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January 8, 2018

Vinyl thrives at Easthampton’s Flywheel Record Fair

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(Courtesy Flywheel Arts Collective Facebook Page)

Local record vendors packed the Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton on Sunday for the annual Flywheel Record Fair. The 13 vendors sold a collection of records, cassettes, and CDs from many genres to fundraise for the collective.

One vendor, Justin Cohen, has been selling records full-time since 2007, and while he was a journalism student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Most of Cohen’s sales are online, so he does not know the breakdown of his international buyer base, but at fairs, his customers are a mix of all ages. “Record sales have definitely gone up with a new generation that listens to records,” Cohen said.

Flywheel, a nonprofit community arts group, has hosted performances and bands since it opened in 1999 at its original location on Holyoke Street in Easthampton, and hosted the first record fair fundraiser at the Eastworks building in 2007. Since then, the number of fairs in the area has increased.

Cohen mentioned that the location plays a big part in sales. “It definitely helps,” he said, referring to the college student-populated area. He hosts the semi-annual Northampton Record Fair at The Deuce in Northampton, and the next will be held on June 18.

In preparation for the fair, Cohen’s hardest decision was selecting what he would bring to sell. For this event, he could only bring 20 crates of records. Cohen, a local DJ, appreciates the music he can spin while on the job, like reggae, hip-hop, punk and afro-beat. “There’s a lot more vinyl being pressed now than there has been since the early 1990s,” he said.

The vendors are far from competitive. Giovanny Zuniga, owner of Spin That Records in Springfield, mentioned how he used to listen to Cohen’s radio show at WMUA 91.1. They also buy records from one another at the fairs.

Many vendors have taken their stores online, so the fairs are a great opportunity to have the face-to-face connection with their customers that they lose through the web. Annemarie Lucey joined Main Street Records in 1984, before the store moved its Northampton store online in 1997. Ted Selke, UMass graduate and owner of Full Moon Records, sold his record store in Atlanta and moved back to the western Massachusetts area last year to take his business online.

For these vendors, the record fair is about keeping vinyl alive in the western Mass area. Lucey says she participates in the fundraiser because she loves “to support any venue that is bringing live music into the town.”

At his upcoming record fair at the Deuce, Cohen hopes “to keep some of the great local vendors, but continually keep trying to have vendors from the northeast, so fresh blood comes in.”

Emily Johnson can be reached at emilyjohnson@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @EmilyAnneJo.

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