The emergence of vinyl fans among a generation that didn’t necessarily grow up with it left some scratching their heads, but its success is undeniable. Vinyl records, which some thought had taken the same forgotten route of 8-tracks and laser discs, are the one format that’s seen an increase during a notable slump in record sales. With artists like Arcade Fire, the Black Keys and the Beatles leading the vinyl march, the format is here to stay, at least for a while.
In celebration of Black Friday’s Record Store Day event, we asked record stores across the United States what they thought about the return of the waxy, black format. Here’s what they had to say:
Used (or as we call it, ‘Preloved’) vinyl has always been in strong demand by our customers. The thing that’s changed is the dramatic increase in available titles to stock and the expansion of the customer base interested in this venerable format…
I wonder if the inconvenience of vinyl playback is part of the appeal (even if it’s on a subconscious level). With most devices being so convenient these days, the act of playing a record, getting up to turn it over and all that, forces the listener to pay more attention…
I actually get asked this question all the time and, honestly, we’re just guessing as to what it is. The only real answer I have is whatever magic was in the grooves originally, that sparked my musical passion and so many of my generation and before, is still in there.
Vinyl Records are one of the greatest inventions ever made. They’re the purest form of sound of any format of recorded music that has been introduced to music fans. The industry did a big disservice to music fans by forcing vinyl out in the ‘80s. Not only the great quality of sound but the get quality that went into many of the packages.
Vinyl was treated more like art than the CD and especially more than digital downloads. You interface with the packaging much more with a 12” x 12” than you do with a 5” x 5” cover of the CD, thusly you learn much more about who all made it possible for the music you are experiencing.
...We are a society of convenience and because of that we stomped on the quality of the art of music. Vinyl may not be the salvation of the record industry but this new renaissance in vinyl is here to stay.
Vinyl requires a commitment. One tends to pay attention more to a natural, magnetic recording that could be scratched and must be attended to, to fully experience. One has to get up to flip the record or replay a track. It’s more about the album than that one “Glee” track you and your friends beat to death. Digital media, even CDs, allow many people to miss the point of a good record. I can recall someone at a party playing “I Get Knocked Down” by Chumbawumba repeatedly for over an hour and that band was better than that song.
You get this awesome piece of artwork and liner notes — things that really sucked on CD and are pretty much non-existent with digital. For us in our mid-30’s or older, vinyl never went away or died, it has always been around and, for some of us, was always the preferred format. It is awesome to see kids buying music again and getting excited about owning something rather than just thinking of music as a commodity. It’s really special.
One of the things that is missing from the download experience is sociability and a group experience. One can share a play list or put a device on a docking station with digital, bit nothing creates a group dynamic like sitting around a record player and putting on an album side or playing a track or a single. Having full size album art and liner notes complements the group discussion and discovery process.
We have a sense that much of the interest in records from younger listeners (late teens to early twenties) is the physical object — something they did NOT grow up with! The experience of playing a record (LP and 45) is totally different than every other way of listening to music. It is an interactive experience! There is a percentage of younger listeners that ‘need’ that experience.
From what I gather from customers, there are distinct music listening experiences. For the casual, distracted environment, digital and it’s convenience is an acceptable compromise. However, for a dedicated serious listening situation, vinyl is more and more the preferred medium.
The cool factor plays a part as well. I mean, no one gets cool points for having an iPod chocked with great songs. But if you walk into someone’s apartment and they have a shelf full of interesting records — way cool!
it has been interesting to watch the compact disc rise up and nearly destroy vinyl, but with the rise in vinyl sales and production, along with the oft included download code, it now seems that Vinyl is having it’s sweet revenge on the compact disc. But then again, our own release Crock has sold better on CD than vinyl — So I guess the battle ain’t over ‘till the…
I’ve seen a lot of my customers that are buying vinyl now, their parents shopped here. I’ve seen them grow up. There’s a lot of excitement from kids that have missed the whole thing. When they were growing up, it was when record labels abandoned records and the only music they knew was on a CD or burned onto a disc. They’re really excited about actually having a record on a shelf.
It was probably around 2005 when requests became so numerous that I began bringing vinyl back to the store. By the Christmas of 2006, a large number of high school kids began showing up in the store and perusing the record racks. When I asked them what was up, to a one they’d turn with a big smile and say, “I’m getting a turntable for Christmas.” Since that time we’ve doubled the amount of vinyl we carry every few months. I mean, music lovers, and that includes me, we’re kind of a geeky lot and as such we like to collect real physical items.
Vinyl customers are positioning themselves against the mainstreamer ubiquity of mp3s. In other words, “Oh, you have thousands of files on your laptop? So does everybody! But do you have this awesome stuff… ON VINYL? Here, check it out!” The “cool” element also ties in nicely with the social, communal act of listening to the record. Rather than sending files to somebody, you all gather around the turntable and hang out!
There’s a huge amount of music that was once issued on vinyl, and which still hasn’t been issued on CD. Since we’re so concerned about the past, the only way to get a full musical picture is to dig into second hand vinyl. ...Vinyl has a “life” — it’s usually circulated on this planet for decades, which means you can pick up a lot about the way folks lived and listened to their music.
A huge part of vinyl’s comeback has been the exposure to the younger generations. Teens and twentysomethings nowadays discover their parents’ old vinyl collection and are really fascinated by the different sound that vinyl has in comparison to compact discs.
Digital music is a snack. We’ve been snacking for so long that for some kids it is the only thing they have eaten their whole lives. While it is possible to survive on snacks, it’s no way to live your life. Sometimes you have to sit down at a real table with real people and eat a real meal. No music reproduction technology—from the boombox to the Mp3 player—offers the satisfying nourishment of a factory sealed 180-gram chunk of wax fresh from your local store’s shelf.
I have noticed that at least two or three times a week some father or mother comes in saying that their kid asked for a turntable for their birthday or Christmas present. So it’s not a case of the older generation just giving their turntables to their kids and saying “Here’s what we used to play music on,” but rather the kids saying “This is what’s cool and happening right now and I want in on it.” So that’s a pretty swell notion.
It’s a trend. Yes, right now it’s fun — result of that trend: some people will collect vinyl, but most of them won’t because: vinyls are heavy and take up a lot space – (they’re) fragile & inconvenient – and the prices are going up, and up and up.
Over the past few decades, the industry has attempted to make music, and everything else, for that matter, more convenient. And, in many ways, they have succeeded. But, the things we love should never be convenient. Taking the time to visit a record store and pick out that perfect album to fit your mood, taking it home, taking it out of the package, placing it on the turntable and delicately dropping the needle only makes you appreciate the experience that much more. ...You don’t even need electricity to listen to vinyl. When the zombie apocalypse happens, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be in my cave listening to my records.
People have always seemed to be looking for the next new format but now that the most recent format, the mp3, is essential non-existent they’re going back and rediscovering older ones. ...Also, an “mp3 listening party” sounds kinda lame.
I think Mr. Smith (Editor’s note: This was actually LL Cool J) said it properly…”Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.”
I have audiophile customers that look for the best pressings from particular pressing plants. Prices range from $20 to $100, and certain customers don’t mind high prices on well-pressed vinyl.