Why youth are embracing vinyl again

Vinyl_ByJamesBarker_CST Published 11/11/2013

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.

About David McPherson

David is President and Chief Creative Officer of McPherson Communications — a Toronto-based writing and public relations consulting business. Ever since attending his first rock concert in 1989 (The Who) and buying his first LP (Freeze Frame by The J. Geils Band), music has become “the elixir of his life.” With more than 17,000 songs on his iPod, and an ever-growing vintage vinyl collection, it’s a joy for him to discover new music; he loves sharing these discoveries with his wife and two children. A regular contributor to Words + MusicHamilton Magazine, and Penguin Eggs, over the years his writing on music has also appeared in the following publications: PastePerforming SongwriterAmerican SongwriterBluegrass UnlimitedExclaimCanadian Musician, and Chartattack.com. Before starting his own business, David spent 12 years as a senior communications consultant in the public sector, specializing in employee communications.

Comments

[fbcomments count="off" language="fr_CA" title=""]
  1. Michael Critchley

    As a life-long consumer of music, it’s good to see that the youth of today are embracing a format that is vastly superior to today’s current disposable digital format. Although digital is more convenient and accessbile, it lacks substance. The only negative about vinyl is that it’s too expensive. If the prices can drop, it will continue to attract a new generation of fans who are discovering that music is more than an intangible file, but rather a full sensory experience that only the tangible can bring.

    Reply
  2. Véronique

    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.”

    Scratchy and warmer, yes, but truer, probably not. Not unless the original studio recording is analogue (which some people still do if they can afford it) and the mastering is analogue as well. If there is any digitization during the process, then the only thing vinyl gives you is turning digital to analog one step sooner. And even if you have a recording that was high quality analogue all the way, “truer” will depend on your having state-of-the-art reproduction.

    I completely understand the appeal of all-analogue. I don’t understand the appeal of a digital recording being digitally mastered and then being pressed to vinyl. At that point, the appeal of vinyl is about things other than sound.

    As for shopping for vinyl vs. downloading MP3s, you can shop for CDs, which still provide the best sound quality. CDs are currently somewhat out of favour, but it’s not because of sound quality.

    Reply
    1. Tina

      Great article.

      @Veroniqe – the digital mastering technique of a digital music file to vinyl is much different than mastering into digital format (which is pressed to a Master CD). There is a big difference in sound between the two formats even if the source capture is digital for both. Agreed, the digital production to vinyl sound isn’t the exact same analogue sound from yester year but it certainly is “truer” and “purer” to that sound – meaning, warmer and scratchy, less polished.

      As for CDs, the sound quality is the same as a digital wav file or MP4 from iTunes. CDs became unpopular when the same quality music could easily be accessed online.

      There is something magical about vinyl. CDs nor digital music can compare with the experience of hearing the needle drop onto your favorite classic album!

      Reply
      1. Michael Day

        @Tina

        “As for CDs, the sound quality is the same as a digital wav file or MP4 from iTunes. CDs became unpopular when the same quality music could easily be accessed online. – See more at: http://www.socanblog.ca/en/why-youth-are-embracing-vinyl-again/#sthash.kdVaZj8A.dpuf

        The above statement is completely false. CDs are 16 bit 44.1k audio. MP4 files from iTunes are 256kbps 16 bit, whereas CDs are around 1400kbps 16 bit. .WAV files, however have nothing to do with quality, as they are a completely lossless and compression-free format. When I mix and master tracks in my studio, the final mix and final master that get put on the disc is .WAV files. .WAV is the simplest, purest form of audio, meaning the file sizes are enormously large. What I hear on my studio monitors is the original master tracks. They are .WAV files, but unlike what you’re referring to, they are 24 bit 192k .WAV files. When you burn a CD to your computer, the highest possible quality .WAV you can burn is a 16 bit 44.1k .WAV. This is because when final masters go to disc, all CDs are published in this format and quality. So, when you say CD quality is the same as a digital .WAV file, you’re wrong. It CAN be, but depends on everything else. You can convert the shitty .MP4 iTunes files (which are basically just 256kbps MP4 audio) to a .WAV if you like, but it will be nowhere near the quality of a CD, which is nowhere near the quality of the .WAV files in the open ProTools session on my computer when the album was being recorded, mixed, and mastered.

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *