Vinyl: Rising from the Grave

I honestly never understood much about vinyl until a few years ago. Growing up, when I first started listening to the music that I really liked, rather than whatever my parents had playing on the radio, I listened to CDs. After a couple of years I had a CD collection of about 40 different albums.

But those days were short lived. By the end of eighth grade, my CD buying had come to a halt and all my music was stored on my computer and played on my fancy new MP3 player.

It was just a few years ago that I discovered that a tiny needle moving through the grooves of a vinyl was what produced the sound you hear with a record player, and I was a bit shocked and confused. Somehow, learning the concept of analog music seemed more bizarre and amazing to me than when I thought about the way digital music players worked. Even now, at 22 years old, both digital and analog music technologies still blow my mind.

That’s why I find it really interesting that vinyl sales have increased so much these last few years. Nielsen SoundScan reported that in 2014, 9.2 million vinyl albums were sold in the U.S., which is a 52 percent increase from 2013. Vinyl records haven’t been this popular since the late 1980s, making this boost in sales known as “the vinyl revival.” Unfortunately, album sales as a whole, including CDs and digital sales, dropped by 11 percent from 2013 to 2014due to the rising popularity of streaming.

The most heatedly debated topic between analog fans and digital fans is the difference in sound between the two formats, with most people claiming that vinyl simply sounds better than digital music. I’m no expert, but I can hear a slight difference between the two – though I think liking one sound over another is a very subjective experience, and that such a subtle difference doesn’t take anything away from the music itself.

But the difference for me now is that instead of thinking of vinyl records as something only older generations used, I’m learning that there are actually certain aspects to them that I admire and enjoy.

I didn’t ever think about it until my boyfriend got me a record player this past Christmas, and for the first time ever, I had a reason to go buy some records. I thought it was fun because it felt almost like going on a treasure hunt. You either eventually find the one record you really wanted, or you still have a good time looking through a bunch of crates, stumbling upon old albums you used to love but had forgotten about over time.

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Photo by Chase DuBose

I like the fact that when you buy a vinyl album, you now have a piece of physical artwork to hold on to and be proud of. When you download an album on iTunes or stream it on Spotify, you don’t have the opportunity to open up something and say, “Ooh, how pretty!”

Maybe it’s just me, but I love album cover artwork. It adds to the excitement of acquiring something new, and I miss spending hours examining those little foldup paper covers that came with my old CDs. I also like the fact that you can’t just press “next” and skip to a different song. When you listen to an album on vinyl, you’re going to hear the whole thing from start to finish, just as the artist constructed it.

Obviously none of this means that I’m going to stop listening to digital music, or that I think anyone else should. How could I possibly enjoy my drive to work without the music streaming off my cell phone? I know that vinyl will never be what it once was, and maybe this whole vinyl revival is just a fad, but it’s nice that even younger people from my generation are starting to see the appeal that vinyl undoubtedly still possesses.