With several streaming platforms out there (Spotify, Apple Music, Prime Music) making listening to any song at any time easier than before, why would anyone in their right mind spend money on a physical copy of music? To have a physical copy of music is rare these days. Many people no longer have enormous CD cases in the passenger seats of their cars. People aren’t rushing out to the stores to get the latest album release; they are just able to download it right away on their phone. Owning a physical copy of an album may seem outdated or impractical to most, but vinyl records have been making a comeback for a reason.
After remarkable growth in 2021 compared with a Covid-19 shutdown impacted the previous year, vinyl records continued to rise in the first half of 2022. Revenues from vinyl albums grew 22% to $570 million, and vinyl’s share of the physical market increased from 68% to 73%. Revenues from CDs fell just 2% to $200 million, and accounted for 26% of physical revenues.
To view the full report conducted by RIAA, click here.
While many have turned away from using CDs, people now more than ever are wandering the isles of independent record shops in hopes of finding their favorite band or discovering something new. I believe there’s something magical about flipping through the stacks of records and seeing what’s out there from some of your favorite artists. You may find a deal on an old record your dad used to play in the house or track down an album you used to listen to on a CD back in high school. There’s usually something there for everyone whether you’ve been collecting for a while or just got your first record player.
The reason I believe many people are choosing to start collecting vinyl records again is because of the need to be present with the music while it’s playing. You have to physically put the record on and then turn it over once a particular side is done. A playlist may be more convenient, but vinyl records provide a glimpse into the past where not everything needs to be experienced 100 mph or pulled up on the internet immediately.
Another reason I believe vinyl is trending is because of nostalgia and the aesthetic it provides. Having a collection of records is a lot like having books on a bookshelf. There’s something about having physical copies of something rather than mp3s floating around in a cloud or reading books off of a Kindle. It gives people that visit your home, apartment or dorm room a glimpse into who you are as a person and the soundtracks to your life. That may seem like an invasion of privacy, but it’s a lot more personable than pulling up your playlists on your phone and scrolling through. Who knows? Maybe you’re having your wife’s co-workers over and they bring their husbands. In between small talk and drinks, you meander over to your turnable and find that you both like Billy Joel. Now you have a new best friend and you’re ready to go and do karate together in the garage.
Records are also fun to collect. There are many different varieties of colors records come in as well as how they’re packaged. My favorite records are the ones where you can clearly tell that the artist or band took the time to craft notes on the inside of their albums or include posters/behind the scenes photos. Those details continue to add to the experience you get when pulling out an album to listen to while sipping your morning coffee, cooking a meal, or entertaining guests over cocktails and appetizers.
The one downside I will say that comes with collecting vinyl is the cost of records. They aren’t cheap by any means, so I would recommend getting records that you love. Don’t buy a record that you won’t want to play over and over again. You don’t buy albums for them to collect dust on your shelf. Buy albums that are going to be there for you to turn to when you’re happy, sad, excited, scared, anxious, mad, in love, etc. Don’t cater to anyone else when it comes to your purchases. Life is too short and records are too expensive.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Before you start building your precious collection, you need to invest in a record player. There are many that you can find online from $50 all the way to $350. You don’t have to buy the fanciest record player in order to have a great audio experience, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. My first record player I got was a Victrola 6-in-1 Record Player. It was what I got during my freshman year in college at UW-Eau Claire and it served me well for those dorm room days, but the sound quality wasn’t the best and many of my records were rather wobbly while playing on it. I didn't find this out until later in life, but all of that wobbling and moving around can scratch and damage your records. Once I got more serious in collecting, I switched over to an Audio-Technica turntable which was roughly $175. I bought some Klipsch R-41M Bookshelf speakers to go along with it for $120. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your budget. An important thing to keep in mind is that a solid record player paired with good speakers is going to make your listening experience all that much better.
After you have your setup purchased, now it’s time to start collecting those albums!
WHERE TO BUY YOUR ALBUMS
Start by looking for albums at garage sales and thrift stores. No, these places won’t have the newest Taylor Swift album, but it’s a start. Maybe you find an album that helped define your childhood or one your grandparents had on. Build a solid foundation of some of these older records first and then start making your way to the stores. I’m a little biased here, but I want to urge you to try to shop from independent record stores. The people that work in these stores live for music. Most will share their thoughts on artists and bands that they enjoy right along with you. Most will also show you how to properly care for/clean your vinyl if you ask. I know that can seem a little intimidating at first, but trust me, it’s worth it. You’ll build connections with these people whether it’s the shop owner or an employee and you’ll truly get to know more about one other through the musical discussions you have. It’s just another reason why buying vinyl is better than just downloading music onto your phone or device.
Again, I’m not saying you can’t buy from retail stores. I know Walmart, Target and Best Buy now offer vinyl records in their music department. I bought some recently when Walmart had their $15 an album sale. (Gasp!) This may be your best option depending on where you live and if there’s an independent record store close to you. You may also turn to Amazon to buy these albums as well. I’ve done that a time or two. But if given the choice, please buy from local record shops. Music is all about connection and becomes very sterile when purchased online or in big retail stores. If these local record stores die, then big corporations win and then we’re all sellouts.
Music is such an enormous part of our lives. It’s played in our vehicles, at the stores we shop at, at the events we go to, and in our homes. When we have control of what music is being played under our own roof, let’s make it the best possible—with vinyl.
- Dalton Hessel