Vinyl record sales on the rise despite digital downloads
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Freshman Matthew Moore inherited his love for vinyl records from his grandmother, who gave him her turntable and record collection. Now, he has approximately 200 records and said he thinks the sound quality is better than songs in digital format.
“Vinyl has a fuller sound,” Moore said. “As a kid, the first time I ever heard the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ I only heard it on CD, but when I found it again on vinyl, it was like hearing it again for the first time.”
He said he thinks people as young as 17 through their 20’s are buying vinyl due to recent trends like the “hipster scene,” which encourages film and art.
The trend, according to Billboard Magazine, shows that vinyl record sales are up 16.3 percent over last year. So far this year, 3.2 million units were sold compared to 2.7 million units in 2011.
History professor David Suisman, who teaches classes on culture, music and capitalism, said vinyl sales have been increasing since the early 2000s.
“People want something they can touch and look at,” Suisman said. “Music is not just a sonic experience.”
He chronicles the history of the commercial music industry in his book “Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music.” He said in recent years the rise in digital downloading has prompted consumers to look for a physical product.
“In an age when music and many aspects of culture seem ephemeral and fleeting and, in many ways, superficial, the materiality of vinyl offers a substance,” Suisman said.
The music industry has been combating both legal and illegal downloading in the hopes of providing consumers a physical product they want to buy, and Suisman said this is the reason for vinyl records’ enhanced packaging and physical appeal.
According to Moore, part of the appeal of vinyl is the record’s artwork. He said vinyl records showcase the musician’s work more clearly through the art, while albums in digital format don’t make art a priority. He said looking at the artwork included in a vinyl record while he listens enhances the experience.
Senior Sean Rugenstein said he buys vinyl records because they are more valuable than CDs, and many vinyl records now come with a digital download. He said buying vinyl is a way of giving back to the artist while also holding collectable value.
“If I have time, I like to sit down if it’s a new record, and I’ll get the pull out artwork and lyrics and go through it while I listen,” Rugenstein said.
Chris Avino, owner of Rainbow Music & Books in Newark, said vinyl record sales have gradually grown since he bought the store in 2005 and are a significant portion of the store’s sales.
“I have teenagers buying them, college kids buying them, baby boomers coming back in, wishing they didn’t get rid of their old collection and re-buying them,” Avino said.
He said one possible cause behind the return to records is consumers’ desire to discover a culture labeled “vintage,” or what Moore called “hipster.” Avino said this has been the case in every generation, but as different generations age, the definition of “vintage” changes.