Vinyl records are experiencing a global resurgence. Sales are the highest they have been in 15 years. The figures from Nielsen SoundScan show the industry is booming with 2.9 million records sold in the past 6 months – a 33.5% rise in sales over the first half of 2012.
Comparatively, CDs are still struggling with sales falling another 14% as digital music continues to rise as expected – mostly due to the success of music streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora.
So what is causing the vinyl numbers to buck the trend of physical media?
Many audiophiles believe the sound quality of vinyl records is superior to other formats. By definition original sound is analogue. CDs and MP3s are digital recordings while vinyl records are analogue recordings. Digital recordings take snapshots of the analogue signal at a certain rate (44,100 times a second for CDs) and measures each snapshot with certain accuracy dependent on how many bits its format is.
So basically, rather than capturing the complete soundwave, digital recordings approximate it into a sequence of steps. The bad thing about this, it causes digital recordings to lose some information in the process. In contrast, vinyl records contain tiny grooves implemented into them that capture the entire waveform of the original recording. This prevents any information from being lost during the recording process.
This may sound too good to be true, and it usually is, since most modern albums are recorded digitally before being pressed on vinyl. However, many audiophiles contend that the quality is still on par or even better than that of a CD.
Most modern albums available on wax come with a complimentary mp3 download. This gives listeners the convenience of not always having to be around their record player whenever they want to listen to the album they bought. They are also quite reasonably price coming in between $15 and $30 for a new release and many good quality second-hand records sell for under $10.
There is also a feeling of community when walking into a record store and being surrounded by like-minded individuals all digging through crates trying to find a jewel. Unlike iTunes and Amazon, record stores are a place where people of many differing music tastes can gather and share their musical tastes with each other in person. It is marketed towards music lovers and through being so hands on it does quite a great job.
They are almost impossible to steal. All you simply need is a “wood box, glass window cement, silicone mixture, liquid plastic and a drill press”.
Music and visual art have been inexplicably linked ever since album covers were invented. The large sleeves and glossy finish of vinyl records provide a large canvas for album art. Many artists take advantage of this. For example, Toro Y Moi’s newest LP ‘Anything In Return’ (below) has the vinyl record coloured in purple and it looks awesome. There is no doubt that many people purchase records simply for the visual aesthetics they contain. I bet we all know someone who has records framed and hung on their living room wall. They just look so much prettier than CDs.
To play a record you have to physically set up the record player, clean dust off it, put it on the record player and stay in close proximity to it so you can flip it over to the other side when it finishes playing. This gives listeners an intimate listening experience. It allows you to feel as though you are a part of the music you are listening to. You feel connected to the music, and rewarded for the effort you put in to make it play.
The top 5 vinyl record sales at the time of writing are the albums of David Bowie, Boards of Canada, The Stereophonics, Daft Punk and, Courtineers. This suggests a young demographic is mainly purchasing vinyl records. This could be due to an increase in the popularity of things from earlier decades or it could be because some young people feel disconnected with intangible music. Either way, young people are getting into records and this trend is rapidly increasing.
It appears the soaring popularity of vinyl records is here to stay. There is an increasing number of artists and record labels who offer their promotional LP releases on wax. There is even a Record Store Day held every April where stores worldwide celebrate everything record related through giveaways, concert competitions and promotions.
Vinyl records aren’t going anywhere any time soon.