Not that this will be much of a surprise to many of use, but in 2009 the sales of Vinyl LP’s is at the highest level that it’s been since they’ve been tracked separately from cd’s in 1991. Okay, so they aren’t even one percent, but I still like it! Strangely, nearly my entire history with record collecting has seemingly taken during the decline, as I didn’t start really accumulating them until about 1993.
What I like even more about this increase is the thought that more turntables might become available. For a while there it seemed like high-end and low-end were the only, options, with few models readily available in the mid-price range. While I am using a nice Technics right now, it is a loaner and it might be nice to get a reasonably priced new one rather than replace the broken motor on my Rega.
The New York Times has an article about it, the cleverly titled Vinyl Records and Turntables Are Gaining Sales, that is pretty thorough. Though you could still read it and not realize that most everything (especially major label-wise) has continually been produced on vinyl this whole time. Sure, maybe it would be import vinyl, but it has still been out there.
One thing this leads me to think about, which I think is one of the key elements of this, is that digital media isn’t, well, real. It’s just a stream of zero’s and one’s that can be easily reproduced eternally. A record (and the jacket and liner notes that goes with it) is an actual unique physical object, not eternal, not reproducible. Even if there are a million copies of that record, each one is in itself a unique and one of a kind object. I don’t think that the resurgence of records is all about nostalgia (though, some of it certainly is), but in an era where digital technology has cheapened things and devalued what it means to possess something, I think that some people are thinking that it would be nice to genuinely own a piece of music that you like (and the ephemera that goes along with it), rather than just an endlessly reproducible copy of it.
Though you could make the same argument about CD’s, the small format of the packaging is certainly less endearing, and, at its core, it is still just a digital blob. Try and play a CD with no electricity and you won’t get much. Records on the other hand… The music is still in there.