In a world of hi-tech digital music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, there’s a quiet revolution taking place that’s seeing music lovers world-wide turn away from digital in favour of an old-school music format – the vinyl record is making a revival.
Sales of vinyl albums increased in Australia by 15% in 2018 and are now worth over $20 million each year. In 2020, ARIA predicts that Vinyls in Australia will outsell CDs for the first time since 1987.
But what is behind this revival of the vinyl record?
A number of factors are contributing to this love affair particularly when it comes to something that digital lacks. And that in part is ownership.
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Whilst streaming services continue to increase in popularity as digital remains at the forefront of music play, it removes the physical element of owning the record outright. It’s not something you can hold in your hands, marvel at the artwork or read the album notes. With vinyl, this is something you can do, anytime.
And just like ownership it opens up the avenue for vinyl collectors who are looking for records from their favourite bands, artists or musicians. It allows for limited editions for popular albums and re-releases of albums of old.
In the past six months alone, we have seen Prince’s estate announce a vinyl collection of his biggest hits accompanied by never released music. Janet Jackson released both re-releases and limited edition coloured LP versions of every album she has released through her online store and Madonna is about to launch LP versions of her first four albums including the soundtrack to “Who’s That Girl?”. Not to mention that when Aussie Pop Princess Kylie Minogue released her “Step Back in Time” Greatest Hits Collection, the vinyl format outsold CDs. This is the first time this has happened for the singer.
But just as it provides an opportunity to show off your collection of albums and hits, when it comes to audio quality, vinyl provides something that digital seems to lack. And that is the richness in sound and warmth that comes with listening to a song or recording on vinyl. Whilst digital provides the opportunity to listen to the recordings, it is in a compressed format. Meaning warmth from the song’s productions can be lost easily. This then, means there is a far higher risk in loosing that emotional experience one might feel with the song or musician. It’s an attachment between listener and the work of art.
Vinyl’s durablity is another factor in it’s renewed popularity. Yes, vinyl can warp and it can be outplayed with turntables and styluses seeing “better days”, however compared to it’s CD counterparts there is far more use and play from this format. In a time when sustainability is high in popularity and conversations, vinyl is the better option of the two.
And finally this rise can be attributed to our fixation with nostalgia. Everything from Dougie the Pizza Hut Boy to the Spice Girls has made a comeback and this is something that isn’t lost on Millennials and Gen Zers. Music Watch reports that “50% of all current vinyl record buyers are under 25 years old” which makes sense as artists (e.g. The Babe Rainbow, Grinspoon, Tyler The Creator) popular with this market begin releasing their songs in vinyl format. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, vinyl is a trip back down memory lane but for younger audiences, it’s part of the retro rival and promotes “the cool factor” that teens and those in their 20s love to chase.
The rise in popularity of this format has also seen it re-appear as its own Weekly ARIA Vinyl Chart. In recent months, it has also seen far more floor space dedicated to vinyl across all genres in music shops across the country as well.
And whilst this format is expected to continue to rise, will this mean other formats might become obsolete? Not necessarily. CDs and CD recordings will continue to have their place just as vinyl always had.
In 2020, Vinyl sales are expected to reach $40 Million and which is expected to grow as more artists and labels begin to release their music (or re-release) on this format. As technology continues to evolve it will open up even more avenues for this format to be played and listened to, meaning that for the foreseeable future the vinyl record is here to stay.