The rebirth of Vinyl

Why is vinyl making a comeback?

There’s no doubt that vinyls have come back into fashion in the past few years, with the BPI reporting that record sales have surged, and 30% more records sold in the first half of 2017 than 2016. The question I had is – why is this the case? 

The most obvious and technical explanation is the unmatchable sound quality of a record. Nothing quite compares to the clean and rich sound, deeper and more intense than the digital version. The main reason for this is the extreme quality control records are under. In recent years, the rise of record labels that mass produce and sell digital copies of music cheaply has risen hugely, and the nature of this process means high quality control simply isn’t necessary. John Lloyd, music specialist at Juno Records explained this idea to Time magazine, saying: ‘if there’s a serious investment, you have to have serious quality control because you have to know your vinyl is going to sell’. This illustrates how the complex and more expensive process of producing a vinyl, coupled with the high prices means much more care is taken in ensuring the sound is as good as possible, accounting for the phenomenal sound produced by a record player. 

The rise of vinyl to replace digital streaming could also be down to the differing purposes of the two methods of listening to music. Digital streaming is good for discovering new artists and songs and expanding and defining your own music tastes. Once you’ve done this however, many people want to invest in hard copies of these songs they know and love. Having a physical copy of music is something that can be treasured and kept, it’s basically an investment into something you love which helps to explain why people move from a digital copy to a more tangible and personal version of their favourite music. Vinyls also work to establish a direct connection between the artist and listener, owning a physical copy of something that has had so much work put into it feels as if you are supporting the artist, and so cements the relationship between fan and creator. This often causes a surge of vinyl sales after the death of an artist, as people want to have a physical memento to honour a performer. For example, the Guardian reported that after David Bowie’s death, he became the best-selling vinyl artist of 2016.

Vinyls themselves are often works of art, with fantastic and intricate album covers and the records themselves being coloured or engraved with artwork. For many people, the purchasing of records is a hobby, collecting rare and often unique records, maybe in an increasingly digitized world, the need for something special and tangible is more present. The process of purchasing vinyls is also a lot more enjoyable and personal than that of digital music. There’s something wonderful about leafing through the racks in a record shop or hunting through a pile of records at a car boot sale to find the one you’ve been looking for. This experience simply can’t be replicated by looking through the pages of iTunes to download your favourite song of the moment. There is also a social aspect of record shops – they bring together people with a passion for vinyls and music, with similar interests they can bond over or new artists and genres to introduce one another to. Although digital music has made it much easier to listen to music whilst on the go, and has hugely aided the growth of the music industry, nothing really compares to the experience of buying and owning a record, and the unmatchable, rich and untarnished sound the second the needle hits the turntable. 

Alice VII