Vinyl makes a comback

Nathan Baldwin, Editor

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If you were to explain to someone from the 1970s or 80s that analog synthesizers, instant cameras, and vinyl records are all the rage,  they might think that time is frozen.

The reason time might seem frozen is that America is  currently deep in an era of revivalism dubbed the “Analog Revival” with numerous trends now making a major comeback, but none more than vinyl.

It is estimated by The Wall Street Journal that Fujifilm sold roughly 5 million copies of their popular “Instax” analog cameras in the fiscal year of 2016 and an additional 6.3 million copies in 2017.

This number pales in comparison to the number of new records sold during that same time. According to the German statistical research company, Statista, 2017 saw the sale of approximately 14.3 million records in the United States alone.

That number is up 13.4 million from the number of vinyl records sold in 2005 that numbered just 0.9 million copies. Anyone would be shocked by such a seemingly random and sharp upturn in sales, but what has caused this revival of century old technology?

Senior Gracie Denbow offered an inside look into this trend.  She said to her the main appeal of records for most people is, “… it appeals to their sense of nostalgia in having a record player.”

Meanwhile, Senior Baylee Roberson agreed and offered another reason for favoring record players is “the gratification of having physical copies of music.”

IB English teacher Emily Swank offered yet another perspective on this trend.  She said, “I’ve always listened to albums track by track. I really like of listening to concept albums. I’m into stories and theatrics so it’s cool to listen to the themes throughout the whole album instead of a bunch of individual and different songs.”

Denbow added, “Plus it just looks nice to have compared to most speakers; it’s a nice decoration and has a good use.”

It’s easy to understand her point. Record players, new and old,  can prove to be a signature piece of any room that both serve a function as a speaker and as decor for a competitively low cost.

Those looking to get a new record player only need to take a short trip in person or online to Target. Target currently sales a selection of different colored record players for $69.99 that can function as not just a record player, but as also a Bluetooth speaker and as decor. Record players provide more than just a way to play music, they also involve a different way to shop for music.

One of the largest draws to going back to vinyl for some is the experience of going to old record stores to get your records. Places such as Cinda Lou’s in Uptown allow students to step out of time and into the past where they can enjoy a vast selection of music on vinyl while shopping in a nostalgic environment.

Denbow said the main reason she had gotten into records was because she grew up going with her parents to different record stores; stores where she eventually first listened to vinyl and got into buying records for herself.

With the rise of online streaming, teens now get their music primarily from an online store on their phones with no real world interaction, detached from those around them.  On the other hand, the trip to a record store with friends provides an opportunity to go shopping and interact more with the local community.

If you’re worried about the apparent cost of records, Denbow had an answer for that too. “Record pricing is the same issue as buying CDs in that there may be a slightly increased cost; but in return, you get your own personalized collection made by you,” Denbow said.

One long running point of debate between record players and other ways of listening to music, such as earbuds has been sound quality. Many supporters of vinyl insist that the vinyl records have superior sound quality while opponents say that there is no real difference in the sound at all.

According to Denbow, however, “It’s strange to compare the two. Earbuds are just earbuds; whereas, record players are more like speakers so naturally it will give you different sounds.”

Swank joked, “They say records are more sensitive to studio sound. Digital loses most of the grit.”

For those looking to get in to vinyl, Denbow recommends asking your friends who are already into records to help you find a good selection of records and record players.

Swank conferred and added, “Ask your parents, and ask your grandparents first. It was a good way for me to connect to my grandma.”

Another good tip is to do your research on vinyl records. There are different types of vinyl, and you need to know the differences so you get what will best serve your needs.  

If you want advice or a place to buy records to begin your collection, local stores like A Gal named Cinda Lou or even large chain stores like Barnes and Noble provide a place to go to help you get started. Or better yet, strike up a conversation with Swank, South’s own record-playing teacher.