Is the return of vinyl just a myth?

I thought I’d respond to this Digital Music News post showing the decline in vinyl sales since 1973. The post has provoked comments such as “This chart puts the ‘vinyl revolution’ into perspective” and the sarcastic “Haha ‘Le retour du vinyle’”.

Firstly lets face the hard facts…digital formats, in particular MP3’s do have many advantages over vinyl; MP3’s are cheap to produce, easy to distribute and very convenient. They give you the ability to take your entire collection of music anywhere you wish and backing up your collection is a hardly an effort. There is no denying that digital formats are fantastic for the every day consumption of music.

When you talk of a vinyl revolution people are referring to the sharp jolt in sales that occurred from 2007 to 2008 and the consistent growth that has happened since then. This is phenomenal because logically vinyl should be dead by now. It has been 20 years since vinyl stopped being the preferred method of consuming music and not many households even have a record player anymore. So why is there a slowly reversing trend in vinyl sales? Well ironically I believe it’s actually due the Mp3 and online distribution sites like iTunes. Whilst you can’t deny the practicality of an MP3, it is hard to love something that is essentially a series of one and zeros and it’s the people who truly love music who are purchasing vinyl. It may be that your first vinyl purchase in 20years was the new Radiohead album or you may go digging for hip hop records every weekend, either way when you purchased vinyl it’s a purchase you can be proud of, it’s something you can love. The CD was able to replace vinyl because it also was a more practical medium, the Mp3 is now replacing the CD because of its practicalities but in this transition from CD to MP3 we have lost some of the things we love dearly about music, things that vinyl did best.

I don’t think vinyl will ever die, but it will never outsell MP3’s. It will simply continue on being a niche product that hardcore fans indulge in. However it does look likely that it will be the CD that falls by the wayside and goes the way of the 8track cassette. CDs have similar short comings to vinyl in practical terms but lack the sentimental warmth that you get from a vinyl record. So as record labels look for new ways to cheaply distribute and yet actively engage loyal fans, and as record stores look for ways to overcome the monopoly that iTunes is quickly becoming, you should see more of your favourite artists immortalised on glorious card board sleeves on the shelves of your local record store.

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One response to “Is the return of vinyl just a myth?

  • fishriderrecords

    Good to see some sensible comment on this graphic. I hate how so many people see things like this and leap to conclusions without stopping to think. These things always look like they prove some point or other on first viewing. However, once you remove all the K-Tel compilations, Solid Gold Hits, TOTP chart-topper comps and all the chart pop albums and singles and so on, I’m pretty sure you would find that the “obscure alternative weirdo music” part of the comparison for example would be a lot better. Up until the late 80s vinyl (and to a lesser extent cassette) was the ONLY format. Now there are multiple formats. Bulk chart commodity sellers today (eg: Beiber, No Direction etc.) are very unlikely to be consumed as vinyl by those masses. They will take their disposable pop in the cheapest and most disposable format available. However, among music enthusiasts, collectors, genre specialists etc. vinyl is definitely returning to a viable format choice. So, yes, the graph is very interesting, but it is also completely meaningless.

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