Friday, November 23, 2007

"Idaho's Vinyl Preservation Society"

from - by Amy Atkins

VPS Idaho isn't just for audiophiles (but they're welcome, too)

"The purpose of the Vinyl Preservation Society of Idaho (VPS Idaho) is to preserve our vinyl music heritage by fostering active, all inclusive community building amongst the passionately interested and curious to promote enjoyment and education relating to vinyl records, record collecting, record playing and all associated matters of analog musicology regardless of listening tastes. In other words, VPS Idaho is an independent social recreation enterprise dedicated to communal listening enjoyment. We also advocate the patronage of local, independent music stores who help support free-minded music lovers, including vinyl enthusiasts, in their communities."

—VPS Idaho mission statement,

Though they're eight years apart in age, brothers Chad and Travis Dryden have shared a hobby that has become a passion: they love records. And they aren't alone in their obsession.

Type the word "audiophile" into Google, and it returns 5.46 million possible hits. Ebay shows 155,377 items available under "records." Granted, not all of the hits are specifically related to vinyl. But clearly, a large number of people, some lurking in cyberspace, still have a high interest in what used to be the only medium through which people could hear the music they loved.

"We're trendspotting right now," Dryden said. "Vinyl is popular again."

A person with a large record collection is automatically afforded some cool cred among other collectors. But like anyone who collects anything, the record collector risks geek status among the uninitiated. The brothers Dryden want everyone from the older collector who possesses (and brags about) copious copies of out-of-print and rare vinyl to the teen who only recently discovered the back wall at the Record Exchange, to have a banner under which they can all come together for the same purpose: "to preserve their vinyl heritage." So they created an organization, the Vinyl Preservation Society of Idaho, to further their mission. And these guys put the "organize" in organization.

Travis Dryden—a self-proclaimed "jazz nerd"—explained how important it was that VPS Idaho start off on the right track. Before the kick-off event, they secured sponsorships from the Record Exchange and the Modern Hotel, where the monthly meetings are held. They created a well-tuned, easily navigable Web site. They have a mission statement. And they started a grass-roots campaign, hanging out at yard sales and thrift stores—magnet locations for record collectors—handing out cards cut out of old cardboard album covers with the society's logo and Web address stamped (yes, they have a logo and a logo stamp) on the back.

From the outset, it seems not a detail has been forgotten, a trait more often associated with groups and organizations that tend toward exclusivity rather than an idea two brothers came up with over a couple of glasses of whiskey and some Sonny Rollins albums. But the impetus behind VPS Idaho's creation was not to keep people, regardless of their knowledge of vinyl or how big their record collections are, out of the loop. They want VPS Idaho to be a way to bring album aficionados and disc dabblers together, in a way that warrants the use of the word "society," but with a bit more of a treehouse club feel. And though one demographic Dryden foresees attending the meetings ("mid- to late-50s, male, misunderstood") may not be much of a climber, it's what that demographic will bring to the meetings that gets Dryden excited.

"We're anxious to see his collection; we're tingling with anticipation to see what beautiful examples this guy has tucked away and has no one to share it with."

But that guy, or the shy 14-year-old who just discovered Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here stashed in the attic, may not be comfortable in a social setting in which he is expected to mingle and wax eloquently on all things vinyl. He need not worry.

The organization of the society is present in every aspect of it. Dryden explained that the meetings, which will take place on the fourth Wednesday of each month, will follow an agenda. The first half-hour of each gathering will be set aside for socializing, followed by society business and guest speakers, and the meetings will finish with music appreciation and open play.

Dryden said it's also important to note that the society's main focus will be on education and awareness. A night's meeting may be on vinyl grading, and people will be invited to bring arecords in for some opinions—expert and otherwise—on its value, though he expects to see a number of folks hoping to find their fortune. "Plenty of people have a couple of scratched-up Beatles records in their collections that they think they're going to retire on," he said. "That's simply not a reality."

He said it's also important, however, not to try to become experts in areas in which plenty of specialists already exist. "There are a lot of online resources, and part of your due diligence with any group is to avoid unnecessary duplication. We don't want to try to become de facto experts."

Ultimately, what the Drydens hope to accomplish with VPS Idaho is to share the joy and passion they have not only for the music they've shared, but for the medium on which they first heard it.

"The hum of the amplifier and the drop of the needle strikes a chord with people," Dryden said. "We want to set that stage where they can come together."

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