VINYL Madness is back. Last year, WBFO -- the public radio station associated with the University at Buffalo -- skipped this fund-raising event, but the sale scheduled for Aug. 29 and 30 will more than make up for the omission. The event's official name is Vinyl and CD Madness, reflecting the increasing presence of compact discs among the offerings. But even that expanded designation fails to cover all the music formats that the station has to sell.
Music-lovers and collectors also will find 78 rpm singles and albums, cassettes, reel-to-reel and even 8-track tapes. I've been at all these sales and have not yet spotted any ancient cylinder recordings or any of the many tape cartridge formats that failed over the years, but I'll bet that someday all of those will surface at the sale.
In fact, this could be the year because WBFO program director David Benders says that there are more recordings on hand than ever before. He counts over 30,000 items in the station's Allen Hall studios right now, with more arriving every week.
Where do they come from? Mostly from the "people like you" who support public broadcasting. They donate recordings they no longer care to keep in their home music libraries for one reason or another.
The LPs typically come from people who have built up their CD collections to the point where their LPs sit unplayed. Often they will have discarded their turntables and can't even play the LPs if they wanted to. In other cases, they might even throw the turntables in with the LPs they donate.
Those turntables come in handy at the sale. WBFO engineers set them up in the Allen Hall auditorium so shoppers can audition recordings they might buy. You might even be able to make an offer on a turntable if you want to get back into vinyl or get involved with vinyl in the first place.
And that leads to the next logical question. Why would someone want vinyl recordings anyway? There are various reasons. You probably know that many people still prefer vinyl LPs for music listening because they believe that they sound better than CDs. But I believe that this group is not heavily represented among Vinyl Madness shoppers. They tend to buy new pressings of classic recordings from the vinyl era.
That's right. New LPs still exist. In fact, LP production has been enjoying a steady increase over the past few years. And turntable sales remain strong at hi-fi specialist shops. In fact, you can still pick up a turntable at your nearby Radio Shack. That's a sure indication of continuing grass-roots interest in and support for the LP format. By the way, those of you who have receivers without proper preamplified phono inputs should check out that Radio Shack turntable. It has switchable preamp module built in so that you can feed its signals into a high level aux or tape input.
Getting back to the sale, most people who go will be collectors of one sort or another. Some will be in collecting for its own sake or as a business. They'll be looking for rare and valuable LPs that they may listen to once but more likely will either enshrine on a shelf or sell for a whopping profit.
Another major collector group will be the music aficionados who are looking for LPs (and often 78s) that have performances on them that have not yet been issued on CDs. In spite of the ongoing reissue programs of major and minor record companies, a great deal of recorded music remains unavailable. The only way to hear it is to buy it on the used market, and you can be sure that you'll find great numbers of examples of such music at the WBFO sale.
Don't forget the retro-cool crowd will buy scads of LPs to enjoy the '50s and '60s hipness that's all the rage these days. And many people will even buy LPs for the ample and attractive cover art that graces so many albums. (Benders discloses that there are at least 30 copies of Herb Alpert's "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" in the stacks.)
Here's how the sale will work. The dates are Aug. 29 and 30. The place is Allen Hall on the UB South Campus. It's right on Main Street and easy to get to by car, Metro rail or bus. If you drive, you'll find plenty of parking in the Park and Ride lot in front of Allen Hall.
The public sale starts at 11 a.m. on both days. But on Aug. 29, WBFO members will be able to enter at 9 a.m. for a special two-hour preview sale. If you want to get that head start, you can join WBFO by calling them at 829-6000. They'll also be signing up members that morning at the sale. There's a $2 entry fee for the general public. WBFO members get in free.
Most LPs cost $1.50 each. A few rare items that the WBFO staff has spotted will be offered at $5 00 and up. But they can't spot or know about all the potential treasures that might be buried among the thousands of items they have on hand.
Aug. 30, Benders says, is "get them out" day. He has no illusions about actually clearing out all 30,000 items, but he'd like to have as few left over as possible. So you can count on special deals on Sunday, particularly if you're buying a large lot.
While the bottom line of the Vinyl Madness sale may be the money that it raises to help support WBFO's public broadcasting service, the station has easier ways of raising funds. This includes the time-honored method of asking for it during pledge drives. The sale's real payoff is that, as Benders notes, "people have a good time."