Vinyl Finds its Groove Again

The Southerner

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Back  in 1888, Emile Berliner invented the flat disc record. This technology was considered revolutionary considering what came before it. Instead of a three-minute track being stored on a cylinder that tended to be more than 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, an entire LP could be contained on a flat disk about 12 inches in diameter. Fast forward 130 years and we can store hundreds of albums on an iPod the size of a note card. Records were supposed to have become obsolete many years ago, and they almost did.

“[Back in the 90s] you couldn’t get [vinyl],”  said Richard Kyukun, a longtime employee of Wuxtry Records, a music store in Decatur , “It wasn’t made; it didn’t exist.”

But in the mid-2000s, a new trend appeared. Major record labels began to release their albums on vinyl, in addition to CD and digital, at a much higher volume than the limited edition releases of the’ 90s. Since then, the sales of vinyl records have skyrocketed. According to Nielsen Soundscan, one of the most widely used methods of tracking music sales, sales have jumped nearly 700 percent, since 2005. In 2013, vinyl records sales reached an all-time high totaling around 6 million in the U.S. alone. Now, vinyl is experiencing a resurgence of popularity that it hasn’t seen since the 1980s.

Record companies are taking a hint and are reprinting old classics and new hits alike on vinyl.

Why the renewed interest? After all, with smartphones, we can take our music wherever we go. Why embrace a system with very limited mobility and much greater possibility of skipping and jumping?

“Vinyl can sound very full and natural,” Kyukendall said.

Many people evidently agree. Vinyl collectors feel that the physical grooves in the disc give the music a more authentic sound.

The renewed interest might be explained in a word: nostalgia. This sentiment is the reason why antique stores exist. There is after all something very tactile and non technological about playing a vinyl record. In order to play a record, you have to physically select the song and the place in the song. Rather than pressing a button or tapping a screen, a person actually has to physically move the needle onto the desired position. This also creates more of a physical connection to the music, which enhances the experience for some people.

This is definitely not to say that records are perfect, they are anything but. Just like CDs, they are prone to scratching that can damage and ruin the songs. They generate a lot of static electricity while they play. This attracts nearby dust which can also cause skipping and repeating. Finally, and probably the most significant reason that vinyl records can never really make a full-fledged comeback is their inconvenience. They can never compare to the convenience of handheld device. To put that in a little better perspective, an iPod that weighs a couple ounces can store around 20 pounds of records worth of music so don’t throw away that iPod just yet. But if you lost your groove , consider a return to vinyl every once and a while.

By Eli Hendler and Conrad Newton

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