Don’t throw away your parent’s old turntable just yet. Vinyl – no, I’m not kidding – vinyl is making a comeback. In an age where iPod + iTunes have become the norm, LPs are resurging as the hip “new” way to buy and listen to music.
Nielsen SoundScan, a group that tracks music sales in the U.S. and Canada, reported that approximately 1 million vinyl records were sold in 2007. This number was up 858,000 from the previous year. 2008 saw LP sales nearly double, reaching 1.9 million sold. 2009 will be no different. SoundScan predicts that upward trend will continue and that vinyl sales will reach 2.8 million by the end of the year.
Record sales may be even higher than reported. SoundScan only tracks major stores and online retailers. Vinyl sales make up a significantly higher portion of total sales in independent music stores. LP sales are continuing to grow, even as CD sales tank.
But in the digital age, why are we seeing a return to old technology?
Many music enthusiasts are reverting to the older medium because of sound quality. The convenience of portable music players like the iPod, have come at a cost. When music is digitalized, it must be compressed into a file that is small enough to fit on a CD or be downloaded from an online music store. When music is compressed, it loses some of its value. This means that the treble may not sound as high and the bass may not sound as deep.
Vinyl, on the other hand, is an analogue – or non-compressed – medium. Its richer sound has helped lure rock fans back to their turntables. As an added bonus, many record labels are including a digital download of the album with the LP. This allows listeners to enjoy the sound quality of vinyl at home, while providing them with the portable version of the album for their iPods.
Vinyl has also resurfaced as the collector’s medium of choice. In a world where pirating music has become easier than buying it, a few noble people still prefer to pay for and physically own their music collections. For a music collector, it doesn’t get any better than vinyl. Vinyl’s large format showcases the album artwork, and many LPs include a full size poster.
Vinyl has defied the times by holding on to a niche. Who knows, maybe print journalists could survive if we started pressing newspapers in wax?