Vinyl records have made an unbelievable rise from near-extinction in the last decade. According to a 2017 report, vinyl album sales increased by more than 1000% over the past ten years — and that’s just in the US.
The media format understandably began to fizzle out when much cheaper and easier to produce formats like CDs began to emerge. However, it’s re-emergence becomes even more puzzling when we consider that they’ve come back at the most unlikely time: the age of instant digital downloads. So why are people trading in their Spotify accounts and iTunes cards for huge discs of pressed vinyl? Well, it turns out it’s not just out of pure nostalgia; the vinyl renaissance is actually because records bring us closer to the music.
Why Vinyl Went Out of Fashion
August 17th, 1982, marks two important moments in history. It was the day that the first ever CD was pressed, which was incidentally a lovely ABBA record; and it was also the day that CD formats would take vinyl’s throne.
With much superior sound quality, a more compact design, and a cheaper mass manufacturing cost, everyone fled to the new medium, leaving records to quickly begin the process of gathering dust. It seemed like an obvious decision; with times moving so quickly, there was no time for nostalgia. From then, listeners switched to downloading, and finally to streaming their music.
It seems to be a natural and progressive move, as streaming on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Youtube means that underground artists get their music heard; finding new artists is the easiest and most accessible it’s ever been. But the way the music industry has ended up, with online streaming and downloads meaning we can get most music on-demand, has left many feeling as though we are treating music in an increasingly expendable way.
The Revival of Vinyl
The reason why vinyl made its comeback is because of its tactile quality. Audiophiles want a musical experience, and not just quick and convenient ways of accessing music.
Experiencing a vinyl record involves owning the physical copy, held in a sleeve with album artwork that you can gaze at whilst the music is playing; sitting with friends by the record player and listening without interruption, giving all your attention to the music; and physically flipping the record when side A finishes. It’s ritualistic nature and nostalgic, humming sound quality are the reasons why vinyl has come back into the mainstream.
People starting buying old vinyl, then Sony began to press new ones. Now there is a whole record culture, with new independent record stores popping up and subscription boxes putting new music out there. It’s not just a penchant for the past; vinyl is being given a new lease on life.
The comeback of vinyl has allowed for the appreciation and attentive listening that those decades before us could enjoy. There is a growing demand for the physical form and an increasingly large culture around the medium. Whether it’s the nostalgia, the simplicity of listening, or the tactile nature; people love records, and they’re no longer just relics of a time gone by.
By Sally Writes