After Dave Ritz returned to Houston from service in the US Army, working at a radio station in Saigon, Vietnam, he amassed a collection of over 3,000 records.
Ritz held the first Houston Record Convention in 1978 in the Galleria area and has been hosting them six times a year ever since. Ritz, who has sold vinyl across the country, says interest in vinyl in Houston has always been steady, but it’s been picking up even before the pandemic.
“It’s driven by younger people, there’s no doubt about that,” Ritz said.
“The beauty of a record is that when you hold it in your hand, it feels like you have something. You have illustrations on the front. Sometimes inserts with personal information or photos inside. And then you have this record that you can play, “, Ritz said.
Data from the Recording Industry Association of America supports Ritz’s theory. Vinyl albums outsold CDs last year for the first time since 1987, according to the RIAA’s annual revenue report. In addition, physical music formats continue to grow with $1.7 billion in sales in 2022, a growth by 4% over the previous year.
Michael Morales, who goes by the name DJ Mikey Mike, runs a Facebook network of DJs all over Houston who keep spinning 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 have said that the hottest vinyl records right now are albums from the 1980s.
“If you can get your hands on a Journey, Van Halen or Boston, or something like that, it gets pretty competitive and expensive,” Morales said. “I would say 80s rock bands are pretty hot right now.”
Cactus Music has been a popular place for vinyl records in Houston for 47 years. Co-owner Quinn Bishop said there has been a steady increase in interest in vinyl records over the past 15 years, coinciding with a decline in CD sales.
Most of the big-box retailers, such as Best Buy and Target, have largely abandoned selling CDs.
“There’s an increased proliferation of vinyl stores and a reduction in CD storefronts, and that has accelerated the trend somewhat,” Bishop said.
Cactus Music still offers CDs, which are often cheaper than vinyl records.
Thomas Escalante, the owner of Sig’s Lagoon record store, said he doesn’t see as much interest in CDs as he does in vinyl in Houston. But vinyl record sales at Sig’s Lagoon are already up 25 percent from last year, for both used and new vinyl, he said.
“The younger generation is really embracing it and recognizing it as a more viable medium than streaming,” Escalante said. “Streaming just doesn’t sound as good.”
Bishop said young people have a “shelf mentality” and want to support their favorite artists by buying something physical. In fact, only half of US vinyl buyers even own a record player, according to research by entertainment data website Luminate.
Bishop said that when an artist like Taylor Swift releases their albums on vinyl, it brings people to Cactus Music for the first time.
“Not everyone has a big record store near them,” Bishop said. “I will say that if you live in Houston, Texas, you’re very lucky because there are some amazing record stores here. That’s not true everywhere.”
Bishop said record sales aim to preserve record stores in Houston for decades to come.
“There’s really no experience like shopping in an actual record store, where you’re wandering the aisles with other kindred spirits who have your same connection to music,” said Bishop.