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Vacating the vinyl: Paul Bunyan Broadcasting finding new homes for stacks of 45-rpm records and full albums

Stacks of 45-rpm singles line the shelves in the basement of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting. Photos by Dennis Doeden / Bemidji Pioneer1 / 3
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Paul Bunyan Broadcasting needed to find new homes for about 3,000 albums that had been collected throughout the years. 3 / 3

BEMIDJI—Vinyl records are making a big comeback, but the folks at Paul Bunyan Broadcasting were busy getting rid of them this past week. By the thousands.

"People were stopping in this morning and taking them out by the armloads," said Mark Anderson, who has spent the past 35 years with the company as an engineer and fill-in deejay.

The radio stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting stopped exclusively using records and turntables nearly 30 years ago, but Anderson estimated they still had upward of 5,000 single 45-rpm records and another 3,000 vinyl albums in the basement of the building at Fifth and Beltrami in downtown Bemidji.

They all needed to go, because of a remodeling project that will begin in a few weeks. Paul Bunyan's parent company, Hubbard Broadcasting, recently purchased the building, and plans are in the works for renovating all three floors.

So after a few hundred prize records were saved by station personnel, it was time to find new homes for the rest. There wasn't much of a market for the 45s, but the albums were popular. Some went to independent radio station KAXE/KBXE for its annual Record Store Day fundraiser. The rest were free for the taking.

"Vinyl is hot again," said Kevin Jackson, senior operations manager for Paul Bunyan Broadcasting. "It's one of the most popular things out there to buy. CDs are over. So if you want to hold something in your hand, people are buying vinyl again. It actually sounds better. There's a warmth to the sound of vinyl that isn't matched, but of course it doesn't have the lifespan of digital."

Billboard Magazine recently reported that U.S. album sales grew by 15 percent in 2018. That was the 13th consecutive year that album sales rose from the previous year. Meanwhile, the CD market fell more than 20 percent during the year.

Jackson said after a Wednesday morning team announced on the air that the records were available, a steady stream of people showed up to look over the collection, which lined hallways in the basement of the building.

"Some of them really just love the kitchiness of it," said Jackson, who has been at the stations since 1987. "Like the old big band records and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra, those very, very dated front covers are giving people a lot of laughs. There's a lot of them that I remember playing when I first got here. We were still doing turntables up until about 1990. So there's some in there, that I say 'Oh, gosh, I remember playing this.'"