Vinyl's are back in...
As well as popular fashion, which is currently seeing the Y2k comeback, and photography, which has seen the return of the film camera, the music world has become circular. Vinyls, in particular, are making a comeback. The year 2021 saw vinyl sales reach the highest they had been in 30 years, with most of this market being from Gen Z.
With the developments in the digital musical world, it comes as a surprise to some that sales in vinyl records are on the rise; Spotify allows you to listen to unlimited music wherever, whenever, for free, whereas vinyl records, and record players, tend not to come cheap. Vinyls are also actually pretty environmentally unfriendly, producing 12 times the greenhouse gas emissions as other physical forms of music media like CDs.
So, why the added expense? Is it a nostalgic longing for better times, before the pressures of technology had arrived? An Urban Outfitters aesthetic-fueled phenomenon? A relentless search to find some essence of individuality? A desire for that refined vinyl sound? Or, are you in it for the edgy posters that come with them? All are valid.
Films featuring record players could certainly be a reason behind the vinyl comeback. Vinyl discs and record players make frequent appearances in Ardolino’s 1987 film, Dirty Dancing, accompanying Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and Baby’s (Jennifer Grey) dance rehearsals. Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood can also be seen to position the record player in a glamorous context as Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, dances to ‘The Spirit of 67’ on vinyl whilst her honey-blonde hair bounces on her shoulders. Other influential movies featuring a record player include Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Chazelle’s La La Land (2016).
Whilst vinyls are impractical and some people just can’t see the point in them, they come with tangible benefits which are often overlooked for their aesthetic qualities. Vinyl provides listeners with a superior sound quality compared to digital formats. This is due to the fact that vinyl records are analog recordings and are not compressed in the way that CDs or other audio formats are, resulting in a sound which better resembles the original studio recording. It also lends vinyl a warmth and depth of sound, which you can’t find in other mediums. Some listeners also like vinyls for their little idiosyncrasies, such as the crackles which sound when the stylus passes over bits of dust which have found their way onto the surface of the vinyl. Their assets suggest that the vinyl aesthetic isn't the only reason why they have been outselling CDs.
Whether or not the smooth sound of the vinyl warrants the expense and the hassle, with the resurgence of the record, it seems that people are clinging, more and more, onto the past.
Words: Meg Hughes