Vinyl Sales Soar in Retro Rage
T-Bones Records offers a wide selection of vinyl ranging from classics to newly released. -Abby Smith
Mention the word “vinyl” to anyone and he or she might reflect on dad’s dust-coated collection of Beatles albums from the days before color was invented. Or, if they are among the ever-growing crowd of wheelers and dealers who fuel the latest musical fascination, they will grow ecstatic and drag you to the closest rack of long play records. In an era that finds new fascination with old novelties, vinyl is hardly a matter of archaeology anymore.
Vinyl records have exploded back into public appeal with no sign of slowing down. In 2014 over 4 million units were sold, a staggering 40 percent increase from 2013, according to Nielson SoundScan. But it is not reminiscent Baby Boomers who are hiking up the demand.
John Watkins, a former liberal arts major, said it is the current generation of college students and teenagers building its LP collection.
“I think younger people are growing to appreciate tangible items rather than everything being on a file or disc. You just get more satisfaction out of it, I guess,” Watkins said.
Even though CD and MP3 sales still govern the market by a vast margin, vinyl has been rapidly climbing to cult status among college-age people, a phenomenon to which no definite explanation has been given.
Mik Davis, the record store manager at T-Bone’s Records and Café, has his own thoughts on what attributed to the formation of this new demographic.
“It all began with Guitar Hero. Thankfully, Guitar Hero solidified the classics of rock in a whole new generation,” Davis said. “So, (kids) dug up Mom and Dad’s turntable and maybe even found their stash. Once the needle dropped on the record—it was only natural to want more.”
Davis also accredits vinyl’s sound quality with being a factor in the recent craze, saying that long play records produce the sound quality closest to that of the moment the album was recorded.
“CDs and MP3s are great for convenience and ease, but there is a tradeoff—a loss in quality,” he said. “While you may hear small amounts of surface noise upon dropping the needle, the highs are crisper and the lows can be felt rather than heard as a dull boom.”
Additionally, vinyl records seem to have more appeal than just their characteristic high-grade sound, according to Davis. Records are collectible and displayable, sure to add a touch of personality to any home.
Even major labels have noticed the flash and novelty of these highly sought throwbacks. Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor and Ed Sheeran, among others, have successfully released LP editions of their most recent albums.
With high-profile artists bringing further attention to vinyl, there is no doubt that sales will continue to soar. Independent musicians have had their fingers in the LP market for years, however, with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Mountain Goats finding their niche among many vinyl consumers since before the recent boom.
For more than a decade, vinyl sales never reached 2 million units a year, consistently hovering around the 1 million mark. To the delight of record pressing plants, many of which were shut down in the dismal state of the market, sales finally broke 2 million in 2009, a full 33 percent climb from 2008.
Fortunately for those who are fashionably late to the retro rage, vinyl albums can be acquired easily, often purchasable for under $20 on Amazon or in a local record store. If the parents threw out their record player years ago, new inexpensive models typically start at around $50 online.