This is a second revival for vinyl. The first, in the late 1990s, was driven largely by dance music. Teenagers bought Technics turntables and dreamed of becoming disc jockeys in Ibiza. But being a DJ is difficult and involves lugging heavy crates. Many have now gone over to laptops and memory
These days the most fervent vinyl enthusiasts are mostly after rock music. Chris Muratore of Nielsen, a research firm, says a little over half the top-selling vinyl albums in America this year have been releases by indie bands such as Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. Last year’s bestselling new vinyl album was “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. Most of the other records sold are reissues of classic albums. Those idiosyncratic baby-boomers who were persuaded to trade in their LPs for CDs 20 years ago are now being told to buy records once again.
What is going on? Oliver Goss of Record Pressing, a San Francisco vinyl factory, says it is a mixture of convenience and beauty. Many vinyl records come with codes for downloading the album from the internet, making them more convenient than CDs. And fans like having something large and heavy to hold in their hands. Some think that half the records sold are not actually played.
Vinyl has a distinction factor, too. “It is just cooler than a download,” explains Steve Redmond, a spokesman for Britain’s annual Record Store Day. People used to buy bootleg CDs and Japanese imports containing music that none of their friends could get hold of. Now that almost every track is available free on music-streaming services like Spotify or on a pirate website, music fans need something else to boast about. That limited-edition 12-inch in translucent blue vinyl will do nicely.