The Vinyl Comeback

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

As Charles discussed in his earlier blog post, more online purchases of digital music have led to increased sales for the recording industry, albeit at the expense of record stores, many of which have been driven out of business. In fact, just last week, Louisville’s independent record store Ear-X-Tacy closed after a long period of business difficulties. However, there is an additional trend that is quite fascinating: the recent dramatic increase in the sales of vinyl records.

According to an August article in The Economist, vinyl record sales in the U.S. increased by 39% over the previous year, and have more than doubled over the last decade. Vinyl wasn’t exactly dead, as it has long been a favorite format among audiophiles and rock music connoisseurs, but it is somewhat surprising to see sales increasing by so much during a time when an increasing number of consumers have been abandoning CDs for the improved convenience and lower cost of digital music. So, why is this occurring? The Economist article cites the fact that many new vinyl records come with a code that allows the buyer to download the album for free, enabling music fans to have both the physical object of the vinyl record and the convenience of the digital version for one price. I would be interested to know, however, if purchasers simply want the vinyl form as a item for their physical collection of music, or if there has actually been an increased interest in listening to music on vinyl records.

The act of listening to a vinyl record seems to be, in some ways, a reaction against the instant gratification culture that has developed as a negative consequence of the ease of accessing different forms of media quickly over the Internet. The availability of so much media is both a blessing and something of a curse, because on one hand, people are exposed to so much more music and art than they otherwise would be, but on the other, the medium encourages users to jump ahead to the next YouTube video or music track as soon as possible. With vinyl, however, you can’t just skip ahead at the click of a mouse; you have to walk over to the turntable and move the arm. The format compels listeners to listen to great albums straight through, the way they are typically meant to be experienced, and I think the increasing popularity of vinyl records is a very positive development for lovers of great music.



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