Feature Stories

After Decades on the Skids, Vinyl Shows Rediscover DFW

For years, record shows have avoided Dallas-Fort Worth like the plague. There were too many failed efforts that cost organizers and vendors money, so no one wanted to take the risk. But that's very much changed: North Texas has at least four record conventions slated for this year alone, the third of which will be this Sunday’s DFW Record Show First Spin in Hurst.

Vinyl sales have grown over the past decade. Domestically, fewer than a million albums were sold in 2007, but in 2015 that number had spiked to almost 12 million. It’s a far cry from vinyl’s heyday in the '70s, but it's good enough for Jesse Galvan, the mind behind the San Antonio Record Show and now the Dallas Record Show.

When Galvan arrived in Dallas last year, he didn’t expect recruiting vendors to be a large undertaking, but he found a vinyl community that had seen a few too many shows come and go. Every person Galvan approached shot down his ideas, and some even told him that it would fail spectacularly. Half of his vendors didn’t sign on until two weeks before his first show. “I ran into the biggest brick wall in Dallas that I had ever seen,” Galvan says. “The dealers and store owners were jaded.”
The Houston Record Show is the standard that other conventions in the region compare themselves to. It has been going for the last 37 years and has weathered the ups and downs of the vinyl market. These days the show draws between 300 to 400 record collectors at each of its six shows every year.

So Galvan considered it a bit of an accomplishment when the first Dallas Record Show had more than 500 attendees in April. Its second act in July had a slightly lower turnout and the same number of vendors. Galvan believes he would have had even more vendors from the first show return if they hadn’t been on summer vacations. They’ll get another chance at the third Dallas Record Show in October.

The First Spin show on Sunday is being held by the Hurst Conference Center and is being organized by vinyl enthusiasts Chris Connolly and Brad Milyo. The conference center hosts about 350 events yearly but business slows down in the summer, giving Connolly and Milyo an opportunity to schedule a show of their own. “We reached out to dealers and record stores,” Connolly says. “We asked, ‘How do you want a record show to be?’”

That approach has paid off with hesitant dealers riding the fence. Taylor Eckstrom of Forever Young Records says that Connolly’s approach made the difference for him and his dad and now they’re bringing all of their back stock to the convention. “I think [Connolly] just knows how to talk to record stores,” Eckstrom says.

First Spin admission is $5 and kids under 14 get in free. Doors open at 10 a.m. and attendees can expect hundreds of boxes of vinyl, plus vendors like Direct Audio selling audio equipment. Forever Young Records' entire back stock is priced at $5 apiece.

Connolly and Milyo had been planning their show for the better part of a year when Galvan came to town with the Dallas Record Show. They were initially concerned about the territorial attitude that some organizers have. “[Connolly] went to the first convention and asked me if he could promote his show,” Galvan says. “I told him you need to come earlier so you can talk to all of the dealers.”

There appears to be plenty of business to go around for now and organizers are working toward a common goal, but Galvan worries about an oversaturation in the future that could in turn lead to a decrease in attendees for everyone. “Dallas is big enough,” Galvan says. “There’s going to be someone else who’s going to want to do it.”

First Spin is expecting 1,000 attendees and 65 vendors from around the region to converge at the Hurst Conference Center. That’s quite a bit of growth from the first two shows and Connolly and Galvan expect the conventions to continue to grow in the future. Connolly is thinking about expanding First Spin to two days and Galvan, originally planning on two shows a year, is considering a third if the market has demand for it.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Bill Wisener, owner of Bill’s Records in Dallas, has been selling vinyl for 44 years. One of the reasons Wisener says he’s never been to one of the shows is because of the timing. “Usually they’re on the weekends,” Wisener says. “That’s when I would always sell the most.”

Other store owners are starting to feel optimistic about DFW’s record shows for the first time in a long time. It’s a difference of night and day for vendors like Eckstrom, who was initially reluctant to hop on board. “This is the first one that we’ve done [in DFW],” Eckstrom says. “This is probably the best one we’ll do yet.”