Fashions are very much circular in motion: staying briefly, departing but then meeting again shortly. This is certainly the case in the music industry in recent years, whereby the vinyl, the turntable and the tight leather trousers (maybe?) have been resurrected from the back of Grandma’s attic.
Since 2011, vinyl sales have increased by 40% – a dramatically short space of time. This is quite impressive considering that the vinyl market has grown to 3.4 million buyers from 0.3 million buyers back in 1993. Once items of charity-shop residue, the VHS tape and cassette tape have now taken vinyl’s place. These discs have become an extremely desirable collector’s item: classic vinyl’s such as Abbey Road by the Beatles and David Bowie’s Life on Mars? have suddenly become very hard to come across. Vinyl has become one of the biggest comebacks of outdated technology amongst a generation raised on the ALBA CD Walkman, the MP3 player, the iPod and the speaker. The question is: why?
A misplaced nostalgia, the vinyl doesn’t stand alone in current revivalism. It is becoming ever apparent that the past is creeping into all aspects of our lives. Vintage clothing markets have surged: touring across the country, attracting young people to a life of oversized shirts and crochet blankets. At such events, live music, nostalgic edibles and quirky photograph booths immerse visitors in the complete vintage experience. Additionally, recent years have seen cinematic revival. There has been a huge increase in the opening of art-house cinemas – many of which are revived old picture houses that have been long-neglected. Such places screen the old classic films that reconnect us with a golden age of cinema; just as vinyl seemingly reconnects us with great music from the past.
It does, however, lead to the question that in an age where we can fit an entire shelf of vinyl records into a tiny square convenient phone app, it seems almost nonsensical that young people are seeking a clumsy and inconvenient means of listening to their music. The scratches, dis-levelment and cracklings of the vinyl may seem awkward and unnecessary in today’s age of smartphone technology, where smooth, sleek sound quality can be appreciated from the devices of Apple, Windows and Google. This is not to mention the vinyl annoyances of portability, repairs expenditure, and storage.
The music quality of vinyl is, however, far superior to the many modern audio devices on the market at the moment. There is humble warmth in the notes you hear from vinyl – you can hear individual instruments a lot more closely, especially subtle sounds. The sound also seems to fill the room instead of being concentrated in one area and overall it creates an exciting listening experience.
Likewise, in this age of smart technology – where even your groceries are scanned by a machine – there is a real loss of human physicality that was present in the past. With everything slowly becoming digitised, the world feels like it is slowly becoming an illusion. Hard copies, human faces and physical ownership are being replaced by virtual intelligence that can be destroyed with the flick of a switch. Although just a small part of this picture, vinyl helps us to connect with ourselves and our interests in a very real experience.
This plea for the ‘real’ is the next big thing. It is not just the imperfect textures of the spinning vinyl we crave, it’s hunting charity shops and thrown-together record shops for that Ziggy Stardust or Kate Bush, it’s about building up a shelf in your room that represents your personal music taste, and having the most incredible experience listening to the music you love.