September 23, 2023
Sep 23, 2023
Our founder and CEO, Gar Ragland, contributed a heartfelt letter to Capital At Play Magazine’s November Music Issue, to share what the Citizen Vinyl project means to him and what he hopes it will be contribute to the Asheville community.
You can read the full op-ed below, or view the feature via Capital At Play’s website.
One Last Thing: Gar Ragland, Founder & CEO of Citizen Vinyl
Three years ago, when the Citizen Vinyl project was little more than just an exciting idea, I attended the first annual Making Vinyl conference. I booked a plane ticket to Detroit, and arrived in the Motor City with sharpened pencils, an empty notepad, and lots to learn about the exciting and enduring rebirth of the music vinyl record industry.
I was there – as a longstanding music producer and small business owner – to assess the viability of establishing a new record pressing plant here in Asheville, a business opportunity that seemed timely and very well-suited to my music and craft-loving hometown.
I learned so much about the renaissance of the vinyl record industry during the conference … about the reasons behind the fourteen years of continual growth in vinyl record sales, about the pros and cons of colored versus black vinyl records, about new advances in manufacturing technology, and much, much more.
But the most important takeaway was not the promising data I gathered about this growth industry, or the confidence I gained in Asheville’s perfect suitability. Rather, it was a simple insight that the great Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (of hip hop legend Run-DMC fame) shared during his keynote speech that continues to intrigue and inspire me:
“Music succeeds where politics and religion fail. It brings us together.”
We’ve all experienced the tribal joy of experiencing music in community with one another. And we all look forward to once again sharing a warm smile with a stranger at an upcoming concert.
Here in Western North Carolina, we love our music and art. We’ve felt the pandemic’s pain in many ways, not the least of which in the void of our cherished live music experiences. Our inability to come together – both literally and figuratively – to enjoy the universal, binding force of music, is painful. The deepest pain has been inflicted on our local musicians and venue owners and employees, many of whom I call friends. Their livelihoods have nearly evaporated under the infectious weight of COVID-19.
Yet despite the pandemic and the resulting moratorium on live music events, music still serves as a powerful connecting agent.
Recorded music helps connect us with our own feelings and the artists we love, serving often to relieve or escape the unique anxieties associated with these uncertain times. Our favorite albums – and the intentional, immersive ritual of enjoying the sights and sounds of a physical record – offers a healthy departure from the flurry of incoming emails and the never-ending news headlines that flood our digital devices.
And as evidenced by the 17% year-to-date increase in vinyl record sales from last year, the self-isolating, stay-at-home, pandemic-mandated lifestyle of 2020 has recruited even more of us into the joyful escapism offered by the vinyl listening experience.
Citizen Vinyl – a music vinyl pressing plant, hi-fi record bar, farm to table café, recording studio, and analog art and music store – has been over three years in the making. It is a collective celebration of craftsmanship, quality and art across its constituent parts: Music. Community. Food. Design. Manufacturing. History.
The experience of spearheading this effort has been a magical journey for me, to say the least.
I am deeply humbled by how my initial concept has attracted the talent around which I now find myself surrounded. By design, it’s been a beautiful, open-source collaboration from the start. As such, it has harnessed the collective creativity, vision and expertise of some of Asheville’s top talent.
As our name suggests, Citizen Vinyl is a testament to both the history of our historic building and the invitation to explore what it means to be a citizen . . . to ‘belong’ to a place. Our team shares an understanding that together, and despite the unforeseen and very real challenges of opening a new venture in the midst of a global pandemic, we have a very exciting and unique opportunity to create something that’s enduring and inclusive, inspiring and impactful.
It is a privilege and responsibility to create a community landmark that both unifies and inspires; one that celebrates our rich history and informs our future; one that helps our community – most especially our artists – recover from this damn pandemic.
In doing so, our team aspires to be good citizens, and to inspire others to do the same. I am excited about the future, most especially the creative renaissance that I feel is now being born from the pandemic.