History of Songs for Sale on Bleecker

By Roger Paradiso

VILLAGE MUSIC WORLD OWNER Jamal holds his favorite CD, Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers and The Freewheeling Bob Dylan LP. Photo by Roger Paradiso.

Jamal has been in the music business for 30 years. It was a family business which he now owns. It’s called Village Music World and it is on 197 Bleecker off 6th Ave. His store is a musical history of the great transformation in music, both in styles and in formats. I talked to Jamal about all the formats he carries and other things.


“Favorite artists on any format are the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. In my store Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Dylan are the best sellers.”

His store, while a decent size, amazes me with how much music of every style he can put on the shelves.

“I am the biggest Format Archiver in the Village,” he said.

I asked Jamal if he heard about an article I just saw that said vinyl LPs, so popular back in my days of collecting, have surpassed CDs in sales.

“Yes,” Jamal said, “Young people are now collecting LPs because of the better natural human sound, physically touching the album and for the artwork on the cover.”

So, can you take us through the history of music formats?

“Years ago, people listened to the big bands and Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald on 78 vinyls. They were smaller than an LP but had its own system called the record player. The record player had the turntable, with speakers-built in.
In researching, I found the early 78s went back to the early 20th century. They were fragile and made from shellac. In 1948 they discovered vinyl LPs (long-playing) which were bigger than 78s and could hold more music. The downside of vinyl was that it could scratch or warp if you didn’t take care of it.”

I remember the 45 vinyl was big for me. It was a smaller record and had a record player that played 45s only—which could be stacked on top of each other. This format fit into a sleeve with a modest cover.

“This was popular because they were less expensive. 45s could cost 69 cents years ago” said Jamal.

“Great artists like Little Richard and going all the way to the Beatles and Stones were on 45s. You could only play two songs, because you had two sides, the A or B side.”

The 45s symbolized the emergence of rock ‘n roll. The smaller turntable made it portable so that you could carry it from place to place wherever you could find electricity. It was also the era of the Disk Jockey and AM radio.

Transistor radios the size of a cell phone were being sold so you could listen to the DJs play your favorite songs anywhere you could carry a transistor radio. The first transistors came from Japan which mastered the art of tiny transformers that could power and pick up signals to broadcast music around the world. The music was free to listen to, but you had ads and you didn’t pick the songs. The DJs basically decided what you listened to in terms of music. There were scandals with DJs accepting payola to play records.

The LPs or long-playing vinyl albums were more desired by the music fanatic because the sound was warmer and more “human.” They were much more expensive because of production costs but mostly because they generally had about 12 songs on them. They required a new record player that could hold a larger record on a turntable. Very sophisticated record players were becoming available through the 60s as you could add components like a better turntable, needle, and speakers. This system lasted a long time and was a favorite of collectors.

“In the 80s the LP (Long Playing) vinyl album was going out. The benefits of the album are that there was album cover art which told the story of the band and the album,” said Jamal.

What is your favorite album cover Jamal?

“I like the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main Street. They would run $125.00 for the first pressing of this record if a collector bought it today. A new LP cost an average of $25.00 today. Collectible older LPs today could cost as high as $75.00 for well-known artists.”
Albums in my day ranged from $1.99 to $9.99 if my memory is correct.

In the 80s music was changing to a more visual art. MTV, which started in the summer of 1981, brought in the age of music videos that accompanied the songs on “Cable TV.” Bands still put out albums but as the decade went on the music business switched over to very portable systems like cassettes which you could play everywhere, including your car. They had cover art and a back cover which listed the songs and who wrote them but that’s about it. There were large cassettes and smaller cassettes. They each required their own systems which meant that lots of people were selling their turntables.

The CDs and cassettes were very popular from 1987 through 2010. CDs stayed on when the cassettes no longer were made. CDs represented a change from the analogue system to the digital world we were all going to inhabit.

Jamal said, “People liked CDs because you could touch them. They also had cover art like the album and were easier to store than the album. The CD still had a player you could use at home. And most cars had a built in CD player.”

It was more popular than the LP and cheaper, both for the music lover and the people at the record companies, but there was a downside. Both cassettes and CDs were easy to pirate. People could just copy music to a blank disc with equipment in your home or if you are a pirate, it is a license to steal.

Piracy was hurting the industry. A company named Napster created a computer download called streaming. Instead of making the problem better it made it worse. Record companies and artists both sued Napster for copyright infringement as they were giving downloads for free at times and in most cases in popular music, they didn’t have a license.

When streaming music was created in 1999, it caught on with millions of people overnight. Free downloads and airplay were catching on with some. But hold on. That goes against the law of copyright. Artists and record companies were suing Napster. Unregulated Napster could have brought the music business down. Eventually Napster went bankrupt.

Bigger companies came on the scene with deals from the artist and record companies. The top streamers today are Apple, Amazon, Spotify, iTunes,SoundChannel and Pandora. You could stream or pay to download.

This system is in effect to this day though slowly in the ’80s there was a rebellion. The vinyl album was making a comeback. Collectors had always been looking in record stores for old albums. Jamal’s store is one of the well-known collector sites in the city. But bands and fans were making enough noise also.

The cash register encouraged record companies to start analyzing this trend. They put out select albums. They were selling. Now in the 21st century more and more artists are putting their music on vinyl. It is important to note that vinyl records were harder to pirate. This could also be why artists wanted to use this system. The music on vinyl sounds better. But it is expensive, so the indie bands and artists still use digital formats like the CD because they are cheaper to produce.

I want to close this brief history of records by saying my Apple phone with Apple digital music is a direct copy of the old transistor radio with several exceptions. You can be the DJ picking out exactly what you want to hear, and when and where you hear it. You do have to subscribe with a monthly fee, so you are leasing and not owning anything, but I feel better because I am giving money back to the artist.
The pleasure of having use of Apple music’s incredible collection of songs from way back in the day of early recordings to the latest pop hits and music releases is amazing. I can still walk around and listen to my phone like I did with a radio as a kid way back. That is something incredible to me. And you can sync up to the entertainment system in your car by using bluetooth. Now if they can bring the warm analogue sounds to the digital music, I would be happy.