Vinyl record sales have risen to 6 million in 2013, a sixfold increase from 2007 sales. In 1993, this number was under half a million. That's right, in the age of infinite songs in your pocket, people still enjoy listening to records on a turntable.
This trend should remind vinyl enthusiasts of what happened in the late 1980s. Vinyl record sales declined as their sexier and more portable cousin the CD rose to prominence, dominating music sales in the 1990s. Today, it looks like the CD is being pushed out by the digital for the very same reason. Would you rather have thousands of songs on your iPhone, or a Sony Walkman clipped to your waist and your CD collection in your backpack? Perhaps some of this is caused by music piracy, but even that is up for some debate.
What’s the appeal of vinyl? The jury’s still out on whether it actually provides better sound. Many music heads, like Terry Currier of Music Millennium, claim that vinyl records are “the purest form of sound on any format of recorded music that has been introduced to music fans.” At the same time, a 2004 study by NHK Laboratories found that people generally can’t discern sound quality differences at a significant level. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork Media thinks it all depends on who’s listening: “The small differences between sources of sound reproduction are, for most people, pretty hard to differentiate, and wholly personal.”
But it’s tough to argue over the type of experience vinyl provides that digital music does not. “With most devices being so convenient these days, the act of playing a record, getting up to turn it over and all that, forces the listener to pay more attention,” says Doyle Davis of Grimey’s New & Preloved. During that time, you can read through the liner notes and look at the 12x12 album artwork -- two things that Neil Schield of Origami Vinyl claims “really sucked on CD and are pretty much nonexistent with digital.”
Or if you want to be unscientific about it and a bit prejudiced, the rise of vinyl could be because of hipsters. That's the conclusion we reached at the Priceonomics office where our most hipster employees also happen to own turntables.
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