Origami Vinyl’s Neil Schield on his Echo Park record store’s closing: ‘It wasn’t sustainable’
The black-and-white paper crane-shaped sign is, for now, still up at Origami Vinyl. But the beloved Echo Park record store abruptly closed on Saturday after seven years of slinging LPs, hosting live bands in its loft and serving as a focal point for the neighborhood’s independent music culture.
“Origami Vinyl started as a childhood dream for me,” owner Neil Schield wrote in an email to patrons on Saturday. “I feel so fortunate to have lived out that dream.”
If any record store could have survived in the ongoing vinyl resurgence, Origami seemed like a contender. It had a perfect location — right next to popular nightclub and music venue the Echo — waves of media attention and goodwill upon opening and deep relationships with festivals like FYF and larger touring acts who brought lines around the block for intimate in-store performances.
Schield had been planning to wind down Origami Vinyl for a year. There were personal reasons; he recently got married and wanted to devote more time to his new record label, Fairfax Recordings. But in the end, he said, “The shop’s been losing money.”
“It was a labor of love, but it wasn’t sustainable,” he added. ”The last few Record Store Days were really bad for us, and the holidays were slow. It was one thing to compete with the shop down the street, but it’s another thing when big-box stores like Amazon and Urban Outfitters have gotten into vinyl and offer free shipping. I was at the Americana in Glendale and the Barnes & Noble there had a huge sign advertising its vinyl section.”
The specifics of Origami’s model — almost exclusively selling new LPs from of-the-moment bands — started as a way to differentiate it from stores like Amoeba, which stocks a vast library of used records (something not possible in Origami’s tiny square footage).
A dearth of new vinyl presses means prices and timelines for printing new vinyl are only going up (new LPs routinely list for more than $20). And given so much expanded competition, the novelty of local vinyl stores has worn off. L.A. stores such as Permanent Records, Mount Analog, Vacation and others now give vinyl fans plenty of options. Many also sell other ephemera like art prints and home goods that help make up ground lost on new LPs.
It’s perhaps understandable that broke musicians and young people — or even the better-heeled population that has moved into Echo park over the past decade — might be tempted to get that same LP, discounted with free shipping on Amazon, instead of paying full list at a local store, even a much-loved one.
Perhaps another model of record store will prove more sustainable. But Origami — long the bellwether for the vinyl-revival in L.A. — also proved that the last corner of growth in the physical-music industry may have challenges of its own ahead.
“It was always less about commerce than about community. L.A. is now rich in record stores, and I love that people are paying for music. There is room here for stores to survive and thrive,” Schield said. “But maybe even I was naïve about what it took.”
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