Vinyl is Back in a Big Way

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They’ve taken over whole stores, overrun flea markets and swamped in thrift shops. Albums are stacked in Best Buy, Meijer and FYE. These black, 12-inch disks might even be in your home, jammed under your dad’s bed – which is a dusty fire hazard. Vinyl sales have increased by 52 percent since the first half of 2015 and continue to rise. Record pressing plants, like Nashville’s United, run 22 vinyl presses, making about 40,000 records a day to keep up with demand. What has prompted this extraordinary comeback? Why are kids across the country wasting hours upon hours fingering through Salvation Army record bins to find something that you can just as easily own on CD or stream online?

Ryan McMahon, of East Lansing’s Record Lounge, has an idea of what is spurring this vinyl resurgence. “People like holding on to something,” McMahon said. And not only do listeners like to have a physical copy of their music, people also enjoy the tactility of vinyl.

With vinyl, the listener must interact with the medium as they take the record out of the sleeve, set it on the platter and flip it over. Digital music forecloses that sense.

“[When you listen to digital music], you can just hit a button on your computer and forget about it,” said McMahon.

McMahon isn’t some sort of obsessive vinyl junkie, either. He’s not a hermit who hoards stacks of records in an old Winnebago. He said he still buys tons of CDs.

“You can go to a music store and buy 10 CDs for around 30 bucks,” said McMahon, “Whereas a brand new pressing on vinyl is going to be between 16 and
29 dollars.”

Other than cost, vinyl has other shortcomings. It wears out, gets dirty. It pops and hisses; it’s completely stationary. But besides all that touchy-feely tactile nonsense, why buy vinyl?

Vinyl gives us an experience, like going to the movies or going to an art museum; these experiences let us feel more than we usually do by being so close to something so beautiful. At a time when listening to music has been demoted to two tinny-sounding plastic earbuds – an “experience” that’s only as long as your morning bus commute — might mean that listeners are grateful for the tactile and aesthetic experience that vinyl offers. Maybe vinyl turns listening to music into more than just a real-time soundtrack to a workout routine or a walk to class. Putting a record on the turntable forces us to sit down, to relax and only think about one thing: music.

Sources: noisey.vice.com | pitchfork.com