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Adams Morgan record shop Crooked Beat is just about done with compact discs. Last weekend, the store announced it will no longer sell CDs—-except for local albums and low-price new releases—-either online or in its 18th Street NW storefront.
“We only have about 300 CDs left, anyway,” says Bill Daly, the store’s owner. “We’re trying to make room for turntables.”
When Crooked Beat opened in 1997 in Raleigh, N.C., vinyl made up roughly 30 percent of its sales, Daly says. He moved the store to D.C. in 2004. CD sales at Crooked Beat have dropped by about 50 percent each year since 2008, while sales of vinyl, much of it new, have steadily increased. As of last month, Daly says, vinyl comprises “99 percent of total sales.” He also notes that labels haven’t lowered wholesale prices for CDs despite the decreased demand in recent years.
“Nowadays, you buy a CD, come home, rip it to your computer, and then it sits on your shelf,” Daly says. But, he says, with vinyl you have the benefit of a large physical object—-a much better memento than mp3s, CDs, or tapes. “And a lot of our customers say vinyl’s quality is better than all three of them.”
A jog through the news section of Crooked Beat’s website shows the store has been shrinking its CD inventory for years. With the exception of Melody in Dupont, most record shops in D.C. aren’t very CD-friendly. Som is vinyl-only, Red Onion sells new and used vinyl and used CDs, and Smash sells mostly vinyl but some new releases on CD.
That record stores—-no matter the medium they’re selling—-face some pretty serious existential anxieties is not news, of course. “If I’m eventually going to go down, I’d rather go down with vinyl,” says Daly. “Because I don’t want to put my future on CDs. I just can’t see it anymore.”
This month, Daly plans to start stocking two or three brands of turntables. CDs will hardly have any real estate at all. “We might set up two boxes of like 30 CDs at the counter,” he says. “You know, like one of those kiosks packed with, like, greatest hits collections you’d see at a Whole Foods checkout or something.”