Let’s Get Physical… Media!

Recording the vinyl trend
By Olivia Levesque, Staff Writer

New Day Records. PC: Olivia Levesque.

New Day Records. PC: Olivia Levesque.

Although we aren’t completely living in the 2016 that Marty McFly envisioned, we are living in a time where almost everything is digital. Books, newspapers, and music have become things now found mainly in the depths of the internet. A terrifying thing—to some people, anyways. I know the things I tend to cherish as novelties in physical form (books) are now more common on kindles and phones than in print and covers. However, not all hope is lost for physical media. The vinyl craze is all the rage.

Everybody Loves a Good Comeback Story

More millennials are dusting off their parents crates of old records and setting up their own turn tables. More record labels are choosing to release their artists work on vinyl. The production and pressing of vinyl is on the rise. And, more record store businesses are finding a place in the economic market today. What is it about vinyl that everybody digs so much? There are many factors to this record resurgence. The vinyl experience is something that consumers just can’t have with digital downloads and online streaming. But, what is the vinyl experience? How is it different from listening to music through Apple music or Spotify? Well, to state the obvious, it’s physical. It seems to be about a profound connection between fan and artist. Something tangible and represents a whole. Dare I say it’s art? I decided to ask a few student spinners (of records, not bicycles) about what it is they love so much about purchasing and listening to music the vinyl way. Here’s what they had to say:

“I like the crackly sound it makes. I like that you can’t press a button to switch a track. You really get to appreciate every song and feel the flow of the album that way. Certain albums are written to be listened to in sequence, they tell a story.” Hannah F. – First year student

“The authentic sound and overall experience makes LP listening awesome. There’s something about sitting down and connecting with a record—with each individual song, the sound the album as a whole, the album artwork, and even goodies that come inside. Things you just don’t get from digital media anymore. Having a collection and actually caring for your records is also more meaningful than the passive way we treat music on the Internet.” Farren T. – Second year student

“The thing I like the most is that a physical record demands attention. A record player makes music the main attraction instead of just a background object. You appreciate it in a different way like that, and since your attention is so focused on the music, it opens up some really cool avenues for bands to communicate to their fans in ways not possible by other means.” Dallas N. – Third year student

The sound, album artwork that isn’t thumbnail size, connection, it’s all part of the vinyl experience. Music Watch Incorporated has released statistics on music acquisition and has found that most vinyl buyers are under the age of twenty-five. What is it about the resurgence of vinyl that has millennials hooked? Some argue that vinyl is just a trend. The hipster stereotype is certainly associated with the rise of vinyl. However hipster clichés are really just a subculture of quality music and its distribution. The truth, is that vinyl existed long ago, not just because of the pre-digital age, but because vinyl produces a sound worth listening to. The decline in demand for vinyl is associated with the ever changing music industry as well as lack of accessibility, music listeners started to want music on the go. Thus radio, Walkmans, and iPods began to phase out vinyl.

Although there has been a steady increase in vinyl sales in the last several years, these numbers aren’t significant enough to be making a huge impact on distribution in the music industry. In 2014, more than thirteen million vinyl LPs were sold in the US. That number rose to nearly eighteen million in 2015 according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The resurgence in record sales all started around 2008. Record Store Day is big part of that. Happening every April since 2007, record store day celebrates small music business and spreads the word of unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally, as stated on the RSD website. Artists get in on this day by releasing exclusive CDs and vinyl copies of different tracks. This is yet another way of promoting the vinyl experience. With the start of record store day more and more people have become aware of their local record store and can find a sense of community amongst fellow music lovers, business owners and artists, whether they be near or far.

The association also states that the last time LP sales were this high was a quarter century ago, in 1989. At that time, nearly thirty-five million LPs were sold. But, in 1990 the compact disc took over and the plummet began, pushing vinyl sales aside. Shipments of LPs increased 52% to $222 million for the first half of 2015, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.  However, that’s still only 7 % of the overall market by value in a music industry dominated by digital and streaming sales–a number that is proving of the vinyl niche.

For the Record ­ A musician’s perspective

Sure, it’s easy to research statistics and theorize what the vinyl crave means for the music industry, but who knows better than someone involved in the music industry. Dave Grant, vocalist and guitar player from the local origin rock band, Poor Young Things, has his own opinion on the subject. Dave spoke about the vinyl experience, and he is a sucker for that physical media feeling being the owner of a 200 piece collection back in Toronto. “You lose a lot of good sound on a CD,” he says, while discussing the effort, technique, and tedious work that goes into recording music. There are sounds that are simply not lost on vinyl. We discussed the way change in distribution has ultimately changed the way music is made. Albums are not always being constructed in a way that challenges a consumer to listen to the whole album and instead focuses on finding that one favourite song. Yet, with more people listening to LPs in their entirety without skipping any tracks, the whole album experience is being reborn again—something any musician would be excited about.

Supporting Physical Media, Supporting Local

Ironically, it’s very easy to get your hands on physical media through the Internet. But, if you’re looking for the full vinyl experience, there’s no better way of doing so then by gazing through records flip by flip. New Day Record Store here in Thunder Bay has been a great success for the downtown PA scene. Located on St. Paul street, many music browsers love the atmosphere, friendly and helpful staff, and of course the wide variety of vinyl at this place.

Vinyl Thoughts

The trend is true. Vinyl sales and production is on the rise and worth supporting. Although the music industry is a mainly digital world and will probably continue to be, physical media is something that is benefiting the music industry, even if it’s in a small way. Music is entertainment, so it’s reasonable that consumers are beginning to rediscover its gold in a full experience. Music doesn’t just have to be about listening—it’s about feeling and connection too.