MP3 killed the vinyl star, right? Well, not quite.
In case you haven't heard, a worldwide vinyl revival is underway, which — besides causing a steady increase in vinyl sales — is renewing millennials' interest in digging for records, in person, at physical record shops, with actual real-life hands.
But then, "crate digging has never left the building," veteran wax slinger Zernell Gillie says. "In fact, it's on the rise." And Gillie should know. His reputation as a seasoned collector/selector precedes him on international dance floors thanks to the obscure disco gems he's been lovingly digging up for the past three decades.
"[Crate digging] is the lifeblood of all collectors," he says. "When people gather over records, it's an experience that allows you to interact with the medium and those who buy and sell it.
"If you were to look at our purchase histories, 95 percent of what we buy is found in the wild, versus 5 percent online," he explains. "We enjoy the interaction with the sellers and the hunt. There is nothing like the feeling when you come upon a release you've had on your want list for years."
Without the crate diggers of the world, it would be even harder for underground imprints like Gillie's Grimy Edits to put their records in collector's hands. And with so many independent record shops forced to shutter since vinyl's commercial heyday — the current revival notwithstanding — record fairs play a vital part in cultivating crate-digging culture.
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Case in point: the obviously named Crate Diggers record fair, which Gillie cofounded in 2014 alongside Liz Maddux, community manager for the widely popular record crowdsourcing platform Discogs. "Crate Diggers was created to honor and celebrate our passion for vinyl and the community that surrounds it," Gillie explains. "Our mission is simple: We want to provide the opportunity for people in local communities across the globe to get together to sell, dig, and listen to records."
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A record fair by day and DJ afterparty by night, Crate Diggers has already drawn large crowds of record collectors and music enthusiasts in Portland and Los Angeles, thanks to not only the rare finds offered by the vendors but also the world-class DJ lineups. Luckily for Miamians, the 2016 local edition of Crate Diggers, taking place at Wynwood hot spot Gramps this Saturday, looks to be no different.
"There will be vendors from all over Florida selling records while some of Miami's finest vinyl DJs play throughout the day," Gillie says. "But let's not forget that Crate Diggers is a two-part event, where the record fair portion gives way to a massive free afterparty, and the lineup is ridiculous."
With legends such as Detroit's Mike Huckaby and Miami's Mystic Bill throwing down, we can't disagree.
Crate Diggers Miami with Mike Huckaby, Kai Alce, Mystic Bill Torres, and others. 8 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com. Admission is free.