Total Drag keeping vinyl records alive

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 10:11 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A lot of us listen to a lot of our favorite tunes on our phones, and it’s amazing what we can find at the touch of a button.

Yet, over the last several years, and especially during the pandemic, places like Total Drag record store have opened up a whole new world for music lovers.

A new old new world.

Vinyl records first came out in the 1940′s, when there were at least 7,000 record stores nationally. That number has since dwindled to 1,400, as people have shifted to digital music.

Record albums and compact discs together account for about $1.1 billion in annual sales, a far cry from the $10 billion spent on streaming services.

Some of Dan and Liz Nissen’s family and friends thought they were nuts when they opened Total Drag in 2014, and yet, there’s been an uptick in sales every year.

“I don’t really see this going away,” Dan said. “I think people are finding records for the first time. some people are getting back into records and realizing how much they loved them, you know, that tangible product with all the artwork. and the sound is incredible.”

“A Spotify shuffle is not doing it for me,” Total Drag regular customer Merecedes Nelson said.

“I come in here and I just, sometimes I hear whatever’s playing and I’m like, yo, what is this? This is tight. There’s been so many times when that’s happened and I just buy an album and I’m like, great, now I’m in love with this band.”

The record resurgence was already a few years old when the pandemic hit in 2020. But when live music venues like the one right here at Total Drag had to close down, vinyl sales soared 29% from the year before, surpassing CD’s in sales for the first time since 1986, and they’ve stayed strong.

Now, most top new artists don’t dare release albums without releasing a record. The Nissen’s hope its a trend that will continue and not just for their bottom line.

“Listening to records, you have to be a little bit more present to do it,” Liz said, “which is hard to do in this day and age right now and everybody is buried in their phones or computers or whatever. So, it’s nice to look through records, pick something out and presently sit there and listen to it.”

Which makes a record a great last-minute holiday gift. It’s music you can actually wrap up.

“Giving someone a record, I feel like -- I know you well enough to know that you, like, want this a lot and care about it a lot,” Nelson said.

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