The old familiar sound of a turntable needle lightly skimming the top of a vinyl record is a sound that many members of Generation Z have only heard in the movies, yet that is rapidly changing as more young people start listening to their favorite songs on vinyl.
Vinyl album sales have continuously gone up for the last few years with 13.1 million vinyl records sold in 2016. Compare that to 2007, when only 1 million vinyl albums were sold, according to Neilsen.
Artists are also helping the trend as more of them release their music on vinyl. The top-selling vinyl albums in the United States in the first half of 2017 were The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the soundtrack to “La La Land,” according to Billboard.
But why has the popularity of vinyl versus streaming been increasing? The experience of record buying is what keeps it alive. The sound of the first track on a fresh record spinning for the first time is a more clean quality version than the same track being streamed digitally. You are essentially listening to the actual sound wave of a song via microscopic divots pressed into vinyl. The sound produced is exactly the sound the artist wanted instead of a compressed digital format of the song.
When artists produce an album, they select the placement of songs individually in order to have the album tell their story. And best of all, there are no ads, no ‘skip track’ buttons and no pauses. The record plays from beginning to end with no interruptions, telling the full story and revealing the creative touches of the artist.
“The reasoning behind an album varies band to band,” said Richy Benson, bassist for the local Michigan Alternative Rock band BTP. “There is a reason, a theme if you will, behind the album so to tell the story each track is laid out in an order to get the job done.”
With digital downloads, you can skip through the story and listen to the ‘good parts,’ but, with a vinyl record, you listen to the whole story which results in grasping a better understanding of who the artist is and what he or she has been through.
With companies, such a Crosley, producing compact turntables and selling them on the shelves at major shopping centers such as Target, BestBuy, Walmart and even a few outlets in the mall, record shops have been benefiting from this sudden blast from the past. Typically when you enter a store with a modernized turntable you will find a vinyl album closely by.
“We have noticed many ups and downs regarding the sales vinyl records and CDs. We just purchased a large used classic rock collection over 200 lp’s (long playing). People pretty much look for classic rock,” said Dan and Denise Zieja of Melodies & Memories in Eastpointe.
Out of the massive selection of music carried by Melodies & Memories, the majority of their customers sway toward the classics. Vinyl album sales have grown from last year by 140,000 within the first six months of 2017, according to the Vinyl Factory, and sales are continuing to grow.
Six out of ten of the top selling albums thus far has all been an album released at least 30 years ago.
Will Willams, senior Sports Management major and rock lover, has begun his own collection of old time favorites. “I collect records because it is more than collecting a piece of music. It is collecting a piece is history,” he said. “There is something special about being able to grab a record, open it, and look at features inside. I love the photos, the lyric printouts, and most of all; I love holding the record itself. This experience can’t be replaced by modern fixes like Pandora, iTunes, and Spotify.”
Williams burgeoning collection includes Guns N Roses’ debut album “Appetite For Destruction,” and Bush’s very first album, “Sixteen Stone.”
“They are both two of my favorite bands, but it is the history that makes them so special. Appetite For Destruction is the highest sold debut album in history and Sixteen Stone was the album that got the international band, Bush, popular in the U.S.,” Williams said.
Sales with artists such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are roughly around 250 million while today’s artists such as Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars are at 120 million, according to Billboard Music’s previous charts and sales history. Most modern day artists are not producing vinyl pressed albums due to their lack of sales. Historically more albums produced by bands, such as The Beatles, have outsold today’s artists, such as Taylor Swift, due to their production rate. Fewer copies are being produced, therefore, fewer people are buying them.
The Ziejas say that a listener’s mood often sways his or her purchases. “It depends on what the person’s taste in music is and what hits them that day. One day someone might be feeling blue, so they purchase an indie album. One day someone might be feeling upbeat, so they buy ’60s funk album. Each day brings in a new itch for a different genre.”
As consumers begin walking into old record shops again and Crosley continues to produce turntables, young people are enjoying the euphoric fad of sitting next to their favorite artist’s album and watching it spin.