First, there was the record player. Then there was the reel-to-reel tape player. Then there was the 8-track player. Then there was the cassette tape, then CD players, and now… Now we have musical devices capable of playing or streaming music from several websites, such as Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music, to name only a few.
However, in the middle of all this technology, it’s record players and vinyl making a comeback, thanks to the nostalgia of the latest generation.
When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, I’m sure he never imagined it would live in the hearts and minds of so many for so long.
When the phonograph was invented, all that would play on them were wax rolls and they only recorded three or four minutes of sound at a time. However, time and research brought the world to vinyl records, capable of playing for over an hour, so long as you load more than one album at a time on the middle rod.
The business of recording and selling stereo LP (Long Play) albums became a huge industry in the 1960s. However the mid-1980s began to show a decline in sales, including albums posted on music streaming sites, as more streaming websites became available. This could be attributed to people having the ability to buy only one or two songs from an album, rather than entire records.
After a few decades of declining sales, vinyl/LP albums have suddenly become a billion-dollar industry, again. And to whom do the industry experts give the credit? Millennials.
Raised in a time when music is so readily available to a group of socially aware and socially conscious people, it’s no surprise this is happening. According to The Economist, the year 2015 showed the most growth in this industry since 1988, and it only continues to increase. In addition to the substantial surge in the sale of vinyl, 2015 was also a banner year for the sale of turntables, surpassed in sales of an audio device only by the iPhone. I mean, you have to listen to all this vinyl on something, right?
Another reason given is millennials are supportive of causes and one of those causes is “no illegal downloads.” In their minds, buying the album is supporting the artist, something they hold near to their hearts.
But here’s the thing… Millennials aren’t trolling thrift stores and garage sales for their LPs. They’re buying them in record stores, which are also making a comeback. Seeing this trend, many contemporary artists are releasing their albums in not just MP3 and CD formats; they’re also releasing vinyl. And their fans are eating it up with a spoon.
Millennials are people who prefer an experience above all else. What this means is, though they already have the music in the form of an MP3, owning and playing a record album gives them a hands-on encounter.
From the moment you pick the album up at the store, the experience begins. You take it home. You remove the shrink wrap covering it and your senses come alive. There’s nothing like the scent of a brand-new LP. It’s a combination of the shrink wrap, the cardboard cover, the ink from the album art, and the heady aroma of the vinyl.
In an instant, your senses are on alert. You remove the LP from the album cover and place it on your turntable. You gingerly set the needle onto the album and hear that first couple seconds of hiss as the needle finds the groove. You listen to the album several times – sometimes over the speakers, other times through your headphones. But each time it’s ethereal because being on vinyl makes it more real, more tangible, more worthy somehow.
Then the time comes to have friends over for a soirée and you play the record for them, inspiring conversation. Now your friends are excited to hear it and you bond with them over this shared moment. Days and weeks pass. You haven’t seen some of these friends in a while. But then you do. And when you do, they bring up the album you played and you grin a little, warm in the memory of that night. You talk for a few more minutes, mostly about stuff and nonsense, and your friend tells you they’re going to their local store right now to buy the album before they forget again. You wave goodbye and tell yourself you’re going to listen to the album while you make dinner or fold the laundry or simply as you sit on the sofa, feet on the coffee table, head thrown back, eyes closed, with a slight smile on your face as the music washes over you, bringing with it a feeling of comfort, like an old friend.
You can’t experience this with any other format for music. You can’t put on an MP3 and let it come through the speakers in quite the same way as vinyl. And this is why it’s as big as it is with this group. It’s real. It’s taking a bite out of life. It’s living in the moment. It’s the kind of experience millennials live for.