By Dave Austin, “Music Professor”
I’ve recently had a new studio built in the hope of having sufficient space to house my (not small) vinyl and CD libraries, my office operation and, in the not-too-distant future, a broadcast facility. Already, I’m wishing I had opted for a larger building, and as with most such undertakings, things have been moving along much slower than I would have preferred. A portion of each day is spent making runs to the supply store for paint, cables, connectors and other doo-dads and gadgets I constantly find myself in need of.
However, as I’ve been working with my vinyl, I’m reminded of the amazing resurgence of vinyl recording over the past several years. The medium, which had been declared dead by alleged experts, has many of these same people scratching their heads in wonderment as sales of wax rockets upward. Many major retailers have taken notice and you can now find racks of wax in Target stores and even unexpected places like Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters. Expect to see more in the very near future. Record industry insiders say vinyl sales for 2015 are expected to be the largest in more than twenty years.
Back in December of 2013, I wrote an article here at Pro Mobile DJ in which I discussed the resurgence of vinyl – a trend which had already been in progress for some time. Since then, the vinyl train has continued to gain momentum, and shows no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future. As sales of CDs continue to plummet, vinyl sales continue to increase, baffling industry experts who have few, if any, explanations. During the first quarter of 2015, record sales were up 53% over the previous year. And, since 2009, vinyl album sales are up by an astounding 260 percent! As of this writing, actual RECORD STORES are opening in many locations, the latest in Hollywood.
One might think these sales are being fueled mainly by nostalgia albums (Beatles, etc.) Not so. Rather, we find a mix of old favorites and a quickly growing selection of new artists – Mumford & Sons, Jack White, (“Lazaretto,” 40,000 copies sold in one week), Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and others rank high. According to Billboard, the top selling vinyl albums for 2015 are:
“1989” – Taylor Swift
“Carrie & Lowell” – Sufjan Stevens
“AM” – Arctic Monkeys
“Sound & Color” – Alabama Shakes
“Kind of Blue” – Miles Davis
“In the Lonely Hour” – Sam Smith
“Dark Side of the Moon” – Pink Floyd
“Guardians of the Galaxy” – Soundtrack
“I Love You Honeybear” – Father John Misty
“Hozier” – Hozier
I also find it very interesting that a large percentage of those buying vinyl albums are younger people (18-34 years). But even more interesting, some 27% of these buyers don’t own a turntable on which to play their purchases! Many explain it allows them to display their album cover in a frame while listening to the CD.
It is a fact that if one is going to have vinyl, it’s a good idea to have a turntable on which to play it, right? To this end, the number of companies manufacturing and/or selling turntables has never been higher, (up 240%, according to some sources) with player prices ranging from around $75 upward to multi-thousands of dollars. On a personal note, in order to meet my needs, I just purchased two new turntables with high-quality cartridges and have a prized older model currently being repaired by factory service.
Should we consider reverting back to vinyl to DJ our events? You’ll likely agree with me that ain’t gonna happen. No matter how much we may love our vinyl, no one wants to lug heavy crates and be constantly guarding our discs from the attentions of sticky-fingered guests.
Oh, yeah, we also like our CDs, Mp3s, etc, for their convenience and icily precise reproduction. But, compared to vinyl, some say they are “cold” sounding and just lack the ear-pleasing qualities of vinyl. For many, they may like their CDs but they LOVE their vinyl!
It is safe to say that this once-dismissed recording medium has somehow found a new generation of those who appreciate it for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s the “warm” analog sound, for others, the often extensive and detailed cover art and information, or the indescribable tactile sensation of that 12.25 x 12.25 cardboard envelope and a removing a weighty pristine 180 gram disc from it, of carefully placing that black plastic circle onto a turntable and delicately dropping a needle into the run-in groove. Then, there’s that moment of silent anticipation while awaiting the first note.
I was asked if this vinyl revolution is going to make any changes in the ways we handle our music as DJs or conduct our events. Frankly, I don’t foresee that happening. Some may be like me and purchase vinyl for personal reasons, then convert some tracks to other formats and add them to our working libraries.
I do, however, have a major complaint about the vinyl revival and that is price. This past week I was browsing the vinyl rack and “ordinary” single-disc albums were priced at $25.00 and up. I think it would serve the industry well to remember that over-pricing was one of the factors which led to the consumer flight from CDs and the industry having to spend billions of dollars fighting free share services. (Napster, etc.)
For the moment, all this provides us an interesting scenario to follow as it continues to develop. I, for one, am greatly enjoying the reactions of some of the young people I encounter when they are confronted with a vinyl disc and turntable for the first time in their lives. The confused look on their faces is priceless!