By David McPherson
Digital, move on over; analog, move on in.
Just when you thought the LP’s death knell had rung for the final time, vinyl is cool again – especially among the young. Yes, the record, which not so long ago represented a relic that your parents and grandparents had stored in milk crates in the attic, is now hip for a whole new generation. Youth, a demographic you would expect to reject vinyl as archaic and cumbersome, are driving the vinyl record’s resurgence.
Look no further than the latest stats from Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS that reveal the mid-year U.S. music sales figures for the six-month period of Dec. 31, 2012 through June 30, 2013. For the first six months of 2013, sales of digital albums and track equivalents were down 4.6 percent versus the first six months of 2012. For the same time period, CD sales declined 14.2 percent and vinyl LP sales were up 33.5 percent.
Why is vinyl back? And who’s buying it? Here are a few answers.
First, music lovers seek a return to a less watered-down sound. They don’t want polish. They want to experience that scratchy sound that’s warmer, purer, and truer to the original studio recording. You get a closer glimpse of what it would have been like to hear these musicians live.
Nostalgia also factors into this newfound love for the LP, and curiosity is also at work. Youth want to latch on to a bygone era. They hope to discover what made records so popular with generations that came before them. It’s this curiosity that leads today’s teens and twenty-somethings to beg mom or dad to bring down that dusty crate full of music from the attic and ask for a record player for their next birthday.
When it comes to an LP versus an MP3, vinyl packaging offers so much more. It often includes lyrics from the artist (sometimes hand-written), photos of the band, 12” x 12” artwork, and sometimes liner notes that include the stories behind the songs. Today’s youth, while tech-savvy – and definitely purchasers of digital music, too – also want the enhanced visual experience vinyl offers.
As for the act of buying an LP versus an MP3, there’s no computer “genius” algorithm suggesting what music you might like. Instead, there’s a person behind a counter – a music-lover just like you – with a store full of titles to discover.
Which leads us to the sense of community that goes with collecting vinyl: It’s fun to talk records with others. You know that those who are into vinyl are into music. The third Saturday of April each year is now officially Record Store Day. On this day, LP lovers and independent record outlets across North America celebrate the resurgence of vinyl with limited-edition LPs, and other sales and activities. A pair of Ohio photographers even had a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a book that explores this trend, calling this phenomenon “The New Face of Vinyl: Youth’s Digital Devolution.”
With the rise of DJs, hip-hop, and other forms of music that rely on spinning records at a nightclub, or at music festivals in front of thousands, there’s a whole set of aspiring artists that require a vinyl collection of their own.
Every day, it seems, another record lover is born and the vinyl revolution carries on to the next generation.