In an age where technology is constantly improving, the music industry is seemingly surrounded by online streaming, digital downloads and online access, Yet, CD sales are down 16.3 percent in 2016 and digital song downloads dropped in sales 203 percent (Statistica), And yet, an unlikely aspect of the music industry is growing quicker than almost any other aspect of the industry: vinyl. Old fashioned record players and clunky records are now cool again, growing at an outstanding 32% in 2016, and clocking 416 million dollars in revenue, a 28 year high, Buy— ing songs online in a digital age is far more convenient, yet sales are down for downloads and records are soaring.
What is causing this new fad to take flight?
America’s obsession with every- thing being new has led to a counterculture movement of yearning for nostalgia and a “simpler time.” Vinyl encapsulates this idea, Vinyl records faded into obscurity after the creation of CD’s, but not because CD‘s were a better and more impressive product, In the 70’s, music sales were stagnant, The solution to the problem, as seen by executives at corporations, was to create a new way to play music that would cause people to want to begin purchasing again.
Thus the compact disc was created. Obvi- ously because these CD’s were newer and better, they would sell better, right?
Except that’s not what happened. CD’S were very difficult to make in the beginning, and almost 1 in every 3 had to thrown out due to defects.
This meant that CD‘S were very expensive, and the average ameri- can did not want to switch from their record player to a defect prone CD. Vinyl was still king. This news did not thrill record labels, who hoped CD’s would end stagnation and kickstart eco- nomic growth for their companies.
To push people away from vinyl and into the arms of CD’s, 7 major labels simultaneously decided to change an age old policy that helped record stores. Be- fore, stores could buy records from a distributor, and if sales were not going well, they could re- turn them By removing this policy along with inventory records, it became very difficult to own a record store and carry vinyl. It suddenly made financial sense for the stores to push CD’S on customers, and business executives finally saw a rise income. Vinyl records were cast aside, be- coming a forgotten memento of a time before. In the digital age we live in, it is easier than ever to listen to countless hours of music. Listeners can play music from Kanye West to Taylor Swift to The Beatles with a few clicks on a phone.
Everything about our culture gears us towards something better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient. And yet, the record and record player, long cast aside by executives as a dying medium, is now exploding in sales and popularity despite being more expensive, clunky, and less intuitive. At the same time, old video game consoles like the N64 and gamecube have risen in price and have become far more popular (Redbull Esports). Netflix continues to add old shows with terri- ble grainy quality that outstrearn new 4K shows, People love nostalgia, and vinyl records bring them this, Some people argue that the resurgence in popularity is due to records being higher quality audio than digital audio.
This, however, is a very small factor in the sales spike of records and record players. Records do sound better than digital music. Adam Gonslaves, an audio expert ofTelegraph Mastery, says, “Vinyl is the only consumer playback format we have that’s fully analog and fully lossless.” Digital music is compressed, meaning it loses parts of the sound that vinyl records do not.
But if music quality is what people are after, then CD‘S would have seen a spike in popularity, not records. Pitchfork, a well respected music reviewing website, says, “ Re- views of gear would include graphs that showed the frequency range of the sounds produced, measurements of things like channel separation (how much the information from the two stereo channels could be kept isolated from each other), signal»to-noise ratio, and dynamic range (the difference between the softest and loudest sounds the source was capable of reproducing).
And every possible measurement of the sounds– which are, after all, vibrations in the air that are quantifiable» suggested that CD5 were superior to records.” If people were on the prowl for the best possible music listening experience, CD‘s would be gaining popularity. No, the record sales of record sales are not due to the increased quality of the listening experience; other factors are driving the revitalization of the old fashioned record player. Records are also a trophy of a “real fan.” Owning a digital album shows you listen to an artist Owning a record from an artist shows you truly care about the artist, enough to buy a physical copy. Its very easy to illegally download or stream music. Owning a record from an artist shows a real connection to the artist.
Skratch Bastid, a world champion DJ and DJ competi- tion judge, says, “Many music lovers are finding that connection in vinyl. Records are a real, physical object that not only contains the music but also represents the fan’s support and commit- ment.” Records are a tangible, physical way to show respect for an artist in a way that digital copies never can. Vinyl records allow users to connect to the music and artists in a more com- plete way. Vinyl records have surged in popularity while the rest of the industry stagnated, despite being an outdated technology. Vinyl allows people to slow down in a world always rocketing for- ward, and connecting to the artist in a way that digital recordings can never match.
Records and record players may be outdated and old fashioned, but they allow for a unique blend of nostalgia and connection to music like never before