With the popularization of listening to music digitally, on streaming apps such as Spotify or Apple Music, the art of sitting down and listening to a record (flipping it over half way through, and then continuing to enjoy the rest, of course) is a practice that some argue has been lost.
Bull Moose, a Portsmouth record store, dispels that notion. The store remains a popular destination for people of all ages to walk in, be surrounded by other music lovers and stroll the seemingly endless racks of CDs and records.
Bull Moose is an independent retail record store chain founded by Brett Wickard of Brunswick, Maine in 1989. Currently based out of Portland, other locations include Maine cities Brunswick, North Windham, Waterville, Sanford, Bangor, Scarborough, Mill Creek and Lewiston as well as Portsmouth, Salem and Keene in New Hampshire.
Head clerk at Bull Moose’s Portsmouth location, Zac Mayeux, a 26-year-old Dover resident, explained that by being one of the few places in the area to sell large assortments of vinyl, the store proves to be an important piece of art culture in Portsmouth. Bull Moose not only sells a variety of music but also offers movies, books, games and more.
Mayeux also emphasizes that despite what one may suspect, the younger local crowd appears to be the primary consumers of vinyl record sales. Some members of the younger generation attest the resurgence of vinyl records to an appreciation of a classic way of listening to music.
“I stream and listen to music on my iPod but generally enjoy records because you have to sit down and really pay attention, i.e., stay in one place: the room you’re listening in. I love to zone out and either close my eyes or absorb the album artwork or read along,” Mayeux explained.
Many musicians perceive listening to physical records as a way of preserving musical integrity. Sumner Bright, a senior journalism major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and guitarist/vocalist in the local band Plains, explained that he and his fellow band members love to stop into various record stores in the cities they tour, as well as enjoy the simple pleasure of holding their very own record.
“We wanted to put [our album] on vinyl just because we’d always wanted to have our own music in that kind of physical format,” Bright explained. “I listen to albums on vinyl all the time; it feels more real and sounds full & wholesome. Digital loses a lot of the warmth and ‘naturality’ of music.”
Plains has cosigned their record with Bull Moose, which means fans and listeners alike will be able to purchase the record locally. The album, “Peace in Restland,” is set to release digitally Feb. 15.
“It’s nice having a place that lets locals [artists] consign stuff,” Bright adds.
However, most music that is available for purchase in stores like Bull Moose is also consequently available online. It is the easy-to-use, portable interfaces of streaming apps such as Spotify or Apple Music that prove to be a formidable force against other modes of listening. According to a statistic released by Spotify, 55 percent of the monthly users are in the age range of 18-35 years old, with a total monthly average of 52 million users in the United States.
According to a statistic provided by the Nielson Music U.S. Year-End Report, in the year 2017 over 14 million vinyl records were sold in the United States; albeit an impressive number, still subjacent juxtaposed with the lofty statistics of streaming services.
Though accessibility and convenience may outweigh a music listener’s decision to resign to streaming services instead of undergoing the tedious effort of listening to vinyl, the compression that occurs on digital streaming services can actually diminish the quality that old-school analog audio provided by vinyl gives. While listening online is easy, artistic integrity may be disrupted by presenting sound unlike how it was to be intended.
“I just really love records. I like to collect new stuff but mostly original, old stuff because it was put on the vinyl for a certain reason; the order the songs are in is to tell a story and show a purpose, that’s the way it was made to be listened to,” said senior English major and art history and film studies minor, Jessa Oliveira, who exemplifies that understanding the story the artist is trying to tell with their music is a vital component of the album-listening experience.
Though music can be enjoyed in all forms, many listeners find the physical ritual of using both body and mind to appreciate music to be unbeatable.
“It’s a very intimate way of hearing music that I think a lot of folks miss out on with streaming. I enjoy studying physical records, learning about as much music as possible, and listening to vinyl records is the best way to do this, I’ve found. Plus, getting up and flipping the record over to hear the other side is always fun.”
Bull Moose, open seven days a week in Portsmouth, N.H., serves as a resource for all local music lovers.