Meet Zero Freitas, the man on a mission to buy up the world’s vinyl

· Aug. 14, 2014, 6:00 am
photo: Zero Freitas
Brazil, as it turns out.
Those looking to sell vinyl collections, whether a major retailer, a mom and pop store going out of business, or a serious collector looking to unload a private collection, might soon find semis pulling up to their back doors. They'll truck the records way south of the border to a warehouse in Sao Paulo.
Albums arrive by the thousands. Or in the case of the acquisition of the now defunct Times Square institution Colony Records, the hundreds of thousands. Or in the case of a Pittsburgh music store owner, three million.
So who is snapping up all this vinyl?
“I've gone to therapy for 40 years to try to explain this to myself,” says the culprit in a recent piece from the New York Times.
That man is Zero Freitas, a 62 year old bus magnate. His addiction to collecting records started with the family hi fi and 200 albums.
The first album he ever bought was in 1964. It was by a Grammy award winning Brazilian singer and composer: "Roberto Carlos Sings To The Children."
By the time Freitas graduated from high school he owned about 3,000. By age 30, it was 30,000.
How many does he have stored away now, over the course of 50 years? “Several million” is his vague estimation.
What started as a passion soon became a kind of benevolent mission to buy up the world's vinyl. While most of what Freitas buys has been digitally preserved, an estimated 80% of the music from countries like Brazil, Cuba, and Nigeria has not.
“It's very important to save this. Very important” he says.
As an individual who once owned a modest collection of 15,000 (LPs & CDs), I know it's impossible to really enjoy that many records. I tried to justify it to two wives that it was important for me have a library like that, because if someone comes over and wants to hear Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil," Mission Of Burma's "Signals, Calls, and Marches," or "UFO Live," I'd have it.
So how do you enjoy a warehouse of millions of albums?
Outside of Freitas' passion for the music and the humanitarian angle, sharing it might be the next best thing.
Freitas is setting up his warehouse for a venture he is calling Emporium Musical. The idea is to set up a kind of library with listening stations among the thousands of shelves. If he has duplicates, you could check out a copy to take home.
So back to that first album he bought, "Roberto Carlos Sings To The Children." Zero now owns 1,793 copies of it.
Someday maybe you'll borrow one...

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