For decades, the recorded music industry has been adapting to new ways that people can buy and consume music. The trend that it, and most technological advances have been following, is for easier accessibility, longer durability and means of mass manufacture and or distribution. Despite this the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) cite that over 3.2 million records were sold in 2016 in their report of the music market for last year, it is clear that a retro vinyl revival is at hand.
So why, in a world where we have access to millions of songs at the click of a button, would we want to go back to flipping over a record every few songs and having to find the exact groove of the song you want to listen to?
Audiophiles, who have stuck by vinyl’s longer than your average Urban Outfitters browser, will tell you that vinyl records are the superior audio format. Without going into too much depth, vinyl is analogue technology, meaning that in its heyday, music was recorded on an analogue desk onto a magnetic tape and then onto vinyl. There is no digital compression of files where some of the raw sound image can be lost. However, with standard CD quality and high quality streaming available, this type of thing makes little difference to your average music listener. Couple this with the fact that many modern vinyl records contain music that was recorded digitally, superior audio quality is perhaps not the answer for the vinyl revival.
Perhaps generation X are visiting their attics and garages in mass, pulling out their old vinyl players and dusting off their Led Zeppelin or ABBA records. Maybe they want to show their children what all the fuss was about, or just went searching for a nostalgia trip. Sure, this might spark a want for more records, and to build a collection up that they may have once had, but the demand for modern Vinyl’s from artists that have a much younger demographic (such as Ed Sheeran’s 2017 album Divide which sold over 13,000 vinyl records in its first week) is most likely not generation X’s way of exploring new music.
No, people of all ages are buying records now and it is exactly what they need. Now, as many people stream or download almost all their music, there is little true ownership over their favourite albums or songs. Even through digital downloads, there is no physical form and the artwork is reduced to an icon. Just like people buy band and artist merchandise to connect to their beloved music creators, a Vinyl is something you can touch, read – big enough to frame on a wall like a poster. Many covers include lyrics, pictures, and everyone who worked on the record – all of this without the need for Google and Wikipedia! Yes, music is easier than ever to find and listen to, but building a physical collection of records is a lot more satisfying than clicking “save” on an artist on Spotify.