If you did not go through the entire spring-cleaning phase, throwing out everything your hoarder of a grandparent kept for “the memories” then you are one of the lucky few – vinyls are making a comeback and in a big way.
Vinyl record sales reached a surprising 13 million in 2016, according to a report by Nielsen’s annual music report. While sales for digital music are facing a threat due to the emergence of streaming services and applications that function well offline such as Spotify or Apple Music, vinyl LPs are on the rise given that they are in their own niche market that the digital industry is unable to replicate. Sure, one could argue that this lack of portability is one area in which digital downloads and devices outstrip them. However, vinyls were never meant to be portable in the first place – unless you found some way to miraculously lug your record player everywhere without tire. Its main draw is the mood it puts the owner in, the atmospheric lull and attraction of something retro, solid and full of emotion. Put on a record and sit in a windowseat as it rains, the subtle screeching of the needle scratching the disk, the way the music swells out of the player. Recreate this scene using your AirPods and your iPhone and somehow it feels too modern, a little off. Vinyl’s vintage appeal is its greatest selling point, novelty or not.
In the generation of instant gratification and the blessed being that is the Internet, younger music fans still love the feel and sound of a physical artifact, much like how many bibliophiles prefer hardcopies of their favorite novels to a tinker on a Kindle. The satisfaction a physical object brings is rather incomparable to the digital equivalent, despite all the added convenience.
Music Watch has reported that almost half of their vinyl record purchases are under 25 years of age, a telling sign to where this trend is headed. Capitol Records, a Hollywood giant, has recently acquired Kpop superhero band, SuperM, for a spectacular American debut, including a music video costing millions and an American pad with a rent of over 50,000 USD a month. Despite the clearly young demographic Capitol was hoping to target given that KPOP is a hit amongst the tweens, teens and early twenties, the record company boldly offered the CDs as a vinyl LP option with an included download link for the digital mp3s. The old is new again, with many of the younger generation becoming interested in the music machines their grandparents used to operate. Diving through bins of used records or flipping through new, shiny plastic-wrapped copies gives them a sense of nostalgia and thrill – vintage thrifting seems to be the modern day treasure hunt.
Not only do tangibles have their own appeal as mentioned above, we have to factor in the points in coolness these hipsters get. Millennials have basically made an art of taking dated concepts and putting them to use in the modern world, perhaps to earn a label of undeniable coolness by pulling things out of obscurity. This has become an entire sub-culture on its own, what with the sudden film camera craze that hit us in the past few years, to name an example. Repacking old albums and LPs and calling them retro makes them attractive to trend-seekers and those in search of something else that gives them the hipster seal of approval.
PRO-JECT ESSENTIAL III BT
Then there is the other end of the spectrum – collectors that wish to relive their younger days. This can be the middle or old-aged who have fallen into the band of record collectors, helping to drive the slow but steady rebirth of the record player as a music medium. These are the ones who will sit and concentrate on the quality of their music, a specific song or album, not the busy worker bees that play tunes in the background via the coffee shops they sit at or their newfangled devices. Experts admit that old-school analog audio sounds superior to digital audio, especially streaming services which are largely compressed in format to save on space. Audiophiles that are picky about the quality of music may want to tune into vinyls over an easy stream over Spotify or YouTube.
As the younger generation warms to an old music form, old records from the yesteryears could be well worth thousands. But even if you are not in possession of these antiques, you can easily get new copies of modern music from online retailers such as Amazon or even at specialty shops In your country. Some recognized favorites for modern day LP players and turntables include the PRO-JECT ESSENTIAL III BT (US$399), a good entry level player for those dipping their toes into the trend. It also has an added bluetooth speaker function if you happen to have a song that is only available in digital format. The Cambridge Audio Alva TT (US$1,699) offers a good wireless audio setting paired with a chic and modern all-black matte finish for those that want to keep their interior modern and simplistic. If you are in it for the vintage aesthetic and are willing to give up some audio quality, perhaps the Crosley Voyager by Urban Outfitters (119 Euros) is your cup of tea – it even comes in a rainbow of colors for its suitcase, including lilac or a pale baby pink. But whether you are in it for the street cred or whether you are a true connoisseur of the fine vintage arts, there is definitely room for you in this growing renaissance.
Cambridge Audio Alva TT