Radio Wasteland Records celebrates its fifth anniversary

For the record, Jim Gleason is a vinyl enthusiast. He prefers the warm, rich sounds of records to CDs every day. In fact, he has about 15,000 of the large flat discs in stock and on his company’s shelves, Radio Wasteland Records.

The store, located at 716 George Street in Midland, opened on January 13, 2017 and celebrates its fifth anniversary this Saturday.

Gleason says he went from acquiring records for his collection to selling records, which eventually led to opening his first business. “For me, it’s always been about the love of vinyl,” he says. “I’ve been collecting since the early 80s and became a serious collector around 1991 or 1992.”

Gleason’s wife researched opening a record store, and soon after Midland had a record store again after The Turntable closed in 2003.

Since the store opened in 2017, the business model has remained the same: only offering vinyl music.
Heather Freeman, Jim Gleason and his wife, Kim, at Record Store Day 2021.
“I know CDs go through a bit of what vinyl went through in the 90s,” Gleason says, “but we made the decision to just stick with vinyl all the way through, as a real, real record store. .”

Today, the store carries a wide variety of music ranging from classic country, rock ‘n’ roll, Michigan music, jazz, polka, soundtracks, and more.

“We’re the kind of record store where you can walk in and buy a $1 polka record, then upgrade to a $200-300 collectible record, and pretty much everything in between.”

With holidays like Record Store Day celebrating small local shops and tangible musical merchandise, vinyl is once again at its peak. For Gleason, it’s a great listening format.
“The Dude” is one of the record store dogs.
“It’s the warmth of the sound; it’s nature to have something tangible in your hand to hold. You get liner notes, you get artwork – that’s the whole package for me that makes vinyl a more preferable medium for enjoying music.

Gleason taught audio and video. He knows that different people prefer different mediums.

“There are differences, obviously, in the way the sound is structured,” he says. “It’s analog when it’s on vinyl. It is prone to damage, scratches and chipping, but that adds to its features. Digital, of course, allows you to retain the integrity of the original sound, but you lose some of the audio spectrum in the digitization process. Now, that has come a long way.

Even with a vinyl resurgence, streaming music platforms like Spotify are still hugely popular and act as a vessel.

“Streaming subscriptions are also a gateway for them to find out what they really like, and then they seek it out on vinyl to have that tangible, physical representation of music,” Gleason says.

Vinyl records for sale at RWR, located at 716 George Street in Midland.Over the years, a strong Facebook presence and Youtube channel helped the store grow from “a quaint record store to a full-fledged record store,” says Gleason. After a move next door in 2019, their overall space has been tripled.

“We have such a great clientele that we’ve built over the past five years,” he says. “It’s really a nice little family who discovered us and chose to make us their destination for vinyl. I am very thankful and thankful for that.

Customers of all ages come from the Midland area, Sanford, Gladwin, Clare, Alma and even Traverse City or Detroit to browse the selection of new and used vintage vinyl on a weekly basis.

“We are always discovered by other people. One of our slogans is ‘yes, Midland has a record store,’” says Gleason. “No matter how hard we try to reach out, every week I get someone saying, ‘I didn’t know Midland had a record store.

For their anniversary event, Radio Wasteland hosts live radios on Friday and Saturday afternoons featuring autographed Greta Van Fleet CDs and platinum mat giveaways. They also offer a new turntable. Come in store this week to be entered, no purchase necessary.

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