Why are vinyl records a thing again? The technology is impractical, outdated, archaic, and expensive, but vinyl record sales are growing. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s in 2020. Streaming services give us unprecedented access to music, but people are still enamored with those slowly spinning black discs. The wires, turntables, and amplifiers are impractical in our modern age, but vinyl is still an adored aspect of music consumption. Why?
Here’s my two cents…
There are just as many answers to the question of modern vinyl as there are reasons to leave this old-fashioned technology behind. Trust me, I could not possibly cover every vinyl aficionado’s answer in this article. So, I’ll be giving my answer.
I’m 21 years old. I was born in 2000, and introduced to computers at a very young age. Since I was 6 years old, I’ve been interacting with digital media as an ever-growing source of entertainment. I had a very tech-centered upbringing, and music was no different. My first introduction to music was through an iPod and iTunes, not a CD collection. I interacted with music through a pocket-sized screen, dials, and buttons. Listening to music with an iPod was definitely convenient, but it was never a physical experience.
In our increasingly digital age, interacting with physical objects outside of a digital screen is an experience that is often overlooked. Interacting with physical objects often gives me a greater appreciation for it than if I interacted with it’s digital counterpart (think playing Minecraft vs. building with Legos.) The same holds true for music. The instantaneousness of streaming might offer unparalleled convenience, but I can’t hold the music in my hands. Digital music may be able to completely accurately replicate the warmth often attributed to vinyl, but I can’t hang the music on my wall.
Bringing it Together
In its heyday, vinyl existed to showcase the new, unheard work of an artist. Maybe you heard its single on the radio, or a friend told you about the album; in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, you would buy a vinyl record of an album you hadn’t heard before. To me, vinyl fulfills nearly the complete opposite of it’s previous role; it exists as a physical collectible item. As a way to memorialize an album and its importance to me, and to express my support for an artist beyond a streaming subscription.
The physicality of vinyl offers me something that digital streaming doesn’t. I can actually have something real, something physical, that contains the work of an artist I love. I can display the album art on my wall. I can inspect the record and feel it in my hands. I can flip through the liner notes and look at the inside art. I can read the lyrics. I can enjoy the smell of the plastic and cardboard. I can hear the warmth and comfort in the lo-fi crackles and pops of vintage vinyl. I can experience the music in a curated, audio-visual way that the artist wanted me to. It’s an overall more human and sensory experience. The physicality of vinyl makes me feel much more connected to the artist and the music, and that is why I love it.