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Just take those old records off the shelf

What's in your music collection? Albums and 45s? What about cassettes and even eight-track tapes? There's still a supply for fans of every format.

People of all ages are part of the vintage music boom - including baby boomers buying their favourite records for the second time.

''We get a lot of seniors buying albums because they sold their collection back in the 90s," said Alex Rumboldt, an employee at Sloth Records in Calgary.

A long-time staffer at an Edmonton music store sees a similar trend of older Albertans returning to build up new record collections.

"People in their 50s and 60s who got rid of their albums years ago are back buying those same records," said Ty Yakiwchuk of Record Collector's Paradise.

An Edmonton area man who lost his album collection admitted he has been browsing through record stores again.

"I started out buying albums I lost--Zeppelin, Stones that sort of thing," said Dave Bonner, adding his new collection is relatively modest in size. "Now my musical tastes have changed and I'm looking for more blues and jazz."

"Some buy records for the novelty," said Rumboldt. "They don’t have a turntable. They frame the records and put them on the wall."

Mona Koch was looking for a novelty gift in the 45-vinyl record section while browsing Record Collector's Paradise earlier this summer.

"I’m looking for a unique gift for friends celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary," said Koch. "I want to get them a 45 for their 45th."

While she hadn't decided which one to buy, she was certain the record would not be played.

"I'll just put it in a frame and give it to them." she said.

One music format that likely never ends up in a frame is the audio cassette, which has seen a bump in popularity thanks to a Marvel movie. In 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, the main character listens to classic rock on an old Sony Walkman cassette player throughout the film. 

John Schultz, who works at Recordland in Calgary, says the movie did create an upsurge in cassette sales, but added that format has remained strong for decades thanks to affordable pricing and high-quality tapes made in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Most cassette buyers are under 20. They like it because it's the cheapest format they can get," he said, acknowledging long-time listeners are also fond of cassettes. "We have older folks with the ponytails trying to find their Merle Haggard or Ry Cooder tapes. They might have a good stereo set up or it could be for the deck in their car.”

For anyone with an eight-track player, there are even those cartridges available at Record Collector’s Paradise-- largely because it has access to a unique repairman. "A friend of the store refoams the old eight-tracks. It’s something our customers like," said Yakiwchuk.

But does sound quality come into play for music buyers?

"Some people don't care about the sound and others want the highest audio quality,” he said, noting the average listener may not tell the difference. But music experts know, "the original always sounds better."

Yakiwchuk says there are collectors who buy digitally-reissued LPs, while others will only buy albums created from the original analog master tape – either the original LP or a pressed version of the LP.

But there are collectors of all kinds, says Rumboldt, including those "who like to buy two copies of every record; one to listen to and the other to put on the wall," along with ‘completists’ who aim to collect every album from a particular artist or band.

The pandemic has also played a part in the resurgence of 'old school' music collectors.

“People turned to vintage music because they weren't spending money at live events,” said Yakiwchuk. “They are spending more time on their record collection, enjoying music that way."

And while there is always music to be found online or to borrow at the local public library, owning your music in a favourite format is a trend that's likely here to stay.