The Power of Vinyl

“Anytime I meet another female record collector on the Internet or in person, I immediately want to be their friend!” says Erin O’Dell, a record collector, blogger, and factory worker from Red Lion, Pennsylvania. “I feel like we’re often overshadowed by the male perspective and designated as the ‘that’s nice, dear’ of couples in memes and forums. We love to spin and crate dig, too. We exist. We are valid. We want all the vinyl!”

In a male-dominated music industry, O’Dell is part of an active and passionate community of women on Instagram sharing their love of vinyl and helping to promote gender equity. This loose-knit, global sorority of record collectors and music-industry professionals meet up daily on a vast network of like-minded souls, both men and women, to celebrate their favorite artists and albums. Some are earnest collectors who simply post a treasured album cover accompanied by a mini-blog, while others stage lavish tributes to artists and their works, donning makeup and costumes to replicate album art. One Italian Instagram account even curates professional-quality pinups replete with vintage portable record players and scantily-clad models that look like they stepped off the pages of a 1962 Esquire spread.

But the playful pinups belie a deeper sense of empowerment that these enthusiasts are finding through vinyl. “Music can lift and light a fire inside of you that you didn’t know could even burn,” says O’Dell, who writes the monthly Vinyl Femmes & RPMs column. Music-marketing exec Sunny Muehleman Blashe of Milwaukie, Wisconsin (aka @puttherecordon) feels similarly inspired. “I love being part of the vinyl community [on Instagram],” she says. “Everyone is so nice and supportive. I’ve made so many friends who have shared new ways to store my records, and learned about vinyl cleaning products and even new music. I love seeing what albums or artists make other people happy and adding that to my collection. I also love sharing my collection with others who are like me. It gives us time to discuss why we love the music and how it makes us feel.”

Instagram also is helping women find jobs, thanks to organizations like Women In Vinyl, an advocacy group that shares inspirational stories and creates role models for girls and women. The group’s board members include founder and self-confessed Black Sabbath fanatic Jenn D’Eugenio, sales manager at Furnace Record Pressing in Alexandria, Virginia; Jett Galindo, a mastering engineer at The Bakery studio in Los Angeles; Amanda McCabe, a member of the Universal Music Group’s Strategy and Tactics Team in Seattle; and Robyn Raymond, a lacquer cutter and owner of Red Spade Records in Ontario, Canada. “Women in Vinyl, by sharing stories of women working in the field and now with the podcast, is making the industry more accessible,” says D’Eugenio, who founded the organization in 2018 and hosts the group’s new WIV podcast. “It’s about educating the community, and hopefully inspiring people to take a chance and find a way to do something they love. It’s not exclusive to women, but it’s brought to you by women and features women who are leaders in the field—you can’t move an industry forward without innovation and you can’t innovate in a vacuum. Innovation comes from diversity and that comes from inclusion. The more diverse and inclusive the industry is the better it can become.”

One of those women is Mary House, a single mom, stage-3 breast cancer survivor, and owner of Curious Collections Vinyl Records & More in Bryan/College Station, Texas, who found a new life through vinyl. In 2016, she was in the middle of a divorce when her father suddenly died in a car accident. “You see, my dad was a collector, so my brother and I went to West Virginia and cleaned out his seven storage units, two of which were climate controlled and filled with vinyl,” she recalled on the Women In Vinyl website. “I loaded up a 26-foot moving truck, drove that bad boy from West Virginia to Texas, and unloaded its contents into the space that was my first location. Since then, we’ve moved into a 2600-square-foot space and expanded our inventory to include turntables, new vinyl, and posters, right alongside the large, previously owned vinyl selection. I started my own collection when I opened my store. I love finding fun colored versions of albums I love.”

The significance of using record collecting as a gateway to personal empowerment is echoed by Markie Schlake of Cincinnati, Ohio (aka @VinylGal), a “full-time mom” and part-time social-media manager who encourages her Instagram followers to welcome newbies. “Collecting vinyl can seem very exclusive. Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity tells you that,” she says. “But if our world has taught us anything, it’s that inclusivity is key. Include others who are new to collecting; don’t exclude them because they haven’t been collecting since childhood or use a cheaper player than you. We all start somewhere, after all. Include those from all walks of life, all occupations and stations. Music was meant to bring people together, and collecting should, too.”
Carlos Alves de Sousa