Vinyl’s Blast From the Past

For awhile, vinyl was sinking. Sales were dropping, plants were closing, and there wasn’t much of a demand for the vintage medium of playing music. Something happened in the past decade, however, which brought back the allure of the vinyl record. We can chalk it up to the stampede of the hipsters, but there arguably has to be some deeper lying meaning. There’s the argument of sound quality, which I talked about in an earlier post, but even that only speaks for the smaller community of audiophiles.

It can’t be the convenience of records that keep people buying. As Jim Farber from NY Daily News put it,

“They’re bulky to store, vulnerable to damage and a bitch to transport.”

Whatever the reason(s), it is happening, vinyl is making a comeback. It’s not like they’re in the running to overtake CDs or MP3s. They still only boast 1.4% of the market share, according to this article from Zumic. What catches the eye, though, is the consistent growth rate of record sales. Different studies show different numbers, but one thing is certain: people want more and more vinyl. Some may think the resurgence of vinyl is a nostalgia-fueled trend that will fade out, but since 2005 sales have been steadily increasing, and are expected to increase as much as 30% next year!

In a tactfully accurate metaphor, Mike Reid of Tiny Mixtapes said,

“Have vinyl record manufacturers felt the urge to contact their doctors yet? Because this commercial erection appears to be lasting way longer than four hours.”

No doctors need be contacted, though. The consequence of this rise in records comes in the form of dollar signs for vinyl manufacturers. If any concern is raised, it’s that there is such a high demand and not enough vinyl pressing plants. While a booming vinyl industry isn’t a bad thing, it is worth noting that there are only 16 vinyl pressing plants in the United States, as listed by TotalSonic.net.

It is by route of these pressing plants that the music industry has access to one of the most tangible forms of mass communication, the mass distribution of physical music. Each of these plants, color coded by region, don’t have to worry about not filling any certain quota. The number of records cranked out daily can easily daze. According to this article from Fox, Nashville’s United Record Pressing produces between 20,000 and 40,000 records a day!

Regardless of how many MP3s are being bought, or CDs produced, this one sample shows that vinyls aren’t a luxury or a small-time fad. Vince Slusarz owner of Gotta Groove Records, a vinyl plant in Cleveland, attributes the comeback of records to a fan’s desire for a physical representation of the music they love. In this video he talks about how MP3s are more accessible and portable than CDs, making CDs less needed, yet people still want something to hold onto. That is where records come into play. As far as ways of listening to music, nothing says, “I love this album,” like a grooved, vinyl disc.

It is almost as if vinyls go beyond aural art, and branch into visual art. Seeing record covers of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” hanging on someone’s wall really adds to their identity. At least more than CDs neatly stacked in a bookshelf would. That speaks to Slusarz’ claim that vinyl is the more desired physical representation of music (even if the numbers don’t quite back it).

Whatever the reason is for this comeback of vinyl, only time will tell where it goes. The trend is looking up for audiophiles and vinyl plants. May those of generations before let a joyful tear well up in their eye as they see the revival of the medium of music that they loved.

Thanks for reading.

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2 thoughts on “Vinyl’s Blast From the Past

  1. The map’s a good idea for this post, but it’s a bit slight. You’ve got links in the markers but nothing beyond that to tell us more, and I’m not seeing any mention of the map in the text of your post either – readers can click on it to find out what it is, but should they have to? The use of colors is baffling as well – the use of multiple reds across the Midwest between tightly grouped blues and yellows suggests there is significance here, but there’s no indication what that IS. Tell us!

    • I agree. I should probably have incorporated the map in the text. And the site that I pulled the vinyl plant data from divided the plants by region, so I did that as well, but without any reason why, which could have been executed much better.

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