Vinyl records, once consigned to music’s dustbin, have mounted a comeback that could have them accounting for $2.6 billion in global sales by 2027. Tapping into the resurging interest, four North Texas friends have founded a third-party service that authenticates and impartially grades vinyl records to help owners safeguard their collections.
The co-founders of Dallas-based Tuned in Grading are real estate entrepreneur and investor Rogers Healy, Ben and Skin Show radio personality Jeff “Skin” Wade, and Josey Records/Eastwood Music Group partners Luke Sardello and Waric Cameron.
Inspecting, grading, and encapsulating each shipped record
The startup’s process has customers boxing and shipping their records to Tuned In, where a team uses a proprietary method to inspect, grade, and encapsulate each one in a tamper-resistant case, without using heat. Records receive a holographic label as well as an identifying QR code before being shipped back to the customer by UPS or FedEx.
While there are similar certification services for “pop culture collectibles” like comic books and trading cards, Tuned In says it’s the “world’s first and most-trusted third-party grading service for music collectors.” (A Maryland company that grades and encapsulates vinyl records also claims to be the world’s first to do so.)
Mission: ‘To preserve the music’
The mission of Tuned in Grading, founded in 2022, is “to preserve the music,” says Healy, an avid music collector who owns a 2,000-square-foot “backhouse” in University Park containing more than 5,000 pieces of music memorabilia.
“One of our goals with ‘Preserving the Music’ at Tuned in Grading is to turn music collections into priceless possessions and art,” Healy said in an email. A graded, encapsulated record often is an “investment piece” similar to traditional investments like stocks and real estate, according to Tuned In’s website.
“Waric, Luke, and our grading team have spent the past few years building out our ‘Grading Bible,’ which provides ways for us to grade accurately on the four verticals: the record itself, the jacket the record lives in, the inner sleeve that protects the record, and the labels on the record itself,” Healy said. “Our deliverables, systems, and processes are all patent pending.”
So far, the startup has been bootstrapped “with less than $500,000” and has eight employees, Healy said, adding that its focus on vinyl records may only be the beginning.
“We’ll soon be introducing grading and encapsulating options for double LPs, CDs, cassettes and 8-Tracks, but really saw the need to introduce record grading first,” Healy said. “The market for grading music products, specifically records, is immeasurable, in the best way possible.”
In 2016, Dallas Innovates profiled Sardello and Cameron and their 15,000-square-foot music paradise, which at the time stocked more than 200,000 albums.
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