The vinyl renaissance

I’m not surprised by this and definitely pleased by it, though I have a little secret to confess.

After Dave Ritz came back to Houston from serving in the U.S. Army — working in a Saigon, Vietnam, radio station — he assembled a collection of more than 3,000 vinyl records. He organized the first Houston Record Convention in 1978 in the Galleria area and has been hosting such conventions six times a year ever since.

Don’t look for those events to stop anytime soon. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual revenue report, vinyl albums outsold CDs last year for the first time since 1987. Additionally, physical music formats continue to grow with $1.7 billion in sales in 2022, a 4 percent growth from the previous year.

Ritz, who has sold vinyl all over the country, says that interest in vinyl in Houston has always been steady. And he even noticed a Bayou City uptick in record sales shortly before the pandemic drove people to get their music fix inside their homes.

“It’s driven by younger people, there’s no doubt about that,” Ritz said. “The thing about a record is that when you hold it, you feel like you have something. You’ve got artwork on the front. Sometimes inserts with personal information or photos inside. And then you’ve got this disc you can play.”

Michael Morales, who goes by DJ Mikey Mike, runs a Facebook network of DJs across Houston that continue to spin vinyl. Morales said the vinyl resurgence is due in large part to parents wanting to introduce their children to the music they listen to.

Both Ritz and Morales said the hottest vinyl records right now are 1980s albums.

“If you can get your hand on a Journey, Van Halen, or Boston, or anything like that, it gets pretty competitive and pricey,” Morales said. “80s rock bands I would say are pretty hot right now.”

Cactus Music has been a popular spot for vinyl records in Houston for 47 years. Co-owner Quinn Bishop said there has been a steady uptick of interest in vinyl records for the past 15 years coinciding with a decline in CD sales.

Most big box retailers, like Best Buy and Target, have largely abandoned selling CDs.

“There’s a greater proliferation of vinyl stores and shrinking storefronts for CDs, and that has sort of accelerated the trend,” Bishop said.

Cactus Music still offers CDs, which are often cheaper than vinyl records.


Bishop said younger people have a “bookshelf mentality” and want to support their favorite artists by buying something physical. In fact, according to research by the entertainment data website Luminate, only half of U.S. vinyl buyers even own a record player.

Bishop said when an artist like Taylor Swift releases their albums on vinyl, it brings people into Cactus Music for the first time.

“Not everyone has a great record store near them,” Bishop said. “I will say that if you live in Houston, Texas, you’re very fortunate because there are quite a few terrific record stores here. That is not true everywhere.”

I would agree with that. Cactus Music is a great store, which often features live performances. If you’re a music head, put them on your destination list when you come to town to visit.

Both my daughters are big music fans, though Olivia is more the collector type. She has a turntable and a decent-sized cache of vinyl, some of which she inherited from me and my wife, some of which she has bought for herself, and some of which has been given to her as Christmas or birthday presents. What Ritz says about the feel and the artwork and the pride of ownership absolutely applies to her. (And to a lesser extent to Audrey, who just bought the latest Taylor Swift releases on CD, even though she listens almost exclusively to Apple Music.) She did play her records in her room before she went off to college, and I’m sure she will again when she’s back for spring break and the summer, but it’s not so much about that – Olivia is also mostly an Apple Music and Spotify girl – it is, for lack of a better word, about the coolness of it. There’s just something about studying the album art, reading and memorizing the lyrics, looking to see who has the songwriting credits and who sat in this session and on and on. I was at best a middlebrow collector back in the 80s, but I have a lot of happy memories of this kind.

As for that confession: I really preferred collecting CDs. With record albums, I mostly played them to record them to tape, because you could get the whole album on tape, you could skip a song you didn’t like that way, and you could play a tape in your car. CDs enabled the whole-album playing, the song-skipping, and the portability, while being more durable than tape and keeping the artwork (though in a smaller size) and the lyric sheets and other inserts. I basically stopped buying vinyl once I got a CD player. Later on, once I was firmly in the clutches of my iPod, I got myself a USB turntable and ripped a bunch of my old vinyl to MP3s. I’m delighted that The Kids Today are into vinyl – it’s a boon for the artists, it’s a great generation-spanning conversation topic, a good record store is a blessing – but in my heart of hearts I’m a CD guy.

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3 Responses to The vinyl renaissance

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    This has been going on for a while. Vinyl records are much more expensive, and still a niche, as well as many who collect vintage vinyl, even 78s. A lot of new vinyl purchases have a free download code. Even cassettes have found some collectors.

  2. C.L. says:

    Not so sure about vinyl records still being a ‘niche’ item – I could name a half dozen dedicated vinyl stores within 10-15 mins of Jason’s house (not counting the vinyl selection at WalMart and Target and Half Price Books), a half dozen membership-only sites that curate and press records for their customer, and a record convention in Austin inside of six weeks that should have over a million albums from country-wide vendors spread out over 40,000sqft of floor space, not to mention Amazon’s booming business of selling vinyl, another dozen sites dedicated just to vinyl sales, and a worldwideweb site that has a zillion members buying/selling vinyl and uploading/establishing their own ‘own list’ and ‘want lists’ on said website. Beanie Babies – niche; vinyl enthusiasts, not so niche anymore.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    @C L, you are correct that vinyl sales have jumped sharply in the last five years. But, vinyl is only up to about 10 or 12 per cent of overall sales of recordings.

    so perhaps that’s not a niche, but kind of nitpicking. Anyway, I was curious to know what other record stores are nearby–I know of Vinal Edge, Cactus, and Soundwaves, but your post seems to indicate that there are two or three others I dont know.

    By the way, I would not count Vinal Edge, Cactus, or Soundwaves as “dedicated” vinyl stores. All of them stock CDs. Soundwaves has a large section of surf/skate items and apparel, Cactus also sells merchandise.

    I would love to check out the other stores in the area.

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