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A record store in the digital age

How is it that a record store continues to exist with all the high-tech gadgetry available to music lovers today?

For Mat Riley, owner of After the Gold Rush Records in Nevada City, keeping his doors open is a labor of love.

“I’ve forsaken the usual paychecks in a struggle to keep it going.”



Used vinyl and special order CDs help pay the rent these days, along with a lot of “hope and prayer,” muses Riley.

Is interest in vinyl waning? Don’t count it out just yet. Riley sees a resurgence of interest in the general public, with young people leading the charge. Vinyl regained popularity in 2008, with nearly 2.9 million units shipped, the most since 1998. Today, record companies still release some major CDs in vinyl.




Why vinyl? Riley thinks part of the continuing attraction lies in the nostalgia factor, but there’s no escaping the fact that they are “just cool to collect.” While the debate on the sound quality difference between CDs and vinyl is waged daily by bloggers, Riley contends that “music recorded in the vinyl era before CDs is definitely going to sound better” in its original format.

It can be said that vinyl recordings tend to be more accurate, truer to the original sound, resulting in a richness not found in digital recordings.

Flip through the stacks of used vinyl and CDS at After the Gold Rush, and you’ll find your beat with jazz, pop, punk, alternative, country and some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.

Need something to play your vinyl on? Turntables can be ordered, and occasionally records players are available on consignment.

For those who still drive cars manufactured before CD players became standard equipment, Riley sells a number of cassette tapes at $2 or less. He says they are popular with travelers who just want something new to listen to as they continue on their journey.

Most of the record store’s inventory of used records comes from within Nevada County. “There is no shortage of people interested in selling,” said Riley.

New CDs by local artists find a spot among the classic fare at After the Gold Rush. There is “a wealth of talent in this area,” and he welcomes it in his store. He has found that most people who purchase locally-produced music from him come in looking for it.

In the ever-changing demand for specific genres, Riley says punk is hot right now among his customers. He attributes it to nostalgia. Fans of punk rock when it first emerged as a musical force, now parents and even grandparents, are going back to what they know best.

When asked what he considers the best find in his store at the moment, Riley says he’s most proud of a copy of Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels.” The soundtrack for an obscure 1971 British musical film, released only on VHS, combines orchestral and rock music. It’s from the kind of “strange, quirky movie that Zappa fans can appreciate,” said Riley.

An eclectic mix of customers can be seen browsing the stacks of used vinyl, CDs and, yes, even those cassette tapes. Riley says that interest in his shop has spread to an even younger audience, the “self-titled MP3 generation.”

It could be they have discovered that vinyl really does sound better or maybe it’s the “coolness” of it all that they seek.

To contact Kim Midboe, e-mail kmidboe@TheUnion.com or call (530) 477-4251.


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