Home > Around Town > Vinyl record sales are up ó†way up ó†but why?

Vinyl record sales are up ó†way up ó†but why?

By Ben Larson

Fort Wayne Reader

2011-07-18


Unless youíve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, youíve probably noticed that vinyl records have been making a comeback. According to the Nielsen SoundScan report, vinyl LP sales are up 41% compared to this time last year. Granted, they only make up about .85% of total album sales (1.9 million out of 221.5 million total), but that large of an increase is far from insignificant, and it doesnít take sales of used LPís into account. From reissues of Pet Sounds to the new Taylor Swift album (no, Iím not making that up), it seems like almost everything is getting pressed on LP these days. But why? What is it about vinyl records thatís making people want to buy them in ever-increasing numbers? As a vinyl enthusiast (read: dork), I thought that the only people who loved records were other basement-dwelling misfits who spend all of their free time looking for an original pressing of the first B-52ís album (which, as it happens, I recently acquired. Score!). I was wrong. Anyway, Iíve been racking my brain over why this is, and these are the reasons I have come up with:

1) They sound better (or do they?).
The main reason people seem to give as to why they like records more than CDís or digital downloads is that they sound better, or that the sound is ďwarmer.Ē Iím calling shenanigans on this. OK, if you have an original pressing of an album that was recorded specifically to be put out on vinyl, AND your stereo is good enough to be able to pick up and duplicate that difference in sound (hint: most arenít), then I will agree that it probably does sound better. That being said, unless the album youíre listening to was recorded by Steve Albini, the fact is that it was probably recorded on Pro Tools, and the digital compression is taking away much of the original sound quality (or, at least, authenticity) that comes with analog recording. Unless youíre talking about low-quality torrent downloads, a lot of this hullabaloo about better sound quality is simply the placebo effect, but sound quality is only one reason to think that LPís are awesome.

2) The listening process is completely different.
This is where the rubber meets the road, as far as your listening experience goes. When youíre listening to music on an MP3 or CD player, you can shift around as much as you want, whenever you want. Because of this, itís easy to skip over tracks that donít instantly grab you, or donít sound right when theyíre out of context with the tracks before and after them. When you listen to an LP, however, you make a commitment. From the moment that needle drops, you have just devoted your time to whatever is on that side of the record. Everything about listening to a record takes more patience, and you canít just skip around to the ďhits.Ē Because of that, you have no choice but to take more time with an album, and you give yourself more of an opportunity to just enjoy the record. In that way, listening to vinyl is a much more fulfilling experience. Itís more special, really, and people are realizing that.

3) They look cool.
Letís face it; records are awesome looking. When youíre holding one, you know for a fact that you have something. Theyíre big. The artwork is big. You can actually see whatís printed on them. When youíre holding a record, you want to examine the cover, turn it over in your hands, read all the liner notes on it. If itís a gatefold record, itís twice as cool. A good example of this is the reissue of Thin Lizzyís Jailbreak, which I recently purchased, and let me tell you, that is one of the coolest looking records that I have ever seen. The picture on the inside alone is worth the price. Also, itís on stone-grey vinyl. I almost died when I opened it up. So cool.

4) They come with cool stuff.
Not all of them, to be sure, but a lot of records come with some really great stuff, which, when youíre competing with free, is pretty important. The most important thing that a record can come with is a digital download code, which is only fair, really. If Iím spending upwards of 20+ bucks on an album, it had better come with a download. I love records, but I also love being able to listen to music in my car or on my bike. Aside from the obvious download, though, a lot of records come with stuff like posters, pictures, even trading cards--all things that make you know that, when you buy a record, youíre getting more than just the music; youíre getting something collectible. And collectible things are cool.

5) They are fun to buy.
Personally, I think this is one of the main reasons that LPís have become more popular. With the advent of downloading, people came to forget how fun it is to find a record in a store. Itís the thrill of the hunt. People like to shop, and they like finding things that they like. It may sound overly simplistic, but itís really true, and itís especially true with records. People forgot about records for a while. Now they remember them, and being able to find your favorite album again on LP has become a thrill. Also, because more and more albums are being put out on vinyl (both new releases and reissues), people are able to find albums that previously were nearly impossible to get at a reasonable price, which makes it easier to get the gratification of finding a cool record. Still, there are plenty of albums out there that have never been reissued, so the hardcore geeks still have something to search for. Itís the best of both worlds.

When it comes down to it, I donít think that there will ever be a definitive answer as to why records are more popular right now. You may agree with some, none, or all of what Iíve said here. Iím not convinced that youíll ever find 2 people who agree 100%. Truth be told, this may all just be another fad that will have disappeared by this time next year. But I hope not. In the meantime, Iíll see you at the record shop.

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