Toronto’s Oldest Indie Vinyl Lives On

Some may consider them daily specials. But if you think vinyl’s resurgence is just a passing fancy, let the numbers speak for themselves.

More than one million new vinyl records were sold in Canada in 2021, according to sales tracking firm MRC Data, a 21.7% increase from 2020. In the United States, vinyl sales grew more than doubled over the same period, with 42 million units sold last time. year.

“Every year people say it’s a fad, and every year the sales go up,” says Andrew Koppell of Kops Records. Since 1976, Kops, Toronto’s oldest independent record retailer, has been buying and selling new and vintage vinyl to generations of music lovers.

It was Andrew’s father Martin’s love of 45s and the extensive collection he amassed as a young man in the north of England that inspired him. first instigated to sell records as a side business in the mid-1960s. He recognized that other music lovers shared the view that some of these items had greater value.

In 1976, six years after arriving in Canada, Martin – dissatisfied with his job in the insurance business – went into record retailing with the support of his wife Mary and opened his first store in the Queen and Pope district. .

A leading supplier of 45s, Martin wholesaled merchandise to department stores on Yonge Street, including A&A, HMV, and Sam The Record Man. Over the decades, it has had outlets in different parts of the city (and one in Hamilton), with three stores operating today: on Queen West, the Danforth and in Oshawa (where Martin, 72, is found almost every day).

Like the records themselves, Kops has endured, from the heyday of vinyl in the 70s, through the rise of CDs, and the company’s toughest time, the early 2000s – when sales CDs dropped amid the rise of Napster and other file-sharing sites, and vinyl had yet to resurface (it happened around 2007).

In a world now dancing to the beat of music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, Andrew, 32, believes vinyl’s continued popularity is rooted, to some extent, in what he calls “digital alienation. “.

“You can’t really feel the artist or the work when it’s all ones and zeros,” says Andrew. He prides himself on selling people the idea of ​​ownership, “being able to say, ‘I love Miles Davis so much that I own an original copy of “Kind of Blue.” “Whereas, if you say, ‘I love Miles Davis so much I’ve listened to ‘Kind of Blue’ on Spotify 2,000 times’ – what does that mean?”

When people come to sell their used records, the emotional connection becomes evident. “We had someone say it’s been 15 years since they last touched their record collection,” says Andrew, “but it took them those 15 years to get to the point where they were ready. to part with it.”

Andrew Koppell is a second generation vinyl salesman.

Andrew says Kops’ business is now evenly split between new releases and vintage vinyl. Most modern pressings cost between $20 and $40. The ballpark for used records ranges from $40 to free – LP Kops would rather give away than see trashed. “Every record is a memory,” says Andrew. “It was part of someone’s life. And having that memory just sitting in a landfill is a mistake. If we give it away for free, our hope is that someone else discovers it, finds a home, and lives on.

Kops’ biggest seller (“within a mile,” Andrew says) is The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” Number two is the band’s “Revolver”, whose “Abbey Road” still sells four times as much. “Get Back,” the recent documentary on the making of “Let It Be,” has sparked renewed interest in the title.

Andrew says that regardless of the genre of the LP or the demographics of the listener, the appeal of the ritual of removing a vinyl record from its sleeve, placing it on the turntable and dropping the needle remains universal.

“People over 19 say it usually involves pouring a glass of wine or scotch,” he says. “Under 19s generally say they are the leaders of musical tastes at their school, introducing their friends to vinyl and being amazed by it. (They give their friend) a Black Sabbath album and, yes, it’s a bit beat up, but it was only 10 bucks. And they put it on this turntable and they were like, ‘Man, I gotta get on it!’ »

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