Is Vinyl Making a Comeback?

According to a New York Times article published last month, vinyl is making a comeback. Record manufacturers, including some holdovers from vinyl’s heyday, say they’re running at full capacity and still unable to complete all the orders they have.  Quality Record Pressings, a small Kansas upstart, ran about 900,000 copies last year and hasn’t spent any money on advertising.  But before you get excited, keep reading.

Why the change?

Josh Bizar of Music Direct points to a new crop of hipster listeners.  “We get kids calling us up and telling us why they listen to vinyl, and when we ask them why they don’t listen to CDs, they say, ‘CDs? My dad listens to CDs — why would I do that?’ ” While sales are on track to reach 5.5 million in 2013, the big picture isn’t as rosy.

Record Store Day 2013 turned in some remarkable numbers: indie stores saw a 59% jump over the previous week’s sales and overall, sales were up 3% from Record Store Day 2012.  However, Nielson SoundScan estimates that only 1.4% of music sales can be attributed to vinyl, and CD sales are declining.  Digital downloads are clearly increasing, and the vast majority of those are (shudder) mp3s.  Aside from reissues, bands like Radiohead, Vampire Weekend, and even electronic favorites like Daft Punk are selling record numbers of their albums in vinyl formats, yet when sales are examined, we find that vinyl sales the week after a new album is released drop off significantly.  For example, Daft Punk’s latest, “Random Access Memories” sold 19,000 units when it was released but sales declined a severe 86% the following two weeks.

music collection

Gazing into the crystal ball, audiophiles will find a better variety of new releases and reissues available on vinyl, but it’s probably not a bad idea to begin researching digital components and retailers that make high resolution digital copies available if you want to continue adding to your music collection well into the future.  Otherwise, it’s time to start honing your thrift store and garage sale “pick-thru” skills.

Do you think kids are buying vinyl because they’re interested in the sound or because they want to be ironically hip?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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