Blu-ray Steven Kippel on 14 May 2009

The next big thing: vinyl records

The next big thing: vinyl records

The CompactDisc was first released about 30 years ago. It was supposed to kill LP vinyl records, and it pretty much did. So why have vinyl record sales climbed 89% in 2008 over the previous year? My opinion: vinyl is undead.

Every culture has a subculture, and vinyl records carved out its own culture when the main stream began picking up on cassette and CD. It’s a way to be unique and to stand out from the crowd, because you take the to pick a record from your physical collection and play it on an obsolete turntable. The vinyl crowd will say it’s because vinyl sounds better, but this is objectively not the case, it’s a subjective measure – why one amplifier sounds better than another, for example.

The vinyl hobby is certainly attractive to someone like me. I’ve been so bombarded with music for so long in the form on radio, Walkman, background music in stores, in the car, and on MP3. It is particularly the MP3 and sites like mp3.com that really allowed me to get to know so many random bands, and I appreciate that. But we now have MySpace, Purevolume and so many other venues to access music that for the past couple years I have only casually listened to music. I don’t use my iPod, and I don’t listen to music in the car that often. But I have taken to buying an album, sitting in my chair and listening to it straight through.

I don’t meant to go on so much about my musical experiences, but I think it is precisely because music is ubiquitous now that people are attracted to vinyl because it forces them, if not to sit down to listen, to make a conscious effort to play music back for their enjoyment.

vinylAnd certainly there is a level of baby-boomber nostalgia. Many of the best selling vinyl records are reissues of albums from the 60s and 70s. Albums like The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Band of Gypsies.”

But maybe we’re just thinking too much into vinyl. This huge uptick in sales only correlated to a total of 1.88-million records sold in 2008. That’s more like an interesting tidbit, not a phenomenon. But there is something to it. Sales for records only grew 15% in 2007, so it is a major jump in sales. So much so that Best Buy is planning on filling all of their 1,020 stores with vinyl – well, 8-feet of each store anyway.

This is a big endorsement, however, when you consider Best Buy is the world’s third-largest music retailer, behind Apple and Walmart. If they think they can use valuable shelf space for a zombie format there has to be something to it. Also keep in mind that Neilson SoundScan is the source for vinyl sales numbers and they don’t record most indie record shops where most vinyl fans prefer shopping.

What do you think? Do you collect vinyl, are you interested, or do you think it’s ridiculous?

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