Trend of the Year: Loving Glorious Vinyl
Ahead of getting my turntable on, I still bought music when I could, but wasn’t really all that excited about doing so. Sure, I’d get to the store when a favourite band put out something new, but that felt more like an obligation than an experience. Same can be said for purchasing digital downloads – there’s zero fun in that.
But with vinyl (especially special/limited edition runs with unique colours, packaging, tracking, etc.), the feeling of buying music again has increased to a level reminiscent of when I spent my teenage years blowing allowances and minimum wage paycheques on CDs. They were still new and not yet so bland to the senses.
Record Store Day has a ton to do with vinyl’s regained attractiveness. Such an initiative has managed to put music nerds, nerdy musicians, independent record stores, labels of all shapes and sizes, plus critics, into one big room that feels more like a theme park than a boring, dusty, and dated library. Together, we gloat and have geeky spasms.
When this day hits, I get a nervous feeling. I know what I want to buy, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll be found at the stores visited. However, even when that type of disappointment hits at a given store, it is quickly replaced by one of elation when an unexpected treasure greets your eye.
Surely, I’m not the only one that feels this way.
Last week, it was reported that vinyl sales in the US increased 49% in 2014, when compared to 2013 figures. In all, Americans scooped up 7.9 million records, which is great for listeners, but tough for manufacturers who want to keep up, but are still not convinced that the vinyl bubble will burst sooner than later.
What an artist does with his or her vinyl release has also become a new entry on the tale of the tape. Jack White, for instance, released his new album Lazaretto on a three-speed vinyl; recorded, manufactured and put out a 7” in less than four hours; and continually offered fans the opportunity to purchase ridiculously cool, limited edition box sets like our recently evaluated copy of his 2014 Bonnaroo package. He began to move the bar, if not set it.
In Canada, retailer hmv Canada has gotten aboard the vinyl gravy train. During a recent Riffyou.com interview with company CEO and President, Nick Williams, he explained that some of his stores’ music selection is 20% vinyl. In all, the format makes up 5-7% of the entertainment retailer’s business.
“People who have never experienced vinyl are discovering what it is…and it’s a unique experience,” said Williams. “That’s the thing that everyone has missed: you can re-invent the landscape and try to find new ways to service the market, but the consumer will be the one to tell you what they do or don’t want.”
Williams brings up a great point: shoppers will prove with their wallets what they desire most. As a music journalist, most of the music I receive comes free from labels and artists – that’s just the nature of the business. But, I still went out in 2014 and probably spent upwards of $500 on vinyl. Why? Well, Record Store Day (x2) did most of the damage, but generally the whole vinyl experience has been too captivating to ignore.
Let’s be honest about something here: the worrywarts who think that vinyl’s next demise is imminent, haven’t spoken to those who go out of their way to claim wax trophies. We are an odd, not always fiscally responsible crew, but damn it, we love being excited about buying music again.
Click here to view the rest of our Best of 2014 selections.