Monster Music proprietor Galen Hudson remembers his first experience with vinyl. "Steve Miller's Fly Like an Eagle came out when I was nine years old," he says. "I had my mom buy me the record, and there were a lot of other good songs on it, and after that I would just go to the record store and learn.
"And soon I became really into Traffic and Steve Winwood and I was hooked," he says, looking up at an image of Winwood, hanging on the wall of his poster-plastered office.
Ever since those experiences, Hudson has been a self-proclaimed record nerd. Now he has organized the local vinyl jamboree of the year, this Saturday's Charleston Record Expo, which will bring together collectors, sellers, and buyers to meet, browse, and share the vinyl experience.
"There's always been a warmth and a passion for vinyl and warmth for that sound," Hudson says. "And in the last few years, vinyl has been making a well-publicized comeback. We've been lucky to get a couple collections, and we've wanted for some time to showcase them and to rekindle that spark and that atmosphere. It's less about a business and more about enjoying the environment surrounding vinyl. If you're into vinyl at all, you walk into a record show and you can't avoid the feeling of 'I gotta see what's here.'"
In 2010, industry experts noted a 14 percent increase in vinyl LP sales nationwide. It's an ongoing trend. In recent years, the percentage of increased vinyl sales surpassed the percentage of increased digital music sales.
"Back in the '60s and '70s, vinyl albums really meant something and were valued because of the power of the music and its value in pop culture," Hudson says. "That's part of this recent vinyl revival. We hear a lot of people say, 'I discovered my parents' record collections and everything changed,' so there's a nostalgia."
As we talk in his office, there is a knock at the door. An employee comes in to give him registration forms from a collector in Florida who's coming in for the show. Hudson tells us that sellers are coming from all over the Southeast, and there's even one from Detroit.
While CD sales have dwindled in recent years, Hudson is still confident in his stock. "CDs still aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and records aren't going anywhere either," he says. "You take a record to a show and get the artist to sign it. You can't do that with an mp3."
A live DJ with turntables can't easily scratch on a digital file, either — at least not with much physicality.
For Hudson and other record enthusiasts, online vinyl shopping doesn't provide the same joy of the hunt.
"Browsing in a physical location, a brick and mortar store, is and always will be a different experience from surfing online," says Hudson. "Holding it in your hand and listening to it, talking with others who are into it, there's a real connection that you just can't get on eBay."
With free parking at the West Ashley Shoppes and free admission, the Charleston Record Expo offers a unique opportunity for local record collectors. Hudson plans to do it again next year.
"A lot of the records should be pretty cheap — around $3-$5," says Hudson. "Some will go for $100. So if you're a budding collector, a DJ, or a casual collector, this will be fun for everyone. But there will definitely be some serious collectors."