There’s something about holding a physical copy of an album in your hands, taking a new and pristine vinyl out of its sleeve and lying down as you fully experience an album for the first time.
Hitting their stride in the third quarter of the 20th century, the invention of CDs and then digital streaming services like Spotify have unfortunately lessened the impact that vinyl records once had.
Regardless, the “vinyl revival” has once again changed music.
More than three million vinyl LP’s (Long Playing albums) were sold in 2016, a 53 percent increase from the previous year and the highest mark since 1991, when CDs were starting to replace household record players.
While digital streaming still dominates the music industry today, it is clear that vinyl records are no longer the afterthought of the American public.
However, the question remains, what sparked the sudden resurgence of vinyl records in the last decade after vinyl records were on the verge of becoming completely obsolete?
The answer comes in the form of “Record Store Day,” which according to the events website “is a day for the people who make up the world of a record store — the staff, the customers and the artists — to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.”
This event was paramount in putting vinyl back on the map with Universal Records sales manager, Marc Fayd’Herbe, describing the event as, “the single best thing that has ever happened for independent record shops.”
Although most of the country’s vinyl sales come from websites like Amazon, Record Store Day has produced the highest amount of vinyl sales in a single day since 2013.
While remaining relatively unknown to many casual music fans, the impact of the event cannot be overlooked when it comes to the mini vinyl renaissance we’re enjoying today.
As more and more recording artists and bands catch on to the growing popularity and business opportunity that vinyl records present, the medium will rise again to new heights.
While vinyls will almost certainly never again be the dominant medium for music, what is it about vinyl records that have re-inspired old fans or produced a new wave of passionate, millennial collectors?
“People want to have something tangible, something to hold in their hands. That’s something you don’t get when you use something like Spotify.” said Russ Baggett, owner of 10,000 Hz Records, a pop-up record shop in Opelika.
Much of the allure that vinyl records bring to the table resides in the experience. Listening to an album on Spotify can be great, and particularly convenient.
However, sliding a crisp, unplayed vinyl out of its sleeve, closely studying the album artwork and actually sitting down and listening to it can’t be beat.
Even getting up to flip the record throughout the LP can create a unique, unparalleled experience.
Vinyls, to many, can even open the listener’s ears to details they may have missed in previous listens.
For those in college now, vinyls haven’t been a part of the mainstream for very long, and, although it’s easy to now find them from countless artists on websites like Amazon, it is certainly possible that an interest in vinyls was sparked from the collection of previous generations.
Many younger collectors nowadays have inherited a mass of old vinyls from parents and grandparents.
This ritual of passing music down from generation to generation only works in favor of vinyl records and will only help extend the trend’s longevity in the future.
With the ability to experience an older generation’s music in a more, intimate and physical form, millennials are able to tap into a well of nostalgia and truly experience music just as older generations did — something that profoundly appeals to today’s generation.
With the popularity of vinyls skyrocketing in the last few years, one can only assume that the technology is here to stay.
However, just like parachute pants in the 80s, it is widely known that trends come and go.
On the other hand, vinyl records have been a thing since the late 19th century so, therefore, it is obvious that this is no normal trend.
One might think digital music streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music will eventually kick vinyls to the curb, yet a shift in viewpoint would probably convince many otherwise.
Vinyl records aren’t here to reclaim the throne in the world of music. The convenience and sheer power of digital streaming is something that vinyls will never be able to match.
Instead, vinyls should be viewed as an enhancement to their digital counterparts, a separate, more ritualistic experience for those who have yet to experience the joy that a concrete vinyl album can bring.
“It’s not like we can pretend that stuff like Spotify and Apple Music doesn’t exist, it’s not like we’re not aware of that,” said Baggett.
The word experience will likely come up when talking to an avid vinyl connoisseur. Why? Because that’s what vinyl records are. Having a physical copy of your favorite album can become a sort of trophy for many people.
With the current generation constantly being plugged into their music, it is only natural that people would want to experience that music in different ways.