I remember the first time I heard a vinyl record playing. It was an album from my late grandfather’s collection – a cardboard box my father and I found while cleaning out the garage one summer. Filled with dusty classics from previous decades, I was mesmerized by this box with these black discs that allegedly contained music.
That summer, I asked for a record player for my birthday. As soon as I got it, I placed my first chosen record on the turntable. The needle slowly lowered on side A of “The Best of Minnie Riperton” and the melodic voice of an angel floated to my ears. Amplified by my Bluetooth speaker, I had never heard such music before. It wasn’t soulless like digital streaming, but something more – richer, fuller sound.
In the years since my first listen, I have acquired nearly a dozen new vinyl records. Artists like Adele, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift now adorn the cubby in my room, and their gorgeous album art is always my go-to to show and tell when I have visitors. The Prince, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston records, among the many others that I inherited from my grandfather, allow me to appreciate the artists who have made a lasting mark on music. Listening to these great talents, these industry icons, is simply better on an LP format. And it’s not just me who thinks so.
It seems other people my age get the hang of it, because vinyl has become exponentially more popular. In 2021, vinyl sales eclipsed CD sales for the first time since the 1990s. Harry Styles recently broke the record for most first-week vinyl sales with 182,000 units. It was the biggest vinyl sales week ever, but even more telling of vinyl’s resurgence is the fact that Styles’ record was set by Taylor Swift with her release “Red (Taylor’s Version)” six months before.
With vinyl sales reaching new heights alongside each new album release from a major pop star, it’s clear that the vinyl community is growing and becoming an increasingly valuable market for artists. It wouldn’t be surprising if Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” set a new record when it was released in July.
Streaming platforms have decimated CD sales and basically eradicated the 99-cent model popularized by iTunes, but oddly enough, vinyl is gaining popularity even at an extraordinarily high price. “Harry’s House,” the record-breaking album, is currently priced at over $30, exponentially more than a digital music purchase. But the reason is so clear to avid vinyl collectors.
When you buy vinyl, you don’t just get music, you get a listening experience. Vinyl releases often have liner notes and other bits of information not found elsewhere. And the sound produced by your record player cannot be compared to that of Spotify or Apple Music.
There’s something else at play here, though – the record store aesthetic. I’m not talking about browsing the music section of your local Barnes & Noble or Walmart. I’m talking about a real record store, a paradise for music lovers.
One of my favorites is Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. It has that eclectic charm and pretty much every genre of music on vinyl. Rows upon rows of discs span a deceptively small space. The music is everywhere in a way that almost overwhelms you; it’s in the air you breathe and in the brush of your fingers against a vinyl record, glistening with the sheen of plastic wrap. Browsing through genre after genre, looking at the visuals of an album, it just screams summer fun.
Record stores are a big part of why vinyl sales are growing. Record Store Day, an annual event that began in 2007 to celebrate independent record stores, shows the impact of this renewed interest in music on vinyl. For this year’s Record Store Day in April, independent record stores in the United States sold 1.012 million vinyl records during the week, marking the highest sales week for independent stores in a one-year period. week.
It is obvious that collecting and listening to vinyl is not accessible to everyone, but it is an investment that is worth it. And you’d be surprised what you can find at a record store for relatively little money. The “used” section almost always contains hidden gems.
Vinyl is back and better than ever. The superior sound quality and record store experience are moments that everyone should have the opportunity to try, and it’s obvious that, at least for now, more people are trying it than previously.
Colin Crawford is a freshman at Medill. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to publicly respond to this editorial, send a letter to the editor at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all Daily Northwestern staff.