Music Sales Give Way to a New Vinyl Vision
By Ashton Burton- Managing Editor
In a time of online music streaming with Apple Music and Spotify constantly available at one’s fingertips, one may believe that old school vinyl records would be on the downfall. This notion, however, is false in that vinyl sales areonly rising. 2019 is actually the first yearin which vinyls are on track to outsell CDs since 1986, according to Rolling Stone.
For music lovers, the tangible format of vinyls has added to the appeal of them, along with the nostalgic feeling that one has when dropping the needle onto the record. Although not nearly as popular as they were from the 50’s through the 80’s, vinyls have made a comeback in recent years that have intrigued many in the music industry.
According to the manager of Head Sounds Records on Portland Ave, Brooklyn, NY (which has been at his location for around 8 months), Josh Rattner, attributes this comeback to the fact that “vinyl is gaining popularity among younger people” and that “more and more people under 25 are buying records, where that has not historically been the case for the past few decades.”
Upon their introduction in 1948, vinyls quickly gained popularity amongst music listeners, due to the fact that one vinyl could hold an entire album on it, whereas, their shellac record counterparts would only hold a maximum of two songs: one for each side. Their demand only gained speed from there, especially when the 45 rpm and 33 rpm vinyls came to the market. With 78 rpm being the classic speed, these two new, faster engines on record players made them just that much more appealing.
It wasn’t until 1979 when vinyls started to see their downfall in sales. This was when The Walkman was invented. The introduction of portable cassette tape players called for a higher demand forcassette tapes and within five years, theywere outselling vinyl.
This collapse of vinyl sales obviously hasn’t hindered from sales in the 2010’s though, given their immense popularity now. Their resurgence is largely to be credited to their appeal to millenials.
Rattner said that, “there’s young people that get them now because they think they’re cool or retro,” a trend that has been growing in the recent years. He also noted that the industry is a “lot less male-dominated than it had previously been”, saying that he’s seen the number of males and females that enter his store become a lot more even of the past few years.
25-year-old, Ainsley Graff, owns a record player and many vinyls, stating that, “a few years ago, they became pretty mainstream.” She said, “they were allover Urban Outfitters and AmericanApparel,” two stores that are very popular amongst the younger generations. Graff said that she thinks “nostalgia is super trendy right now and has been for a while, especially for millenials” and that “even though we didn’t grow up with record players, they’re quirky and hipster”, so “vinyls are one of those things that make you seem cool because it’s different.”
Another avid vinyl fan is 24-year-old, Lauren Scott. Scott says that her reasoning for continuing to buy records in a time of online streaming is because, like Graff, she believes that it was “the trend of nostalgia that has brought back a record player in the home.” When it comes to the convenience of online streaming though, Scott keeps her more modern music on those, while“specifically buy[ing] older vinyls thatwould have been played on a record player” back in the 50’s-80’s. When put up against each other though, Scott said she “prefers the good feeling of listening to a vinyl” over the music coming from her phone.
This trend of nostalgia should not be downplayed, given that just in the first half of 2019, the Recording Industry Association of America recorded that vinyl records had made $224.1 million. Older artists like The Beatles sold over 300,000 records in 2018, while others like David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac sold over 100,000, according to Rolling Stone.
Along with this trend, Rattner also said that he believes that a lot of the rising popularity of vinyl has to do with their prices. He said that at Head Sounds Records, “we sell records for a dollar andgiven inflation, what else can you buy fora dollar, not even a cup of coffee.” He said that, “every shop that I can think of has a dollar bin, dollar section, or something comparable that’s affordable and that’s pretty low-risk to buy a record for a dollar without knowing anything about it.”
The irony of this, however, is that those that do choose to purchase vinyls by newer artists, such as Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, over older ones are actually spending a lot more on their music platform. Vinyls by more modern artists can range between $20-50, depending on the artist and how new the release is. Like Scott though, many people that choose to dedicate their time and money to records prefer older music on it over the more modern records.
When it comes to the preferability of some people with vinyl over digital music, Rattner said, “records really do sound better than digital. It’s a differentmeans of recording. Digital files aresuper compressed and they don’t have as wide of a range or warmth as the sound of a record,” which is a factor in their resurgence as well.