It’s no secret that vinyl records are making a comeback.
Records and other pop culture nostalgia carelessly left over from the 70s and 80s are creeping their way back into the mainstream.
Amidst all the chaos surrounding Apple Music’s launch and Spotify’s downward spiral into the online streaming abyss, vinyl record sales seem to be thriving.
It’s a movement that goes far beyond any grandfather’s crate of dusty old LPs and well outside the record shops that once paid their hydro bills with nickels and dimes. Hipsters have staked a claim in keeping records “cool” for the rest of us.
Because of this surge in popularity, record shops are arguably more popular now than anytime since the 80s. Over the past five years, international LP sales of vinyl have more than quintupled in production and demand.
Is it time for David Bowie’s Modern Love to once again grace the turntables of young adults everywhere? Possibly, but some may argue he never left in the first place.
Analog music has always been around. So why has the resurgence skyrocketed over the past few years? Could it be that a 30-year retro theme has yet to run its course of making a comeback?
Unlikely. Scratched out tracks and albums carved like nail files died when the last existing Steely Dan LPs were buried in a desert, sometime in the mid-90s (they were given a noble sendoff, along with the last remaining copies of Fabio’s After Dark LP).
Aside from that obvious joke (the Steely Dan albums were never buried), my theory goes far beyond the implications of doing something just because “my parents did it.” I believe the sole factor driving the vinyl record craze is not hipsters, not grandfathers or their old LP crates and not the routine retro phase that many have come to expect.
The worldwide, bloodthirsty hunt for a customized and unique experience is the main factor that’s boosting vinyl sales. We all covet a personalized lifestyle and that seems to be a growingly marketable trait this day in age. Music companies have already figured out how to tap into that demand.
It started with Mp3s players. They revolutionized how we listen to music. Then came smartphones. They can customize everything, from the software to the phone shell itself. Now we’re at the point where wearable technology is taking off because people want to track their heartbeat while listening to music (which is even more proof that everybody wants their media to only work for them).
But by developing these technologies, tech companies have spurned the authentic touch that vinyl music once had to offer. The original recordings are often dummied up, remastered, compressed and expanded; basically, digital music is just a bunch of re-filtered sounds meant to be a part of a thousand-song army.
But that’s where vinyl does come handy. If you’re ever looking for a track you’ve never heard before – something that’s kind of squeaky to hear, but truly unique – listen to the B-side of any vinyl LP. That layered sound is something that had been fading for decades, until recently.
The B-side songs are meant to compliment hit singles on the A-side, but are usually forgotten in the grand scheme of other LPs produced along the way. But take my word for it; some of the best music gems come from the B-sides.
It’s arguable to prove that hearing a vinyl record sounds similar to hearing a live band in the same room. If that’s true, then listening to digital music on a portable music player must sound like a live band in your pocket.
Either way, by listening to vinyl records you still hear the music for what it truly is and how it was truly recorded. It’s a physical copy of the music that people can actually touch, and that’s something that will never be replaced as new music technologies are invented.
Vinyl curators can finally sleep well knowing their music isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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