Record Revolution

explores the rebirth of vinyl sales and the increase in record collectors

Technology may be advancing daily, however the nostalgic postwar vinyl movement has  enjoyed a new lease of life. The cause of this is unknown, but the figures show that records are on the rise for the first time since the introduction of more modern formats of music, such as the CD and online streaming. According to NME. 4.1 million LPs were bought last year, which is a 26.8 per cent increase compared to 2016. Making 2017 the best year for vinyl since 1991.

The emergence of more record collectors also boosts the biproducts of the hobby. This consists of the essential record stores, resembling the 1980s layout with booths and myriad categories of music. The variety of music available on vinyl may come as a surprise to some,.It’s hard to shake the visual embodiment of this new uprising: the overpriced-charity-shopper who found that band long before you ever did. Nevertheless these figures of ‘individuality’ are not solely to blame for the rebirth of this old form of music.
All music genres have witnessed a surge in the demand for vinyl. An example would be the demand for a vinyl copy of Childish Gambino’s new album, Awaken My Love!; which was eventually released almost a year after all other versions of the album. A question, nevertheless, emerges with this rebirth. Why not resort to a more challenging format of music, rather than lap up new media, such as Spotify and the new Apple Music? Advancements in music streaming bring the advantages you would expect in modern society. Unlike records, in this format music is portable or ‘on the go’. So why fall in love with these restrictive hunks of plastic that require more care than some pets? Not to mention the fragility of the record player itself.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

As a vinyl collector myself, I reiterate the mantra that almost everyone who collects these records chants: “but it sounds so much better on vinyl”. But I do not lie when I say this. I am not trying to fit in with a certain type of image. I found the crackle of a record and the various steps it takes to play a song very therapeutic. For me, vinyl has something that other forms of music are forever lacking. Newer forms create a flimsy and disposable feel to music, whereas vinyl, many would argue, makes you value the song more if you must care for it and make a conscious effort to listen to it. A relationship is therefore formed between the listener and their record, and once this occurs you are hooked! That love for a physical record in all its glory formulates emotions similar to that of holding a newborn baby… I imagine. Okay, maybe not as marvellous and extraordinary as new life, but endorphins definitely flow when an aesthetically pleasing vinyl graces your presence. That feeling is emphasised when the record itself makes you feel like you are on a journey. A record is more than the song, it is the packaging and the presentation of the whole vinyl, that adds to the experience.

The Grammy Award for the ‘Best Recording Package’ was rightly awarded to David Bowie’s Blackstar, created by Johnathan Barnbrook. This year’s winner is still to be announced with nominees consisting of: Magin Diaz, Mura Masa, Father John Misty, The National and Jonathon Coulton.

A brilliant example of a beautifully packaged record is The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album. Not only is the vinyl beautifully cased, but it is also perfectly produced with songs flowing seamlessly into each other, and stories being told throughout the tracks. It is hard not to fall in love with every aspect that this record brings. It allows you to fully appreciate each form of music, all its elements and its efforts. It grants value and substance to the music industry; something that couldn’t go amiss recently.

Image: Joe Haupt

Moreover, there is a website worth visiting: artvinyl.com. Here a conversation can be made on the most aesthetically pleasing artwork, with a winner being announced each year. Last year the winners were Run The Jewels with their album cover for Run The Jewels 3.

As with almost everything that becomes popular, it begins to be mass produced in many places that would otherwise not sell the item. Vinyls are no exception: clothes stores such as Urban Outfitters and supermarkets like Asda and Sainsbury’s now have a vinyl section to sate the new demand. One would like to hope that mass production would simultaneously bring down prices for music. However, vinyls are understood and branded as a collector’s item, resulting in higher prices when compared to digital media for purchasing the single/album. This results in a major problem with the revival of the vinyl as buying only two records can equal a wallet-traumatising total of around £50.

Certainly, there are pros and cons of record collecting, yet it is still an enriching hobby filled with very little disappointment. It is easier to think of it in this way: if you like the album already, you are only gaining. Owning a record you love is like owning a piece of art; it becomes available to be worshipped and shown off in the visual and aural medium. Personally, I would suggest doing a little research into your financial and spatial availability before diving into the deep end. Once you have dived, enjoy your swim; it’s well worth it.

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