It’s no surprise that music downloads and CD sales are dropping due to the rise in popularity of music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. In the age of instant gratification, we expect to immediately access to all media, music not excluded. Streaming music can be easily accessed, searched, sorted and shared, with no storage necessary. And, most importantly, we can play it back almost immediately anywhere with an online connection.
Although the size of the overall album sales pie is decreasing, currently at 1.6 billion units per year, vinyl records still hold a piece of that pie. Like all good things that eventually resurface, vinyl records are making a comeback. Even with the instant access to online music, many audiophiles desire the tactile experience of fingering through shelved records, taking one out of its sleeve and softly laying the needle down onto it. The whole process just sounds sexy.
Rich Rapp, owner of Jacksonville independent record store, Deep Search, says listening to streaming music online is a desensitized experience in contrast to the somewhat ritualistic experience of listening to a record.
“If you’re sitting around with your friends you can’t easily jump from track to track, so you listen to side A all the way through, really immersing yourself in it, then flip it over and listen to side B,” said Rapp.
And he’s not the only one who finds pleasure in playing and listening to music that was recorded on a vinyl album. Vinyl record sales have grown steadily since 2007, and are currently 36 percent higher than last year’s figures. Search #vinyl on Instagram for 2.4 million images from people stoked on recent additions to their record collections. Whether it’s the physicality of selecting and playing the record, the visual memento of the cover art, or the warmer, deeper sound they produce, people are buying and listening to records. Some, when purchased, even come with a code to digitally download the album, since you can’t Bluetooth a turntable as easily as MP3s or an iPhone.
Vinyl sales skyrocket the week of Record Store Day (RSD) each year. (Yes, that’s a thing. It was April 19 this year.) Deep Search’s sales soared on RSD, hitting three times their best sales day to date. Annually on that day, several bands release albums on vinyl, exclusive to brick and mortar, independent record stores. Nostalgia-inducing soundtracks from flicks like “Ghostbusters” and “Jurassic Park” are getting re-released in recognition of movie anniversary milestones.
“Some people get down on RSD, saying it’s becoming too commercialized, but it keeps a lot of independent shops afloat that probably wouldn’t be otherwise,” said Rapp.
Billboard continues to publish weekly lists of the top vinyl LP sales and they read like a menu for a well-balanced music meal from an assortment of decades. Newer, talked-about releases like Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet” and Beck’s “Morning Phase” are paired with classic live albums from Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. They’re served with a side of the Ramones and washed down with Notorious B.I.G.’s “Life After Death.”
LPs, or long play records, play analog music and are known for their sometimes crackling sound. They’re made from polyvinyl chloride, the most widely used polymer. It’s the same plastic that credit cards, PVC pipe and most packaging is made from, among a plethora of other everyday items. Although much plastic ends up in landfills, indie record stores are snatching up old, used records and meeting the demand for retro recycled audio.
“People really enjoy the hunt for that elusive album,” said Rapp. “Nothing really compares to picking through a bin of records.”
In addition to Deep Search, Riverside’s 5 Points, DJ’s on the Westside and Yesterday’s at the Beach are local shops that are helping to perpetuate the vinyl comeback here in Jacksonville.