Music: Joe’s Albums brings records back
By Sloane M. Perron
What began as a hobby for self-proclaimed record enthusiast, Joe Demers, has transformed into a lifelong career and successful Worcester business. Joe’s Albums, at Mechanics Hall, is a one-of-a-kind store focused on records. It offers new and used vinyl records, as well as turntables, sound equipment and music merchandise.
The idea for Joe’s Albums began when Demers pulled out some old records he hadn’t listened to in 15 or 20 years. He enjoyed the tonal quality of the records and wanted to buy more to add to his collection. However, while shopping himself, Demers realized that it was hard to find quality records at reasonable prices.
“I saw a void in the market,” he said.
Inspired by his own experiences as a record collector, Demers opened Joe’s Albums as an online store in April 2010.
“I had an order the first day I went live. I was shocked!” Demers joked.
The business continued to grow, leading Demers to open a brick-and-mortar store in Tatnuck Square in 2012. Joe’s Albums became a niche market for those looking for specific records and equipment. As a result, many of Demers’ customers came from out of town. In order to accommodate the business, Demers quit his full-time job to run the store. Last month, he relocated Joe’s Albums to Main Street.
Demers said his business has grown in the past 12-18 months. When he started the business, his customers were mainly middle-aged men who had not listened to their records for years and were looking to update their collections or revive their hobby. Today, Demers said there has been a shift in the “buying demographic.” Now, more teenagers and 20-somethings are interested in purchasing records and turntables.
Demers said records are coming back as customers understand the superior sound quality and unique experience that comes from listening to music on vinyl. Demers said that music on MP3 players are “too clean” and demonstrate the “slow degradation in sound for many years.”
A record, he said, “It is more of a full sound. People describe it as warmer.” Demers described his own experience listening to a REM record. He heard a ticking sound. At first, he thought it was a scratch on the record. But after listening to the song again, he realized that he was hearing the sound of a metronome in the background – something he had never heard when listening to the song on CD and on an MP3 player.
In addition, Demers said that customers enjoy the tangible experience of listening to records. The record experience increases active listening, since listeners are physically engaged in the process.
“Analog is truly the way we hear,” Demers said.
Classic rock and jazz are among the best-sellers at Joe’s Albums. However, current artists offer records, as well. Demers said the variety of genres found at his store, “runs the entire gamut from Justin Bieber to classic jazz to everything in between.”
Demers also features local artists, such as The Curtis Mayflower and Secret Lover, at his store. He encourages local bands or artists to press vinyls. “If more were doing that, I’d be happy to set up a section of local artists.”
Joe’s Albums carries 25,000-30,000 records and helps customers both buy and sell records and equipment. One of Demers’ goals is to book music events at Washburn Hall, which accommodates about 250 people – perfect for music, Demers said.
“I always thought Worcester lacked venues that size. Worcester has big events or bars, but nothing in between.”
When asked if Demers thought his hobby of listening to records would turn into a successful Worcester business, he laughed and answered, “No, never.”
Joe’s Albums is at 317 Main St., Worcester. For more information, call (508) 796-5352, visit joesalbums.com, or check out the store’s Facebook page.