On a morning in 2007 when he was bored and slightly hungover, Jon Meyers founded the blog The Vinyl District – about the same time D.C. record stores were rapidly going out of business.
Originally created to combat the so-called “corporate behemoths” of the internet-fueled music industry, The Vinyl District is now a major sponsor of the D.C. Record Fair, which celebrates its fifth birthday this Sunday at Penn Social.
“What we’ve done successfully for D.C. is put it on par with other cities known for being music towns, like New York, L.A., Memphis and Nashville,” Meyers said.
The D.C. Record Fair merges the nostalgia of vinyl with its newfound popularity by including DJs – such as Geologist from Animal Collective – as well as a full bar and its own coffee blend provided by Zeke’s Coffee.
“We’ve gotten more crowds, and I guess the crowds have gotten younger and more female than when we first started. It used to be a bunch of old dudes,” said Neal Becton, owner of event sponsor Som Records.
The vinyl community is sustained by word of mouth and plain old experience, said Kevin Coombe of D.C. Soul Recordings. To maximize the record fair experience, both Meyers and Becton recommend attendees arrive very early or very late. The fair offers an early-bird price of $5 to those who come between 11 a.m. and noon; that drops to $2 for those who arrive in the afternoon.
“Early because you get the first look at the records before anyone else if you’re looking for that, and going late is the best time to get bargains because the dealers don’t want to carry stuff out,” Becton said. “They’re less likely to make deals in the first hour, but they’ll usually make deals in the last half hour.”
The fair has changed locations around the District over the past five years. Coombe said moving the fair makes sure that people in all corners of the District can have access to the large collection of records supplied by over 40 vinyl dealers.
Buyers are also encouraged to ask different dealers – who come from all over the East Coast – for specific music genres because many of the dealers are familiar with each other and can point buyers and collectors in the right direction.
Coombe said that as word of the fair spreads throughout the record community, the yearly go-to vendor list grows, adding more variety of records to each fair.
“Ever since we started, our record dealers have always wanted to come back, so that tells me it’s working for both the people selling and the people buying,” Coombe said.