Vinyl — archaic or classic? Sales trends in the last five years have been tipping in favour of the gramophone
It’s 1991, the embarrassing ‘80s are behind us, and on the horizon is a new world of plaid shirts and grunge music. Our favourite songs are recorded off the radio onto cassette tapes and our albums are stacked up next to our turntables, but rumour has it that there’s a new way of listening to music. Music takes to the CD, and the vinyl record gets pushed out of the spotlight along with the cassette tape.
By the new millennium, BitTorrent and file sharing has yet again revolutionized the shape of music. Sales of physical albums fall gradually over the next decade and never recover, while vinyl sales increase overall.
While vinyl sales still comprise a small percentage of physical album sales, they have gained popularity in recent years.
In 2008, vinyl sales jumped 90 per cent from the previous year, and have been steadily increasing since. And perhaps not so coincidentally, this was the inaugural year of Record Store Day, which is now ingrained onto the calendars of music fans. Record Store Day happens every third Saturday of April.
Many artists have special vinyl releases for Record Store Day as well. Music shops across the continent as well as internationally, including those stationed at music festivals like Coachella, put on special festivities to celebrate the occasion, and would see up to a 50 per cent spike in vinyl sales the week of.
According to Nick Bragg, manager of Zulu Records, he noticed about a 20 to 30 per cent jump in sales at their store over the last few years. The sudden trendiness of record collecting has helped record sales. However, it isn’t simply the younger generations gaining interest — many older consumers are avid record collectors as well.
Many artists consider the vinyl record to be the purest representation of their album. So it isn’t surprising for artists to add on incentives for fans to purchase vinyl instead of their CD. Radiohead’s latest release, The King of Limbs, had a vinyl album package including a Radiohead newspaper, collectible art pieces, and access to a digital format as well. Almost any album purchased today comes with a digital download, which is what Bragg attributes to the decline of CDs and resurgence of vinyl.
For local prog-rock band We Are The City, vinyl is the preferred release for an album. The band released their High School EP on a 12-inch, and a later single on a 7-inch record.
For fans, it seems to have more to do with the smaller motions of putting on a record. The experience of listening to a vinyl record, like the dropping of the needle on the record, can’t be downloaded, says Cayne MacKenzie of We Are The City. In Nick Legasse’s case, it’s a different way to listen to music.
Legasse, host of CJSF world music radio show Wandering Rhythms, says that vinyl is synonymous with discovering something new. Record labels like Finder’s Keepers and Now Again have taken to repressing old music from around the world on vinyl form.
The vinyl record is rising in the music world and doesn’t show signs of stopping. While many people will argue that it is a simple fad, the resilience of the vinyl record over the decades shows that even in the digital age, the vinyl record is an important staple in music.
Record Store Day is April 21.