Streaming services can’t detune Oshawa music store Wilson & Lee

Photo by Tyler Hodgkinson

Bill Wilson, co-owner of Wilson & Lee, in the legendary music store.

Online music services such as Apple Music, Tidal, and Spotify have cemented their legitimacy as hubs for catalogues, but this can also be said for longstanding Oshawa music store Wilson & Lee.

According to co-owner Bill Wilson, the downtown shop, which is currently celebrating 95 years in business, isn’t greatly affected by the rise of streaming services because they bring in a “different kind of customer.” (Wilson & Lee is also owned and operated by his younger brother, Dave.)

“[People who download] are a portion of people we didn’t really have to begin with,” the 77-year old says. “We have a lot of customers looking for vinyl records.”

In a report published last year, Nielsen says the amount of streams in Canada has risen to 18.6 billion in 2016 from 10.5 billion in 2015. The study takes into effect both video and audio streams. Nielsen also reports physical album sales are down 16 per cent, however, vinyl LPs sales have risen 39 per cent.

According to Official Charts, the late David Bowie’s Blackstar was the best-selling vinyl of 2016, with Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and the soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy film in second and third, respectively.

Wilson believes the resurgence of vinyl is a direct result of consumers’ need for something physical.

“Some people love to have a tangible experience,” Wilson says.

“I remember buying records, showing them to my friends, arguing about what certain lyrics did or didn’t mean.”

Nowadays, some music fans collect vinyl because it may sound better when played through an optimal system, while others love to grab everything their favourite artists release.

Albums by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Taylor Swift are big sellers at the store, Wilson says. New vinyl is often priced between $20 and $45, however, it depends on the popularity and availability of the product. Additionally, used vinyl bins are often rummaged about by customers, as buying pre-owned records is a cheaper solution for the mass collector type.

The store began bringing in used vinyl after a customer offered to sell his collection before throwing it away.

“It was either me or the dump, so I gave him a fair, reasonable amount and we put them on sale. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I priced them, threw them up, and people started to buy them,” says Wilson. “It sort of dawned on me that this is something I may want to expand a bit.”

Wilson & Lee has continued to “flip” records ever since.

Despite its popularity, vinyl alone does not keep Wilson & Lee in business. In fact, its main source of business is instruments, but it also sells a variety of products, including DVDs, Blu-rays, new and “oldie” CDs, and notation books.

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Tyler Hodgkinson is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about entertainment, with a focus in video games. Tyler can be heard on Riot Radio as one of the hosts of Digital Circus. He hopes to work at Electric Playground Network in the near future.