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Robert Bringas, the Music Baron
The Music Baron sort of fell into Robert Bringas' lap: in 1996, while working at colossal used bookstore the Book Baron in Anaheim, Bringas began managing the records the store was acquiring. Six years later, the Music Baron took up residence a few doors down—completely independent. Like the bookstore that hatched it, the Music Baron specializes in used wares with an emphasis on collectible and rare vinyl.
That's what we had most of when I started. It occurred to me that there was a market for it, especially in Orange County. At some point I kind of decided to develop the vinyl thing by not just relying on the records that came in over the counter, but also trying to acquire better records because I saw the interest was so strong, even on the common records. I would even buy records from other stores. A lot of times you'd only find some of these records on the Internet or at record shows. That became our specialty.
What's the profile for the people who buy vinyl from you?
Basically there are three types of people who buy records in our store. People who are looking for music that's unavailable on CD—that's one type. The vinyl medium is the only way they can acquire the music. There are lots of things that are still not available on CD and may never be available on CD. The second category is people who collect records for collectibility's sake. That's akin to someone who collects coins or stamps. In some cases, these people who buy these rare records might not even play them. They're buying them as an investment almost. The third class of people is people who actually prefer the sound. I myself can't always appreciate the differences in the sound, but the people who feel that way are very adamant that the analog sound of vinyl has a warmer or more expansive sound to it. They find that CDs are too harsh or thin. That makes the hobby that much more interesting because people now are buying vinyl for sound preferences. When you think about what CD was promoting, that it was the perfect sound . . . And you have people who just buy for the cover art too.
Do you feel that you're in the same business as the places that sell new Britney Spears CDs?
I really don't.
What's selling well lately?
Right now jazz records are really hot—things on Blue Note and Prestige Records. You'll find that some people feel that strongly about garage and psyche bands from the '60s, but I'm seeing the jazz records going through the roof right now. The values have been somewhat escalated by what the Japanese have brought to it. The Japanese buyers have shown a strong interest in original jazz records from the '50s and '60s. If American buyers want to keep them, they have to match what the Japanese are willing to pay.
Is finding that fabled rare record for $1 at the Salvation Army still possible?
I always hear stories about that, but it's never happened to me. I have a customer who recently acquired a record at a garage sale that he didn't have to pay for. He just had to take all the records. It turned out to be a quite valuable Beatles record: Introducing . . . the Beatles on the Vee-Jay label. It's been highly bootlegged.
Do you have a favorite record of all time?
Gosh, no. I don't even have a favorite type of music. People often say they like everything, but I really do like everything.
THE MUSIC BARON, 1244 S. MAGNOLIA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 527-7770; WWW.MUSICBARON.COM.