Vinyl Makes a Comeback

vinyl lovers

For years, you've heard me bitching and moaning about the death of vinyl and the ungodly shittiness of digital music.  When I hear that, in the past year, CD sales plummeted another 20 percent and vinyl rose by 14 percent, it gives me hope.  When I walk into Best Buy and see hundreds of records, I am even further encouraged.  There may be a light at the end of a decades long tunnel.

Let me recount a few of the innumerable reasons vinyl is better.  I know I've said all this before, but it's time for a refresher...

1. Analog sounds better than digital.  Just ask the Foo Fighters who just recorded a fully analog LP.  It's a warmer, fuller, more organic sound.  When it's played at a high volume on a great stereo, there's simply no comparison to digital.  It's like crappy Van Helsing level CGI vs. live action.  One is just sterile and fake, the other is the real deal. 
2. Album art is miles better on a record.  The canvas is bigger with vinyl; whereas the canvas on a CD is drink coaster size, and with mp3 is nonexistent. 
3. Vinyl is tangible.  You're more likely to purchase something you can hold in your hand, and possibly keep for years, versus something that is as insubstantial as air.

Vinyl record.... and pants.
4. Vinyl lasts longer.  Vinyl may get scratched, but it's rarely a fatal injury.  More often than not, there's just a brief crackle.  Pour bongwater on a CD and it's ruined; pour it on a record and it's cleaned. 
5. Buy a Sabbath record and you've got something special.  Download a Sabbath album on iTunes and you're just another asshole who actually paid money for Sabbath songs. 
6. Albums were cohesive pieces of art - you didn't always purchase them for one song.  You listened to the whole damned thing because it was too much effort to skip to the next track, and you grew to appreciate every song.  CDs and mp3s are all about the one or two songs that make big piles of cash; the rest are throwaway fillers. 
7. You can collect vinyl; collecting CDs is about as ridiculous as collecting cassette tapes.
OK. One thing vinyl is not is "portable". As mobile devices become exponentially more and more a part of our lives, the more important the mp3 becomes.  I get that.  You will never get rid of digital music - the genie is out of the bottle.  However, the writing on the wall says that, ultimately, no one will pay money for digital music.  It's an unstoppable flood - the shut down of Napster years back was a hilarious joke.  It may have made Lars Ulrich feel better, but everyone knew it was nothing more than a temporary victory.

No, the only way people are ever going to pay for music is if the format changes.  Digital music is too easily swiped, too sterile and lifeless, and feels too much like you're buying nothing.  There will always be a place for it, but artists and record companies will never get rich off it.  Is there a single chain music store in your entire city that's still open? Tower Records, Turtles, Camelot, Sam Goody all went bye-bye; FYE bought many out, but sales have been steadily slipping.

I think he can hear you

And, frankly, the amount spent on iTunes doesn't nearly account for the losses in chain music store sales. In fact, the iTunes impact has been vastly overrated. Amazon still sells more CDs than Apple sells downloads.  Paying hard earned money for an iTunes download will just never catch on like the media thought it would.  It's a rip off any way you slice it.  We don't want the recording artists to get shafted, but in this day and age when no one gives half a shit about the "art", I wouldn't bank on the populace forking over cash to help out "artists" like Lil' Wayne and Lady Gaga.

Most people simply have just stopped buying music altogether. So, if you were a record company in the year 2000, you basically had two choices: (1) adapt to the new world or (2) hire an expensive legal team and start suing.  We all know what option they chose, and thus all are either dead, dying or swallowed by Viacom.

So, if you're going to start making money selling music, it's probably not the best strategy in the world to close your eyes and pray for digital music to go away.  Perhaps, it's time to hype up another format - a format that is far far different than digital.  One that you can hold in your hands, collect, and even grow attached to.  That format is vinyl.... and it seems like the record companies and retail chains are finally starting to catch on.

If only they had been reading Retrospace, they would have found out sooner.

put the needle in the groove


  1. I love the "Van Helsing CGI vs. live action" analogy! I hated the sound of CDs when they first came out, but knew I had to adapt or stop listening to music since the LPs got shoved out of the record stores. I used to cherish my LPs just like I cherish my books now. I'm really dreading that eBooks will create the same environment that downloadable music has. Everything is becoming soulless, disposable crap.

  2. As you know, I LOVE vinyl. One thing I miss is when you open a brand new album (even many older ones), the whiff of fresh vinyl was like no other smell. I love it. CD don't have that, and MP3s sure don't. The art, as you pointed out is fantastic. I hear people complain about the hiss and pop, but I have several album that don't make any noise. For those of us with real stereos, nothing beats vinyl.

  3. Oh yeah, vinyl!

    Hello darkness (pop) my old friend
    I've come to (pop) (pop) talk with you again
    (hissssss) Because a vision softly (pop) creeping
    Left its seeds while (pop) (pop) I was sleeping
    And (pop) (pop) (pop) (pop) the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains (hissssss)
    Within the sound... the sound... the sound... the sound... the sound
    (pop) (boom) of silence

  4. I'll never forget the last 'vinyl' I bought, it was 1980, I was a senior in high school--John Lennon & Yoko Ono's "Double Fantasy". (To be honest, I can't even remember why as everything else I had bought that year was on those newfangled cassette tapes!)

    Anyway--I can't stop laughing at Paradiddle's post up there! He isn't being very 'vinyl romantic', is he... :)

  5. Just having a laugh.

    I confess, I recently downloaded an mp3 recorded from vinyl with crackles & pops in it. The sound is great and I sort of got nostalgic listening to the noise of a record. Strange.

  6. Here in London I'm hoovering up all the classic vinyl I can find. In charity shops you can find LPs for £1, singles for 50p - cheaper than the (paid for) mp3s, and so much more cherishable!

  7. "Vinyl VS. Compact Disc"...

    This is a subject that varies for me. On the one hand, I like the historical aspect of albums on vinyl -- especially in regards to album cover art.

    On the other hand, I also like the sound quality that can be heard in the digital remastering process.

    I think both vinyls and compact discs still have a place in the recording industry.

  8. P.S. --

    The two main photos for this posting look a little suspicious to me. The second image (above the last photo) has me wondering what's on these young ladies' minds, especially when there's a statuette of two elephants in the act of procreating in the background LOL.

  9. I'm laughing my ass off because I know where you got the first three photosin this article from, a little A4 sized "Colour" magazine from Scandinavia.....

  10. I go to estate sales and thrift stores and find wonderful vinyl. Do I stop to look at what is available on CD? No. I never even spend a moment looking at used CDs. Vinyl will always be nostalgic for me and warmer. I get the convenience of MP3 and CDs, but right now I'm so loving the old Bobby Darin album I bought for 80 cents last week. Only the second album he ever cut. It's nice thinking of the history of the actual object and the excitement the original owner felt when they heard "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea" for the first time on their record player. Mind you, not stereo. Hi-Fidelity.

  11. The New York Times today has an article about a place in NJ that presses LPs


    Shredding old LP's to make new ones? Arrrgghh....I want to look through their reject pile!

  12. I do find it very odd that the majority of people get their music by way of iTunes these days, but yet there are young people out there buying records. I've never owned an iPod, nor do I want one.

    I wonder if it will last. I understand that the upswing is due to hip kids deciding it is cool to buy records. I've heard there are even those who buy records, but don't own a turntable.

    The other day was record store day. Timely post.

    I've been buying records since about 1974.

  13. You are "right on" that "analog sounds better than digital....a warmer, fuller...sound." I started collecting vinyl back in the early 1960s...was a member of the Columbia Record Club & still have most of the albums I bought then...In the early 70s I became a big fan of James Taylor, Carole King & Carly Simon & still have & play those albums. Within the past year I ran across James Taylor's "Covers" album on vinyl...it was like going back in time listening to recently recorded music the way it used to sound...as you say...using good sound equipment.
    As far as my old albums, I confess to getting a calm, relaxing feeling from listening to the pops & cracks in the background & when converting vinyl to CD/MP3 like to leave them in. This was a great article. Thanks.

  14. I'm 16 and a big classic rock fan, and I started collecting vinyl because of that. I live in Brazil, so CDs of my favorite bands are usually imported, special editions and/or rereleases, so they're too expensive and hard to find...
    I also buy CDs when I can, but records are a lot classier - not to mention the thrill that is digging up something you like at a second hand store.

  15. Lola,

    You are right. I like to find records that way.

  16. Such a great post. I love vinyl. Just look at my blog's name! :)

  17. Alas, it's a fad. The younguns have latched onto their parent's music and listening mode, but, I think in a few years, the vinyl resurge being seen now, will fade again.

    Consider, in 2009, there were sales reported of 2.5million vinyl LPs - a growth of 300% since 2006. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9187001/Forget_digital_tunes_analog_music_on_the_upswing

    Then, in Feb 2010, Apple reported that they had sold more than 10 Billion iTUne downloads. http://www.tgdaily.com/consumer-electronics-brief/48578-never-ending-itunes-sales-tally-hits-10-billion

    Even if you take the 10 Billion ind. songs from iTunes - say, divide by 10 for an album worth - you're talking. what, 3-4 million vinyl LPs, to 1 BILLION iTune albums?

    Unfortunately, I think this is the last great hurrah of vinyl. I (regretfully) sold my 400 vinyl LPs a few years ago, but now, my twenty-something son has over 200 of his own. I think that's the way this will fade away ... a few stubborn adherents, vs. a swelling tide of another medium.

    Spin 'em if you got 'em!

    1. AnonymousJuly 29, 2012

      Why is it a fad for younger people, but for your son (who IS a younger person)it's a few stubborn adherents? No disrespect intended, just curious...

  18. I know exactly what you mean about the sound quality...there's something so much more rich and substantial about vinyl quality. A lot of people wouldn't even know or remember or appreciate the deep bass sound systems and acoustically superior music platform that was the standard before CD digital sound started to change that musical sensibility. I guess it became an issue of sound "convenience" over sound "personality"...

  19. Amazon.com has even had an all vinyl "store" for a few years now.

    Now if only the record store would make a comeback! I think you've just inspired my next post...

  20. For me its a toss up between the pops and cracks of vinyl vs. the ka-chunk between tracks on my 8track player...but in my opinion, both are far superior to digital.

  21. It is important the discussion of vinyl to separate the "nostalgic" feeling that the pops and crackles give you from the actual sonic superiority that the medium certainly does possess.
    When CDs came out they sounded like crap. They didn't have the "algorithm" right. The high end sounded harsh because not enough bits were being assigned to describe the complexities that occur in that part of the frequency spectrum. Eventually this was corrected, although not enough to compete with vinyl sound wise.
    When MP3s came out they sounded awful for the same reason. There is a cap to how many 1s and 0s an MP3 can have so the problem was eventually "solved" by assigning more 1s and 0s away from the bass (wave forms are longer and less complex in the bass frequencies and require less bits to describe) into the treble frequencies. The problem is that they sound better but still sound like crap when compared to anything else. They will never sound any better.

    When I was in my early 20's and CD's had settled in I had a friend whose stepfather was a serious audiophile. Expensive speakers/turntable/cd player everything - thousands of dollars. The pre-amp was a table of tubes. He put on the CD of Miles Davis' "Live at the Apollo" sat us down in just the right spot pushed play and the sound blew us away. "Pretty good eh? he said. We nodded enthusiastically. Then he took out the vinyl LP of the same recording and put that on and the sound went through the roof - it was transcendent. No comparison.

  22. Some excellent points being made here. The naysayers seem to think the vinyl resurgence is a fad.... and I agree. The history of pop music is made up of one fad followed by another fad. If vinyl is the next fad, I suggest record companies roll with it.

    To anonymous who mentioned that itunes sold 10 billion songs - that was over 67 months. That's roughly 150 songs million a year. At 99 cents a song, that's not exactly impressive. In fact, any way you slice it, total music sales are way way way down.

    Also, album sales are at an all time low - the lowest since they started tracking album sales. Singles are up - but the big money is in the album. An artist is only getting paid for their hits - maybe 1 or 2 songs off an album if their album - that's $1.98 split between dozens of different parties. No - there's not a lot to feel positive about in the record industry in terms of digital downloads..... unless you happen to be Apple.

  23. Gilligan, please make the next Retrospace mixtape downloadable in vinyl.

  24. I thought I would share this...years ago my boyfriend and I wanted to compare the sound of an 8track vs. CD. He was convinced that the CD would sound better. I popped in my 8track and we both had to admit, the sound was crisp and clear and louder (at the same volume) as the CD. Sadly though, most 8-tracks were cheaply made so their deterioration would affect the sound quality. Guess the manufacturers thought they were a fad, so most were poorly made and the tapes would easily break. If you have an 8track in excellent condition, it will sound fantastic.

  25. A part of one day a week is spent cruising the thrift shops for old vinyl. Scored a few really valuable (monetarily and aesthetically) albums that way, though many of the stores have personnel who now exactly what things are worth so pickings are slim, based I believe on the employee savvy. While I look for cover art primarily I've been surprised by some great lost and forgotten music.

  26. Totally agree of course!
    I'd never pay for a digital download to be listened on my portable mp3 player. I'd rather spend my money on good new or vintage vinyl records. But sure I need both, I couldn't live without my music on train or car...

  27. Mercedes Benz C32 AMG Supercharger
    I would really like your post ,it would really explain each and every point clearly well thanks for sharing.