept store Space24Twenty previewing next week at the South by Southwest music, film and interactive conference in Austin, Texas.
But don't hold your breath waiting for this DIY music concept to go nationwide, warned Urban's marketing partners at the retro turntable company Crosley Radio.
When the story of vinyl records' surprising resurgence is told, Urban Outfitters will loom large. Its activity at SXSW should underscore the point, encouraging more hipster artists to think and link vinyl with the chain even if its media-shy music department wouldn't talk about it.
In a 2014 study by Billboard, Urban Outfitters earned honors as the top "bricks and mortar" (physical store) retailer of vinyl albums in the United States, responsible for 8.1 percent of sales through its 300 locations. Only online sales giant Amazon could claim a larger share, with 12.3 percent of vinyl sales.
A "fad" that just keeps on growing, vinyl albums saw sales that were up yet again in 2015 to more than 12 million units, reported Nielsen. A true bonanza for artists, labels, and retailers, vinyl LPs sell for $20 to $35 apiece, producing higher profit margins than CDs.
The vinyl buyer is a "high-value consumer," David Bakula, a senior vice president at Nielsen, said in Adweek. "The audio quality is high, but they're not just paying for that. It's also the packaging, the collectability, being able to display it and touch it and feel it."
And it will likely be earning new converts this season through the HBO period series Vinyl, produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, featuring Mick's son James as a punk rocker.
Urban Outfitters also scores big in record player merchandising; it's "largely responsible" for Crosley's record-setting sales of one million players last year, firm publicist Grace Williams said.
Keeping it simple, Urban Outfitters focuses most attention on one Crosley model, offered in various colors; the luggage-style $99.95 Cruiser portable that spins at three speeds and has a built-in amplifier, headphone jack, and speakers.
Promoting the "old-tech-is-new-again" theme on several fronts, Urban Outfitters also has been dabbling in cassette tape players, helping boost a DIY "mixtape" revival.
The chain also sells several models of instant print cameras from Fujifilm and Polaroid (not the original company; the brand name is licensed). And at some sites, including its Walnut Street store, offer an old-fashioned photo booth where you and your bestie can pose for a strip of shots.
Installing a bunch of vinyl disc recording booths in stores? That's a lot harder. From the 1940s through the '60s, Voice-o-Graph recording stations (looked like telephone booths) were found in amusement arcades.
Some professional recording studios also let people walk in off the street to cut (literally) a one-take acetate on a fancier Rek-o-Kut machine. Legend has it that's how Elvis Presley first got noticed in 1953 while recording two sides for $4 at Sam Phillips' Memphis studio.
But a few years ago, when musician/entrepreneur Jack White started showing off a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph at his Third Man Records store and studio in Nashville, he declared it "the only working unit" in the U.S.
To score the direct-to-vinyl recording gear they will be using next week at SXSW, Crosley folks "had to go to Germany," Williams said.
NOTE: This article has been update with more precise information from Crosley.