It’s all over the news- from countless newspaper features (including a write-up in the Wall Street Journal), online articles and even the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. It’s the vinyl record revival and more importantly, the resurrection of analog sound. Yes, vinyl records, left for dead with the advent of the ‘digital age’ are selling again. In fact, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), sales of vinyl records jumped to 1.3 million last year, which represents a 36.6% increase from 2006; a figure that some industry experts feel does not accurately represent the true sales figures. The experts deem it to be too low because independent record stores sales, where vinyl does the best, are not usually included in these figures. Additionally, according to Billboard Magazine, vinyl record sales jumped 77% in the first half of 2008 (when compared to the first half of 2007), selling more than 803,000 units.
This is not a fad or cycle; music lovers young and old are being drawn to this historic audio format. Moreover, it seems to be a worldwide event, preorders and sales of vinyl records are on the increase in many countries across the globe. In the UK alone, sales of seven-inch singles (45′s) have climbed 87.3% compared to the same three month period last year.
Vinyl is cool again. Teenagers, who once may have scoffed at their grandparents’ and parents’ record collections, now wait in line to get the latest releases. More and more mainstream artists are releasing new material via the format and Capitol Records (along with many other major record companies) are now reissuing classic albums on vinyl. And now, along with the baby boomers, a new generation is discovering the special allure that vinyl records have – the limited editions, colored vinyl, picture discs, audiophile records (180-220 gram), the album cover art and the sound – all elements in this grand resurgence.
This resurgence is fueled by many other factors. Let’s explore some interesting aspects of the vinyl record.
Yes, the hiss, snap and crackle of a record are soothing music lovers around the globe. Vinyl records use analog recording methods; it is a clear, well-defined sound. The music is not compressed and digitized into the ones and zeros that you get with the CD or MP3; or what I term as “binary sound.” There is a warmth, an ambience that vinyl brings to the music and since the human ear hears in analog-not digital-vinyl records naturally sound better. So this is the secret that the DJ’s, record collectors and audiophiles knew all along!
The Collectible Factor and Availability of Vinyl
Most recording artists are also fans of other artists’ music; they own vast and eclectic record collections. Sometimes finding rare and collectible vinyl created by artists who have influenced their own music and whom they admire can be just as satisfying as creating and recording their own music. They also delight in finding rare vinyl of their own music. In fact, John Lennon was an avid record collector and amassed quite a collection of Beatle’s bootlegs.
Buying and selling records is big business. Besides the garage sales, flea markets and yard sales, online auction sites such as eBay sell millions of records. It is reported that eBay users buy and sell six vinyl records each minute (or an average of one every ten seconds) totaling more than three million records each year. Some records still maintain their value decades after their initial release and have sold for thousands of dollars. It’s been reported that the album that is bought and sold the most in the vinyl format is the Beatles’ “White Album.” Other acts such as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, among many others, are highly sought after and still command top dollar for specific releases. Soul and jazz music, along with classic rock, are always in demand. Additionally, online giant Amazon is committed to expanding their ‘vinyl section’ offerings to include thousands of music artists.
There is also a lot of vinyl support in such musical genres as hip-hop, punk and heavy metal. “Indie” music is now being pressed into colored vinyl, limited edition releases and picture discs. These are the future collectibles and sometimes sell for higher-than-average prices. The online community has responded as well with literally thousands of web sites dedicated to the vinyl format. Many music artists are making sure that they give their fans a choice of music formats, with vinyl appearing to be taking the lead.
The Vinyl Experience
In our age of iPods and MP3 music, playing a record is almost a ritual experience. There is the physical interaction between the person playing the album, the music itself and the machine. Playing a record can be a communal event where the music is shared with friends and family. But it is not only the music that intrigues the masses. Add unique and compelling album cover art and deluxe packaging, and a whole new generation of vinyl record lovers can share in this phenomenon.
Going hand-in-hand with the increase in vinyl record sales is the increase and availability of turntables. Nationally, turntable sales shot to over 500,000 last year compared to 275,000 in 2006. Manufacturers of turntables have given the consumer a plethora of options to choose from, from the very affordable unit to some that cost thousands of dollars. Students in colleges around the U.S., as well as globally, are now beginning to consider a turntable in their dorm room one of their necessities.
Many recording artists are not only releasing their new material via vinyl but in digital format for those who choose that medium. Many records may come with a certificate for a free Internet download, which can sometimes be a bonus cut that may not be included on the record. It also allows the music to be portable, and the consumer can choose between the alternate formats. As the demand for vinyl continues its upward climb, so to will the affordability of the records. Many mainstream releases via the vinyl format are competitively priced, allowing for more units to be sold. Add to this the already flourishing used vinyl record market, where a music lover can pick up an LP for under five dollars, and we have a new vinyl model that will flourish for decades to come.
Will vinyl records regain their dominant position in the music industry that they once held? One can only guess, but with CD sales continuing to plummet and more and more music lovers discovering the value of vinyl, this historic audio medium will not fade away anytime soon.
(ArticlesBase SC #603251)
Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can pick up a copy of his FREE ebook called “The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting.” Have your vinyl records appraised at http://www.vinylrecordappraisals.com.