In recent decades, more artists have started rereleasing vinyl records for the first time since CDs first came on the market. 2020 is the first year since the CD’s creation that more vinyl albums have sold than CDs, indicating a complete resurgence of the Vinyl LP. Are vinyl records really that popular?
Vinyl records are coming back and rising in popularity as more artists are producing vinyl editions of their music and more people are buying them. They are a nod to days gone by when life was simpler and more family-oriented, and the lack of digital screens occupying their time.
We will take a closer look at the trend of vinyl albums and how it has changed in the past few years. Let’s now take a walk down memory lane and see how and why this trend is coming back with a vengeance.
How Popular Is Vinyl?
In 2020, vinyl sales grossed at $27.5 million in the USA, rising 3.6% since 2019. While vinyl sales rose, CD sales fell by almost 50%.
Still, digital music sales account for 85% of total music sales in America, which means that vinyl has not overpowered the digital music market by any means.
Many artists in the UK and America are pressing and selling vinyl albums because they tend to sell more vinyl albums than CDs in any given year. While vinyl has become the most popular format for tangible music sales, it still doesn’t equal the success of digital music.
Some people attribute sound quality and analog format to vinyl’s success, but it is more complex than that.
In the past few years, vinyl albums have replaced CDs, suggesting that CDs are obsolete.
The resurgence of vinyl seems to indicate that people are interested in the most physical, aesthetic experience that music listening can offer.
Why Is Vinyl Making a Comeback?
Vinyl records have become the second most popular music listening format in the world, with digital music coming in first. Why are vinyl albums making such a huge comeback?
The transition from CD to vinyl in the past few years is so unique compared with how technology trends usually go.
Here are some of the most significant reasons that vinyl is re-emerging as the most popular non-digital listening format.
The Prominence of Digital Music
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, digital music sales comprise 85% of 2020’s record sales, because it is convenient, accessible, and streamable, no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Because of its accessibility, digital music has risen to the forefront of record sales, and vinyl or CD sales cannot match them.
Still, vinyl has become more popular than CDs for the first time since the 1990s. People have stopped buying CDs altogether, but vinyl is growing in popularity.
Some people attribute the re-emerging popularity of vinyl records to their large, tangible format.
Unlike digital music, you can hold onto a vinyl album, which is very different from digital music. Anything different or retro is fun and it is why the younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, have clung to vinyl as an identifier of their eras.
For people who have not experienced tangible music-playing formats, vinyl albums are radically different. They bring to life an aspect of digital music that record labels cannot replicate in a digital format.
The End of CDs
CDs fell out of favor recently for several reasons. Since CDs are digital disks, their sound quality is the same as a digital file, which gives them absolutely no advantage over digital files.
Since most computers can burn CDs, and buying a digital album is much cheaper than buying a CD, people have generally stopped buying new CDs.
You can reproduce CDs at home for half the price of purchasing a new album, which means buying a new CD is not as special as it once was.
Also, most don’t even use CDs anymore. If you own the files, you stream them and if you don’t own the files, you stream them through a streaming service.
CDs are also bad for the environment since most of their packaging and disk materials are made from plastic. Since they are non-biodegradable, many environmentally-conscious people have moved away from using tangible music products to exclusively using digital music files.
If you compare CDs to vinyl, vinyl wins the battle, as it is larger, more aesthetically pleasing, and radically different from digital listening. Still, vinyl albums, with their large, artistic covers, and labor-intensive listening process, have won due to their unique take on listening to music.
The Ritual of Vinyl
A vinyl record takes a little more work to play than digital music or a CD. You have to carefully remove the album from the sleeve, set up your record player, and play the album.
Playing a vinyl record is a slow process that encourages you to slow down and enjoy the music.
In many ways, it also enables you to value the music and to focus on listening to it.
With the rise of digital music, many of us lack the slow, deliberate music-listening experience that vinyl albums require. All of these digital stimuli might make you want to turn all the screens off and enjoy a more human-oriented listening experience that involves touch and attention.
When listening to vinyl albums, you cannot skip tracks either. (Well, you could, but it would require a more physical approach.)
Listening to vinyl encourages patience because you also need to flip the album halfway through, which means you need to pay attention to the music without tuning it out.
Vinyl albums are trendy at social events, and it can be pretty fun to go through your friend’s vinyl collection. Vinyl listening requires attentiveness, and flipping and changing out the record can be a fun communal experience that brings everyone in the room together.
Related article: Are Vinyl Records Mono or Stereo? How To Tell
Vinyl Album Covers and Designs
Vinyl is a visual experience, as well as a musical one.
Albums are known for their beautiful artwork, notes from the artist, and sometimes lyrics, making listening to the record a visual experience and can make it feel more personal than listening to digital music.
In recent decades, the record gets decorated with unique colors, patterns, and designs. With the aesthetic appeal of a bright pink or translucent record, listening has become even more of a visual experience.
The Nostalgia of Vinyl
Many albums that were initially recorded on vinyl albums are still the most popular albums sold in LP format.
Many collectors and fans appreciate the original records, much like a book fanatic might appreciate a book’s first edition.
The nostalgia of vinyl albums is overpowering, and it fuels many record sales of both used and new records year-round.
Vinyl: A Rising Trend
There’s no denying that vinyl has become a trendy new way to listen to music and share the experience with friends and family, and in a way, it has become a status symbol that functions a bit like an accessory or piece of home decor.
Overall, listening to vinyl has become an aesthetic experience that reflects the use of social media and branding that modern, technology-based generations can share at the touch of a button.
Vinyl has replaced CDs as the most popular tangible music listening format in the world. People love vinyl albums for their bulkiness, artwork, aesthetic appeal, differences from digital music, nostalgia, and ritualistic approach to music listening.
Over the years, vinyl has increased in sales. It seems to be here to stay, just as it always has, but with a resurgence of popularity.
For Gen-X adults, it can be a trip down memory lane to when they were children, listening to books on a record. That familiar chime that told them to turn the page will always be a fond memory.