For the past few decades, vinyl seemed like a token of another long-gone time. In 2022, however, it might just be coming around like a boomerang – and here’s why.
Record players, vinyl, music stored in analog – three things that immediately bring us back to the 20th Century, where songs weren’t portable, ages away from our home computers and mobile phones. Last year, though, it seems as if the tables have turned.
In 2021 every third album sold in the US was a vinyl, in some cases surpassing even their respectable CD equivalents. Adele’s 30, Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour and Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) are only the top three out of the many LP records among them who breathed life back into a medium we all thought dead after the 90s.
The sales were so big in fact, that, with more than five million copies sold, vinyl is performing better than in the past 30 years. Whether you love vintage as much as we do or you’re just curious as to why the record is having its comeback in the new 20s — here are some of the reasons that make analog music thrive in the digital age.
Ask anyone who grew up on records and they will immediately tell you that, compared to modern-day music, the sound quality was simply better when songs came on vinyl. There’s something special about the scratching sound of a needle just before the instrumentals start and something oddly authentic about the way albums clink on plates.
While statements like this are obviously subjective, mostly soaked in the nostalgia of a bygone era, there certainly is a difference in the way vinyl sounds compared to CDs, YouTube, and Spotify. Vinyl reproduces a specific kind of noise thanks to its physical shape, where audible information is not lost through conversion. If you’re listening to a record, the transitions between songs won’t feel as smooth, yet it’s exactly in these flaws where music lovers find a specific dynamic and a ‘human touch’ they can’t seem to detect in the digital versions.
The Importance of Rituals
Another perk records have compared to albums you can find online is the set of ‘rituals’ that comes with playing them. Listening to digital music boils down to pressing a few buttons and sound shall appear at the touch of your fingertips. Records, however, ask for a bit more of your attention and manual effort.
For many vintage enthusiasts, the key component of enjoying vinyl comes from the small set of steps they have to take before the music even starts. The setting up of the record player, taking the album out of its covers, placing the needle in the right place, and waiting to hear it hum –- all these actions play part in experiencing music as an active deed, the main course of a meal, rather than the passivity of casually letting it play in the background. Like this, music is the end goal and not just a tune that accompanies you while doing your chores.
The Record as a Piece of Art
Packaging is important. Every designer, marketing expert, or even the casual consumer can tell you that. So why wouldn’t the same thing be true for music?
While album covers have always had the ability to enthrall us, there certainly is a difference between seeing a pretty picture on your screen and holding it in your hands. When you buy a record you’re, in a way, buying an experience.
Vinyl usually comes with two to three plates per album, with the size of 30 cm2 of cover art that carries it. Compared to CDs and digital editions, the owners of these analog mediums simply feel as if they got a lot more content for their money. If they’re especially fond of the design itself, they might also look at these objects as true pieces of art they now have in their possession. Swiftly, they transform from music lovers into music collectors, inscribing a deeper meaning into their paraphernalia, which online music services will never be able to substitute.
The Effects of Nostalgia
Trends always have a way of coming back. We see it in fashion as often as we do in other spheres of life, so the return of vinyl shouldn’t be surprising to us. After all, we as humans tend to be nostalgic more often than not and there’s a special kind of comfort we feel when we get to indulge in our memories and fantasies.
Thus, the commercialization of nostalgia surely plays a huge part in the way we perceive records in today’s day and age. Whether we’re experiencing a real sense of longing for a time we got to live through or if we are simply romanticizing a period we weren’t alive in, vinyl is a relic of the past that holds a tight grip on all of us obsessed with retro and vintage. The powers and effects of sentimentality can’t be overlooked and a consumerist society will always be there to cater to our needs.
Even though we can’t deny that the 21st Century changed the music industry forever, nostalgia still has its way in the process of how we look at music and choose to enjoy it. Records are living through a period of renaissance, and judging by the latest statistics, it won’t be ending soon. Skeptics or not, we might as well jump on the bandwagon and have fun with it. No matter how long it lasts.
Picture: Denis Raev/shutterstock.com
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