Why Have Vinyl Players Become a Trending Topic?

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“Oh, how the tables have turned!”

Formerly regarded as relics and antiquities which were preserved for memorabilia, vinyl players were fossilized for an extended period of time. In their absence, one bore witness to the rising popularity of CDs and streaming services. But in recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in vinyl players, with turntables and records returning to claim their titles as household names in the music industry.

To understand the rising popularity of vinyl players, one must first look at its roots.

The Debut of the Record Player

Invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison, the first phonograph was able to record and play sound. Its audio was etched on a tinfoil, which was wrapped around a cardboard cylinder. However, though the invention garnered awe and approval from the populace, it failed to become commercially successful until further developments were made by Emile Berliner.

Berliner devoted himself to the development of the medium, which was later named the ‘gramophone’. Unlike the cylinders utilized in Edison’s phonograph, the gramophone was reliant on the grooves of flat discs to produce sound. The success of this creation prompted Berliner to obtain a patent for the device in 1887, and this resulted in his establishment of the United States Gramophone Company. Soon, this would receive the backing of numerous businessmen, who encouraged its introduction to Canada and the major countries of Europe.

Despite its popularity after its release in 1895, the gramophone was overshadowed by the advent of radio. It was only in the 60s and 70s that it became mainstream. By the 80s, record player turntables were employed by DJs, who would scratch the records against a needle for an added rhythmic effect.

The Resurgence of Vinyl

In the annual music consumption report generated by BuzzAngle, it was estimated that vinyl sales for the year of 2018 amounted to 9.7 million album sales. Of these units, roughly 42% were of the Rock genre, with various Pop and Urban titles accounting for 26% and 14.4% of sales respectively.

BuzzAngle proceeded to compile a list of the top vinyl album sales of 2018, which was headed by soundtracks and classics from the distant past. Displayed below are the top ten spots, alongside their album sales:

Rank

Title

Album Sales

1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1

47,155

2

Michael Jackson – Thriller

46,435

3

The Beatles – Abbey Road

43,606

4

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

38,874

5

Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain

38,339

6

Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

37,753

7

Tony Bennett & Diana Krall – Love Is Here to Stay

36,962

8

Queen – Greatest Hits I

34,212

9

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon

33,342

10

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend

33,191

As noted in the 2019 mid-year report released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl sales in the first half of the year amounted to 8.6 million units, which generated $224.1 million. On the other hand, CD sales earned $247.9 million, with a total of 18.6 million units sold to the general public. This supports a previous report made by the RIAA, in which it was noted that vinyl sales comprised more than one-third of the revenue earned by physical releases.

The Comeback

Now available at various department and convenience stores, alongside newer record stores which target the youth and the elderly alike, vinyl players and records are in the process of becoming mainstream yet again.

The re-emergence of these physical mediums could be attributed to a myriad of reasons, which have been listed below:
Tangible ownership

As opposed to digitally stored media and streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio, vinyl records are physical possessions which can either be positioned in crates, or displayed on the shelves and the walls of one’s home. As tactile objects which provide one with a sense of ownership, records tend to be purchased by those who are fueled by the desire for there to be physical evidence regarding their likes and dislikes. Moreover, records are coupled with album exclusives, such as artwork, liner notes, and various other materials which cannot be obtained through the purchase of digital music. This could explain the rising popularity of vinyl players.

Memorabilia

Among the general populace, records and vinyl players are viewed as vintage items of interest. In a comprehensive overview by MusicWatch, it was noted that roughly half of vinyl record buyers were over the age of 25. This supports the likelihood of there being numerous individuals who are presently reminiscing over their youth. While those who grew up with vinyl could be attempting to reconnect with their pasts by listening to old records, the younger generations of Millennials appear to be interested in delving into the lives of their antecedents. Alongside this, there are those who collect vinyl records as a hobby, wishing to expand their collection with the newest releases for personal pleasure and enjoyment. 

Sound quality

Although this is based on one’s personal preference, Yamaha notes that many experts are partial to the “old-school analog audio” of vinyl, which is preferred over digital audio. This could be attributed to the digital formats used by streaming services, which are compressed, and which subsequently suffer a loss in quality.

DurabilityUnlike CDs,

 which are prone to sonic degradation and disc rot with the passing of time, vinyl records tend to be far more robust and durable. However, their durability is dependent on their maintenance, and the manner in which they are cleaned.

Upgrades

Nowadays, record players such as those by Audio-Technica, Stanton, and Numark, are manufactured with USB ports. This provides users with the ability to listen to their music via connected speakers, and it also grants them with the opportunity to record their albums on the computer. Depending on the user’s requirement, these recordings could then be converted into an MP3 file, or be burned onto an audio CD. The availability of such options may appeal to many, for users are no longer restricted in their utilization of the record. 

Once regarded as emblems of the distant past, vinyl players have captivated the interest of the masses yet again. With their rich history and growing popularity, it shouldn’t come across as a surprise that older artists are encountering a significant increase in album sales, while newer ones are maintaining the trend through current releases. Therefore, it wouldn’t be too daring to assume that vinyl players are here to stay.

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