If you were a kid, teenager or young adult during the 80s or 90s, you would probably have several experiences of hustling to the record store whenever there were new releases, occasionally buy a record, pop it onto your turntable, and enjoy listening to the mesmerizing music. This experience is something reminisce these days, because it is considered obsolete.
While listening to music is still a preferred pastime or interest for almost all individuals, it is just that people don’t have the push, or rather don’t want to, buy a record. In a world where digital music, which is easy to play as well as transfer, is available on every medium possible and has been growing in popularity, spending money on records just seems crazy for many.
But, are vinyl records really obsolete?
Not really. Vinyl records are actually seeing a resurgence, as estimated by the growth in sales of these records in the past few years. Maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve heard about the revival of vinyl. The reasons behind this could be a bit puzzling. Though people don’t really have to purchase vinyl records, many are now starting to do so. Why? Why would you come forward to pay $20 or more for a vinyl that plays only on at least a decent turntable, which requires another investment from you, when you can listen to the same album for free with digital clarity on a streaming service?
If you are one of those music lovers who cannot be convinced to buy a physical format of music, then you are absolutely right; there is no proper reason to encourage people to buy music. Yes, there is always the ethical argument about artists having to make a living, but that doesn’t really change people’s mentality when it comes to spending money if they don’t have to.
Today, you can access to a lot of subscription-based music services, such as Spotify and Pandora, that are affordable for most people and are easy to subscribe for as well, and these services can be accessed wherever you are and on any device you use. Though these music streaming services do not have everything, they have just enough for what an average music lover expects.
Even with these arguments, vinyl records are no longer considered obsolete and there are some strong reasons for the same:
As you know, vinyl records have been in existence for over six decades already, which simply means it involves a lot of nostalgia. Just think about it, as long as you have a good quality turntable and needle, you have the privilege listening to the some of the most famous and even rarest records that your grandparents once owned and enjoyed listening to. It doesn’t end there; you then get to pass on those classics to your children and the nostalgia will remain for generations to come.
On the other hand, the resurgence of vinyl records has made a lot of artists to take the step of producing music that are recorded digitally to vinyl. Obviously, the quality of sound of these vinyl records wouldn’t be the same as that of your traditional vinyl; however, these will sound warmer and are a hit among a distinct audience base.
Quality of Sound
This is perhaps one of the first points you hear when you listen to people arguing about vinyl vs digital audio. Let’s get practical here; vinyl has withstood the test of time and has competed with almost all formats of audio, from 8-track tape to cassettes to our modern digital audio, and this wouldn’t have been possible if it isn’t for the amazing quality of sound from vinyl records. Sounds from vinyl records are naturally warmer, deeper, and richer than what you hear from a streaming service. This is because songs get hyper-compressed to be converted to digital and played on the radio, and this greatly reduces the overall spirit and depth of the music.
Another major factor that contributes to bringing back vinyl records is their primitiveness; by simply putting a needle on a record, you get to enjoy high quality and extremely rich music and have an immersive listening experience. You don’t have to deal with any technical details, whether it is to connect a set of speakers, change the settings to achieve clearer sound, or anything similar. Also, you don’t have to worry about your computer, tablet, or smartphone not supporting certain audio file formats or having to deal with digital rights management or downloading pirated files.
People who like to have physical ownership are moving towards vinyl because it gives them a fulfilling experience than purchasing digital audio or even CD for that matter. Ask someone who owns and loves playing and listening to vinyl records and you will find them at a loss for words when asked to describe what makes them love this format of music. The whole experience you get from owning vinyl records is more intimate than you know.
Another unconventional reason for vinyl records to not be considered obsolete is the artistry involved. Artistry in vinyl records? Yes, the sheer size of vinyl record covers and inserts, which is substantial than that of CDs or cassettes, makes them an ideal platform for creating artwork. As a matter of fact, there are people who collect records just for the artistry work on their covers and inserts and for them, the rich music that accompanies is just a satisfying bonus.
All said and done, some people still tend to hesitate considering the point that vinyl records are feeble. Yes, they are! Vinyl records are prone to scratches; however, it only adds to the charm of the records, and not to forget, their warmth and character as well. After all, there is nothing in this world without imperfections, and this is one of the few that vinyl records come with. This takes us back to the point of nostalgia; older vinyl records, due to their distorted nature, make needles wobble and their scratches often get skipped. Again, this is part of the charm. But, think about it, handing these over to your kids is something you could be proud of, which cannot be achieved by handing over a hard drive full of music.
The demand for vinyl records is expected to grow at a constant pace that Sony, known as the biggest producer of vinyl records at one point in time, has plans on bringing back vinyl records, after a long lapse of 28 years. And to cater audiences of different categories, vinyl records today come with codes, with which buyers can download digital version of the music online. In fact, this has been the case in almost all vinyl records that came out in the past couple of years, and more is yet to come.
So, do we think vinyl records are obsolete? No! But, there is a catch here. The points discussed above pertaining to why vinyl records are most likely to gain in popularity and survive, in some cases, attribute to only a specific percentage of the population. Therefore, for its survival to last, people in the music industry will need to come up with ways to encourage to pay for this physical audio format, making them understand that it is worth paying for.