L.A.’s Thriving Food Scene Brings Young People Together (and They Love Vinyl)

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My wife and I recently realized that during our COVID-era lockdown, we inadvertently got away from many of the things that we really enjoyed doing. But for now, we are back out and enjoying life and trying to restore some social normalcy in a world where a lot has changed in over the past few years. 

One of the post-isolation things that we have been doing is trying to eat at the Los Angeles Times’ Top 101 Best Restaurants from the 2022 list. We are at 39/100 as of today. Some of the restaurants are from cuisines that we aren’t 100-percent thrilled about (think: Israeli, Palestinian, Ethiopian, vegan). Others are so bat-shit expensive, such as omakase sushi places that make you pre-pay for $400 per head (pre-tip) for your artfully presented dead fish. There are some on the list, much like the Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses list for the U.S. (I have played 74/100 and 19 of the top 20 there), that are on the list because of their exclusivity. The Number One restaurant on the L.A. Times list is a Japanese place called Hayato that seats a total of 35 people – in a week! They offer reservations on the first of the month and they are gone faster than Taylor Swift tickets being sold by a hunky ticket scalper at an all-girls boarding school. 

Used vinyl is being sold at over $100 per LP at this L.A. food event that caters to young, tech savvy enthusiasts
Used vinyl is being sold at over $100 per LP at this L.A. food event that caters to young, tech savvy enthusiasts

Today’s excursion was to a Smorgasbord event, which is a Sunday-only collection of local food vendors and more thoughtfully assembled right behind a gigantic restored warehouse space called The ROW, a little east of what I call Downtown Los Angeles (or DTLA to younger locals). There are three rows of exotic, creative, and often cutting-edge caterers, artisan cooks, and chefs from around the world. But that’s not all. When you walk into the outdoor venue, you are greeted by both people from Uber Eats on one side and promoters for the event in a tent on the other side of the entrance. Uber Eats got my wife’s attention and gave her two promo certificates just for playing a Price-is-Right Plinko-like game that couldn’t have taken 30 seconds. One certificate that my wife won was for 25 percent off anything on Uber Eats and the other was for a different free delivery. I don’t use Uber Eats (Uber Black, yes, from time to time, but not Eats personally) but my wife loves it and will get restaurant food sent to the house every few weeks. She now feels even better about Uber and their service. 

On the other side of the entrance, my 11-year-old son, Vincenzo, was wooed by the event’s promoters, who offered up a big bin of Pellegrino zero-sugar drinks in those  thin cans. They were ice-cold and free for the drinking and Enzo didn’t miss his opportunity. I already buy the lime flavor of these drinks, which cost $6.99 to $9.99 for eight drinks depending on the level of swank at your local grocery store. I stopped drinking booze about four months ago, and these Pellegrino drinks have been helpful for something just a little bit more interesting than water. Them giving away a big palette of them to young and hungry people is just plain smart. Really smart. They say Subaru and Volvo advertising is designed with one goal in mind, which is reassure their current client base that they are still the right car when it comes time to buy a new car. Add Pellegrino to that smart marketer list. 

BMW is selling EV cars to young people packing Bowers & Wilkins sound systems
BMW is selling EV cars to young people packing Bowers & Wilkins sound systems

What B&W Could Learn from BMW at This Foodie Event

First of all, you aren’t allowed to call B&W that anymore. They ask to be called Bowers & Wilkins not to be snobby Brits but to avoid brand confusion with Bavarian Motor Works (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG if you want to get specific) or BMW, who happens to be one of their automotive partners. I can understand that, and at this event I was thinking about both brands at the same time. While I’m very much more of a Mercedes man than a BWM one, I must say the idea of bringing a few of their electric vehicles to park in the static display section of the event was next-level smart on their part. The event’s audience is loaded with young people who are clearly willing to spend a few extra bucks on consumables and experiences if those goodies are worth it. They also tend to be very environmentally minded and tech-forward in their thinking, so an EV isn’t a tremendous leap the next time that any of these folks walk on to a car lot. BWM went one step deeper, which was to place nicely printed signs wooing people to talk with their brand ambassadors for some tasty swag, be it a quality baseball hat or t-shirt or what have you. These guys are playing the game like true marketing professionals.

Back to Bowers & Wilkins: I couldn’t help but think of them on a number of fronts on a Sunday morning in DTLA. The first one was that they invited me to the launch party for the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones. I was just considering coming back to the audiophile world and their beyond-savvy PR firm caught wind of this fact and urged me to attend. The party was swanky as hell, but you wouldn’t haven’t known it from the neighborhood the venue, The SoHo Warehouse, was located in. This food event was during the day and a few blocks down the street from the Bowers & Wilkins headphone event. More importantly, it got me thinking as the incurable entrepreneur that I am. There was music playing everywhere and there were no less than three booths selling vintage vinyl. None of them were playing it or selling anything like what we would call affordable audio, but why not? The Fashion District is down in that part a little bit east of the skyscrapers of the Los Angeles skyline. If you can sell fancy, homemade dresses – why couldn’t you sell Bowers & Wilkins headphones? This demographic is perfect and much like that event that they invited me to, Bowers & Wilkins is a new luxury brand to these young but somewhat upwardly mobile foodies. For that matter, BMW might be a somewhat new brand to them too. 

More vintage vinyl on sale in DTLA
More vintage vinyl on sale in DTLA

When is the Cost of Used Vinyl Just Too High?

I stopped by and talked with all three people selling used vinyl at the Smorgasbord event. Most were super cool and seemingly excited to meet me. I asked them about their best inventory and I introduced to some of my all-time favorite albums on vinyl. What I couldn’t believe  was the price. For example: one vendor pulled out a pretty beat-up copy of Metallica’s Kill Em All. I love that record. Such a raw, thankful departure to punk. The record was supposed to be called Metal Up Your Ass, but the suits at Elektra wouldn’t allow that. Talk about a “Smell the Glove” moment? I glance down and see that the record is $100. I ask if this is a first pressing. Nope. The corners are all bashed in as this was a very worn record that before COVID would have sold for $3 at a yard sale. Now vinyl is trendy and trendy gets expensive fast. 

In another booth, I was shown another Elektra record: The Doors’ L.A. Woman. How relevant, right? The vendor wanted $80 for this also-used, non-first-pressing LP. So, I again asked why and the dude says “Its art man – and art always goes up!” I didn’t say this to him but I know just a little about art and perhaps the most collectable artist in the fine art world from the 20th Century is Andy Warhol. Warhol’s largest edition print (not the Sunday B. Morning stuff as that’s basically unlimited in its volume) was a print called “After The Party” which has 1,000 units made plus a few artists proofs. An album like L.A. Woman has gone three times RIAA Platinum meaning over 3,000,000 copies have been sold in the United States alone. What if half of those were on vinyl as that was the format of the day – then how do you expect the price of a used record to go up? Then again, half of the people that buy vinyl today are reportedly not owners of a turntable (read the story), so go figure. Could you sell colorful and fun turntables at an event like this? A Metallica themed Pro-ject or a bright green U-turn Audio? The guy selling $500 Japanese knives says “why not?”

We saw more great concert t-shirts being worn at this foodie event on a Sunday morning than at an actual concert
We saw more great concert t-shirts being worn at this foodie event on a Sunday morning than at an actual concert

Concert T-shirts Suggested That This Was the Right Music-Loving Demographic

I haven’t seen this many vintage concert t-shirts without a trip to The Staples Center (or whatever the hell they call it now). I met a woman with a fantastic Funkadelic shirt. I met a USC fan (a brave call a mere 12 hours after a crushing defeat) who was wearing an Earth Wind and Fire shirt with his USC hat. Another guy that I saw, eating some pretty tasty looking barbecue, had a Tool Opiate concert shirt on. You go with your bad self, you modern prog-rocker. I like your taste in BBQ as well as music. 

DJs were playing fun, reggae-adjacent trip-hop music that was keeping everybody feeling the good vibes. It turns out that these people love music just like they love food. And there were a lot of them there. There might have been 200 to 300 people standing in line for a book signing from a local chef. There might have been 1,000 plus others eating and/or buying food and it was only 10:45 AM on the morning of an event that opened at 10.

The moral of the story is that we all know that the audiophile world needs new blood. That’s the whole premise of this online publication. Is it easy to find them? Will they flock to their local stereo stores with a pile of expensive used vinyl under their arms? Maybe, but who knows. We likely are going to need to reach out to this tech-savvy, experience-loving youth on their own terms. BWM, Uber, and Pellegrino saw the potential and I couldn’t help but to imagine bringing our hobby to these hungry people. I think they would eat up what we have to offer be it fancy turntables, kick-ass high performance headphones, or whatever, as if it were one of those custard filled, rock-sugar-crusted, caramel-cream-filled croissants that were being baked fresh. Man, they were good. 

You’ve gotten a taste of my tasty world. Where do the next generation of audiophiles congregate in your city? Tell us about how you might reach them with creative promotions, incentives, and demonstrations below. We love to hear your comments!

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todd fetterman

The young people in my life seem to be interested in experiencing music that is part of a soundtrack, like buying Metallica on vinyl after hearing their music on Stranger Things and wanting to see Queen and Motley Crue after streaming movies about those bands,

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