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Scene in South Bend: Orbit Music

| Thursday, April 16, 2015

scene-web-bannerKeri O'Mara | The Observer

Vinyl is making a comeback.

Though the resurgence in popularity may come as a surprise to some, the change has been long coming. According to a study done by Nielsen SoundScan, 14 million LPs were sold in 2014, compared to one million in 2001. Sales have grown exponentially within that time period, and one of the driving factors behind the resurrection of the LP has been Record Store Day.

Record Store Day began in 2007 after a few record store owners got together and decided that their stores needed to be celebrated in the same way comic book stores were with “Free Comic Book Day.” What initially was conceived as a day to highlight local independent record stores has flourished into something much larger; record stores from all around the world host parties to acknowledge the special role each record store plays in the community, and artists release special limited edition vinyl that can be found only at participating stores. Record Store Day occurs on the third Saturday of every April, and this year that Saturday falls on April 18.

Orbit Music, Games & Movies, located at 805 W McKinley Avenue, Mishawaka, Indiana, 46545, offers a wide variety of goods ranging from CDs and records to DVDs and VHS tapes and is one of the sponsored Record Store Day venues. Living up to its name, there is truly something otherworldly about Orbit Music; aside from the foam balls hanging from the ceiling and displays of the solar system, Orbit manages to take patrons back to the past. Older visitors will be reminded of childhood days spent carefully flipping through rack after rack of new records and the “eureka” moment experienced when the perfect album is discovered. Younger patrons will experience firsthand the magic of holding something tangible and potentially connect with music in a new way by experiencing the physicality of a record.

“We opened up in July 1989, and I collected records. I wanted to open a record store, I thought that would be the greatest,” store owner Doug Zimmerman said over the sounds of Led Zeppelin blaring in the background. What originally began as the fulfillment of a dream proved to be difficult as the face of the music industry began to change.

“Now it’s so easy to download music, and people don’t even have to pay for it. It’s really tough to sell new CDs,” Zimmerman said. But the advent of events such as Record Store Day has certainly assisted in creating business for independent record store owners, and Zimmerman is no exception.

Zimmerman’s business has exploded over the past three years, and Record Store Day has definitely been influential in getting the word out about the store.

“It’s the busiest day of the year for me now, more so than Christmas or any of that stuff,” Zimmerman said. He has been involved since day one and has found Record Store Day has really helped “mom and pop” shops like his own.

Record Store Day was created to celebrate the impact of independent record stores on the local community, and I was overwhelmed by how tangible the spirit of community was in Orbit Music. While I was speaking with Zimmerman, patrons came in on multiple occasions to sell back records they had recently discovered or were willing to part with. Patrons who arrived as strangers bonded over shared musical tastes and discussed the extent of their record collections. Parents brought their children, and children brought their parents. Orbit Music seemed to be a place where collectors of vinyl and music lovers could coexist regardless of age.

Zimmerman said a wide variety of genres are represented in the store, and a cursory glance at all of the different sections confirms this. However, Zimmerman admits certain artists do sell better than others.

“I do really well with alternative music, Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver — that type of stuff. And then classic rock,” he said.

Building a record collection can be a daunting task. Unlike many of my peers, I had nothing passed on to me from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad) and a limited supply of money that has prevented me from buying everything that catches my eye. Wishing to capitalize on the advice of an expert, I asked Zimmerman what five albums everyone should have in their record collection: The Doors “Strange Days,” Captain Beefheart “Bat Chain Puller,” Gang of Four “Entertainment!,” Pink Floyd “Animals” and Rush “2112” were his recommendations.

Although Record Store Day is almost unequivocally positive for owners, Zimmerman did acknowledge some drawbacks: “They’ve got the list, and you order what you hope you will get. However, you don’t always get what you want.” When I asked about one of the releases I was most excited about, a special Record Store Day, 7-inch-edition of “Kim’s Caravan” by Courtney Barnett, Zimmerman informed me that unfortunately he wasn’t able to get any copies of it. Still, Orbit Music certainly boasts an impressive collection with a couple hundred different items in preparation for the day, encompassing about half of the 400 different artists on the list.

Orbit Music opens at 10 a.m., but patrons wishing to buy some of the special releases are advised to arrive sooner.

“People will be lined up. I’m sure the line will wrap all the way around. … We’ll be doing a 20 percent discount off everything, except for the Record Store Day special releases,” Zimmerman said. With a forecast predicting sun and a high of 77, showing up a couple of hours early this Saturday should be no problem. Maybe I’ll see you in line.

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