The return of vinyl records

by PATRICK HENDRIX
Contributing Writer

Vinyl records have been around since the 1920s, and up until about 1988, existed as the primary medium for music reproduction. Then came the rise of the compact disc.

Its introduction to the music industry marked a rapid decline in both the production and sale of vinyl records.

As the 1990s were dominated by CDs, the turn of the century saw digital downloads become the primary method for music listening.

The majority of the market increasingly ignored vinyl records, the exception coming from DJs and audiophiles, who argued that vinyl’s grooves generated warmth and depth that CDs’ digital code could not match.

While record sales are now considered a niche market composed of audiophiles, collectors, and DJs, recent years have seen many new albums released on vinyl and many older albums given reissues.

According to a New York Times article by Allan Kozinn, when French electronica duo Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” in mid-May, 6 percent of its first-week sales — 19,000 out of 339,000 — were on vinyl, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which measures music sales.

Classic albums from artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan have been reissued on thicker and more durable audiophile-grade vinyl.

Figures show that sales of vinyl records have increased every year since 2006, with around 2.8 million sold in 2010, which is the highest number sold since record keeping began in 1991.

Amazon, one of the leading sellers of vinyl records, reports that sales of vinyl records are up 745% since 2008.

So what is the reason for the sudden reemergence of vinyl records?

As mentioned before, many music aficionados believe fervently that the quality of sound produced by a record needle’s contact with the deep grooves of a record is unparalleled.

CDs, as well as songs downloaded from iTunes and the Internet, simply do not produce as rich a sound nor do they capture the nuances of a song like vinyl records do.

Then there is the actual nostalgia involved in placing a record on a turntable and listening to an album the way the artist originally intended for it to be played.

In an article published on Advertising Age by Jeanine Poggi, Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day, an annual event designed to celebrate independent music stores said, “The experience is similar to going to a concert. It’s a more  full experience and communal. You typically listen to a record player with other people gathered around … while digital is typically a solitary experience with your headphones.”

Other people find joy in visiting the local record store and searching through bins to find a record by their favorite artist. While CDs and MP3s offer little to none in the way of imaginatively listening to music, something about taking a record out of its sleeve and placing it on a turntable deeply enhances the listening experience.

In today’s fast-paced world where everything is available to us at the click of a button, vinyl records are managing to make a comeback, albeit a small one. Many young listeners are relishing in the added enjoyment that comes from listening to vinyl records.

Whether vinyl records are making their way back into the music market for good, or this is simply a fad that will come and go, one can’t deny the power of vinyl.