By Charlotte Campbell
VANCOUVER — Have you ever wondered what happens to old vinyl? Most times it sits in dusty old milk crates for years before a parent or grandparent eventually passes it on after getting sick of carting it through life year after year. Robert Privett has found a brighter future for those forgotten records. He is the organizer of the Main Street Record Fair, a biannual mecca for vinylheads in the city. He is also the founder of Vancouver’s first record donation program.
When Privett started the Main Street Record Fair, he didn’t even own a turntable. He was working as a DJ at CiTR and wanted to get involved in the community. That was five years ago and the record fair quickly became known for its top-notch selection of records. The fair is a hub for serious collectors but doesn’t have much for casual browsers to pick up without shelling out big bucks; it’s for this latter demographic that the vinyl donation program was created.
Privett has gathered up old collections of used vinyl that have been donated and has made them available for a very fair price to those just looking enjoy the music rather than invest in full collections and special editions. When asked what was the strangest donation he’s received, Privett said, “The personalized ones are definitely the best. We have gotten Jane Fonda records from the ‘80s with a workout schedule scribbled out on the back.”
When questioned about who is predominantly donating to the program, Privett responded, “Mostly people in their 60s or older who have been storing their records forever and no are longer interested in collecting because they are downsizing,” and that “mostly people say they want to see their records get spread throughout the community to people who will enjoy them.”
Not only is the vinyl donation program a good way to re-circulate albums but all the money made in the sale of the donated vinyl is donated back into the community organizations in Vancouver such at CiTR 101.9 FM, Safe Amplification Society and Girls Rock Vancouver. Privett has been a big supporter of CiTR since he arrived in Vancouver 10 years ago. Since the program debuted in May 2013, it has raised over $4,500 for charity and recycled over 15,000 vinyl records.
However, there are always those albums that are nearly impossible to re-circulate. They are those three copies of Barbara Streisand’s Guilty that somehow end up in your grandmother’s collection, or the numerous copies of Zamfir that you always see in the bins at the Salvation Army. Privett is on a mission to figure out what to do with these albums that lost their value decades ago. He is always looking for new ways to repurpose them into more useful things, such as guitar pick guards, rather than sentence them to the landfill. Privett is also looking to work alongside Engineers for a Sustainable World at UBC who want to use Japanese technology that converts plastics back into fuel. “I don’t know when or how that is going to happen, but I would like to collaborate with them for the records that don’t sell.”
Not only is Privett’s donation program looking for physical ways to breathe new life into vinyl, but he is also resuscitating the heart and soul of vinyl. “Vinyl has character. It has personality. Each copy is something tangible and different.” The vinyl donation program is Privett’s way of keeping vinyl alive and accessible in Vancouver.
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