The New Face of Vinyl

Clearly, more and more people—young and old, male and female—are choosing to enjoy their favorite music on vinyl, a decidedly old-fashioned format. Every time I walk into a record store, I see more vinyl. And more people. The new record bins are growing, the used record bins are growing, LPs are taking up space previously occupied by CDs, and people are shopping enthusiastically, getting in between me and all that precious vinyl. But why?

Photographer Ben Meadors and writer Owen McCafferty are wondering the same thing. They hope to travel to several US cities, photographing and interviewing record collectors, record store owners, and other vinyl enthusiasts, and then document their experience in a book.

Sounds like a wonderful idea to me.

Ben and Owen are trying to raise $6500 for their project. At this moment, with 17 days to go, they’ve raised $4567. For more info and to support the project, visit Kickstarter.

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COMMENTS
robertbadcock's picture

Everybody should get rid of it all now.  I'll be happy to 'library' it for you...  never to be sold or disposed of.

springsspring@breakthru.com

Let me take this awful LP scourge away from your residence.  Oh, just think of the free space!  And no more of those garish 12" x 12" 'artforms' starting at you.

/r/

B

soulful.terrain's picture

 

Great read Stephen. Long live vinyl.

ack's picture

Yes there is renewed interest in vinyl and for a few years the percentage of sales in the format jumped from nothing to something akin to a cottage industry. Still, in the age of a behind the times greedy unresponsive and frankly dying music industry will a handful of hipsters and audiophiles breath life into a dying industry that perhaps deserves the long painful death that it is bringing onto itself? I really think the vinyl revolution makes good press but last years numbers on sales were basically flat. Everyone is buying vinyl for sure if you happen to live in an urban area and hang out in hip hole in the wall record stores.

michaelavorgna's picture

Nielsen SoundScan is the sole source of vinyl sales figures in the USA (at least that I’ve seen) and they show a 14% increase in vinyl sales for 2010. While I agree that the total sales number isn’t large as compared to other larger numbers, 14% is hardly “flat”. SoundScan also reports a 41% increase in vinyl sales through mid-2011 as compared to the same period last year. These days that’s practically a bubble.

I also think the SoundScan vinyl sales numbers bear closer scrutiny. I’ve read reports of a single record pressing plant producing more vinyl than the SoundScan numbers and this was back in 2007 - United Record Pressing claimed they pressed between 20,000 to 40,000 records a day…It’s also worth noting that Nielsen only reports on sales in the United States, Canada and the U.K.

I think the important number from a music-consumer’s perspective is there’s more new music available on vinyl than anyone has the time to listen to.

ack's picture

What you fail to note is that is a decrease of over half from a 30% growth in 2008-2009. In an industry that had an overall decease of sales by 13% the real story is may end up in a situation of having great means of listening to media that is slowly vanishing in it's sales potential. What will the market do when music ceases to be a mass consumer product and instead becomes a niche one.

There is a real concern of how the entire industry can continue to be relevant financially and all the press appears to be doing is rolling in nostalgia. I love vinyl. I am really glad it has a niche in this world and that I could go back and buy Neutral Milk Hotel for example in vinyl and it does sound wonderful. All I will say is that return to vinyl is over-hyped in relation to the condition of the industry as a whole and its financial state.

michaelavorgna's picture

I didn't fail to note anything - I responded with relevant information that contradicted your statement, “the vinyl revolution makes good press but last years numbers on sales were basically flat.” which they weren’t but I understand you were exaggerating to make your point (hyperbole).

There are a series of articles in The Wire beginning in May 2011 (#327) addressing this issue head-on without "rolling in nostalgia". So far, and this will be an on-going series, the availability of free/pirated music downloads and the impact this has on the music industry and musicians has been the focus.  I recommend reading these for some thoughtful commentary.

ack's picture

In an industry that fell I believe 13% overall in sales, the increase percentage share of one format overall at 14% when it increased 30% the very year before and onlines sales were fairly stagnant is not truly news to crow about.

Everyone finds comfort in what they want. But it's a bit akin to celebrating one lifeboat pushing off as the Titantic goes down.

Instead of going "well it was not flat you are playing at hyperbole. In a abysmal year for the industry at least it kept going up even if not as quick as last year.".

You are playing along with the same cheerleading game as the press. It really does seem sometimes like that record collectors and audiophiles want their hobbies to go as elitist and anti-consumer as their stereotypes in that High Fidelity movie.

Do you really disagree that in relation to the condition of the industry as a whole the rise of vinyl is over-hyped or are you just nit picking your way through the discussion to avoid that very conclusion? Or did I get a word wrong above that you want to comment on next?

michaelavorgna's picture

As someone who enjoys listening to records, I find it comforting to focus on the fact that there are more people buying and enjoying records today than yesterday and there are more LPs being pressed to meet this increasing demand.

Further, there are people who are interested in exploring why this is the case - like the guys looking to make this movie. And that is the point of this post.

The general health and future of the music industry is another subject altogether. It is also a more complex issue that cannot be summed up by quoting a few years of SoundScan numbers. But I will certainly agree that SoundScan’s year-to-year vinyl sales figures are not an indication of the overall health of the music industry. No one here has said otherwise.

John Atkinson's picture

I don't think Soundscan tallies LP sales from mail-order outlets like Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct.

michaelavorgna's picture

Like Gemm and Discogs whose sellers offer new vinyl. I'd also think that sales outside of the US, Canada and the UK would add up to give a more complete picture of 'the market’, which is obviously global.

michaelavorgna's picture

I typed, "I also think the SoundScan vinyl sales numbers bear closer scrutiny."

But what I meant was - I also think the SoundScan vinyl sales numbers demand closer scrutiny.

Glotz's picture

New lps and players are not.  They are as quiet as digital. And they sound much better.  Until you've actually heard a great turntable, you won't know what you're missing. 

But even if its old & noisy, if people enjoy playing it and listening to it, let them.  If takes hipsters (all wearing the same uniform- ironic in and of itself) to create a resurgence of vinyl sales and to blossom new record labels, who are they hurting? If new record labels handle the new demand, and old record labels decide to improve, wouldn't most people welcome a change for the better? Or is it that some just want to hate because of their preconcieved notions?

Clearly, new labels are handling a gargantuan demand from new and old listeners, and new presses are being created now to handle that desire. See MF's column this month for further proof.  If these new listeners (whether you like them or not) are into vinyl, they could purchase new turntables, cartridges and amps, speakers as they grow in their love of their vinyl. They can and will further our hobby. If they can enjoy a record for 45 minutes interrupted, this could mean a paradigm shift to a forgotten age where humans actually conversed face to face, as they may re-examine their 'need' to communicate by text messaging!  Think of the possibilities, instead of the 'negativities'.

@Robert-  I think yr hard drive just died...  Your 'collection' just disappeared!  (That rare, signed Dylan LP is gone forever!)

robertbadcock's picture

Just like the $65 that left my billfold a few days ago.  But somehow; like, this gatefold Eagles "Hotel California" thing all of a sudden appeared like out of nowhere; along with several other (it really was weird to find covers and vinyl both in such good shape) neat 12 x 12s...

Not going to say what state or where either.  Heh.

volvic's picture

Was at Princeton Record Exchange this past weekend, for the first time (was in Princeton for a wedding), and was surprised to see how many young kids were there sifting through the record bins.  I found some new jazz vinyl for a great price but I can't help but notice that new vinyl is worth just as much as new cd's were when they first came out (approx 20.00).  A little high which leads me to believe it is still a niche product, but still glad it has made a comeback and is still alive.  Long live vinyl.

Nick

Ace Mineral's picture

What is with those 1980s Radio Shack looking speakers sitting on the floor?  Are people into retrospeakers, too?  The question I have about the resurgence in LPs is that why hasn't Capitol/Apple/Whomever released the Beatles on new LPs?

I have been listening to music since the mid 1970s, and I absolutely, completely don't get vinyl.

swimkinney2's picture

I just got done pledging money to this awesome project and all of you who listen to vinyl everyday should too

DetroitVinylRob's picture

"vinyl, a decidedly old-fashioned format" Ha, ha, ha, come on, you're killing me.

For some, vinyl will fade like vintage clothes shopping and trying to find ones own identity by copying what is found to be cool from someone else's past.

Others, the few, will really get bit, and gain a passion for it, high resolution, high fidelity that has not so coincidently, stuck around for decades. And saw the beginnings and will likely see the end of its vapid facsimile, that once was heralded as its "perfect sound forever" successor.

The new faces have much to learn from the old faces, hence we repeat ourselves. I like listening to a good record many, many times, I don't know if anyone would care to hear a repeat of the music industries history, as of late.

Happy Listening!

DLKG's picture

I also heard that Soundscan doesn't tallie LP sales from mail-order outlets.  I would think that would be the bulk of U.S. sales.  I don't know how the numbers can be even close to accurate without counting mail order.

 

DLKG

AlexAlon's picture

I think it is great that the LP are returning, I see it also here in Israel, more people are trying to repair/renew their patiphones at our shop.

I do beilive it is because we all  were busy living fast in the last 20-25 years and now finaly people begin to understand that fast living is not good. People at HighTech jobs that were working 10-14 hours a day, leaving their jobs to work "only" 8-9 hours, more time is spent with family. More time is devoted to "myself".

Listening to a record needs time and relaxation and patience compared to listening a digital format music.

It is very nice that more and more people are making the time for it, and have the patience for it. It should eventually bring to a more balanced society.

p.s.

Just recalled that in the "Mechanical orange" they were listening to vinyl :)))

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