Within five minutes at Pure Pop Records in Burlington, two young men purchased four vinyl records. They could have easily obtained the same music from digital media such as CDs or MP3 files, but they chose vinyl, a much older medium, instead.
A more social music experience
Nationwide revenue from sales in vinyl records are up according to statistics released by the Recording Industry Association of America. Revenue directly from vinyl sales increased by 46.2 percent, while revenue from CD sales decreased by 20.5 percent in 2007. Employees at Pure Pop say they have noticed this increase in demand for vinyl.
Junior Marcus Cooper displays a few of the records from his growing collection.
(Photo by John O'Brien)
Michael Crandall, manager of the independent music store, says they had to start keeping new vinyl in stock about two years ago to satisfy their vinyl-seeking customers’ needs. Pure Pop had not carried new vinyl for 15 years until that point, Crandall says.
“One thing that encourages people to go vinyl is how you can get good music for $1 to $4,” Crandall says.
This allows people to build up their collections and experiment with different genres of music for much cheaper. Buying and listening to records is also a much more social experience compared to downloading music online or listening to iPods, Crandall says.
Customers seeking vinyl also have a harder time finding more contemporary releases because they are often harder to keep in stock, he says.
“We’re the only place in town that carries new vinyl,” Crandall says.
According to Crandall, there is nothing wrong with CD technology, but it is how people use it that is worsening the overall music experience.
“These days people aren’t that interested in sound quality, otherwise the nation wouldn’t be listening to MP3s,” Crandall says. “If you get a nice system, vinyl will sound warmer.”
Vinyl: dead from the airwaves?
This trend of increased popularity in vinyl may be limited to a new consumer market, as seen at St. Michael’s radio station WWPV.
The vinyl collection at WWPV will be phased out towards the end of the semester.
(Photo by John O'Brien)
WWPV staff recently decided to liquidate a collection of vinyl records from the broadcasting studio in St. Edmund’s Hall.
“The vinyl we get is not music people will usually play,” says Dan Ferris, WWPV public relations director.
WWPV’s collection is completely donated and comprised of old records that are no longer popular, he says.
Playing vinyl on the air can also be expensive, mostly because of maintaining turntables. DJs who are unfamiliar with record players are likely to break the fragile equipment. The needle that reads the grooves of the record is expensive to replace, and especially fragile, Ferris says.
“I myself have a decent collection of vinyl,” he says.
Ferris links vinyl’s comeback to its ability to produce smooth transitions throughout a single album to create one musical unit.
“It’s nice to put on a record and listen to it all the way through,” Ferris says.
WWPV’s dwindling collection of vinyl is destined for either storage space or donation, he says.
Hot chocolate to the ears
Some St. Michael’s students are more than willing to forgo the convenience of digital music in order to experience the more authentic sound of vinyl.
“Digital music sounds so over-produced,” sophomore Denelle Noyes says. “But putting on a vinyl…there’s just such a feel to it.”
St. Michael's students collections vary
from older, classic releases to those
by more modern artists.
(Photo by John O'Brien)
Noyes says her family has always listened to records, especially during the holidays when Christmas albums would be played on the family record player. Noyes’ personal collection boasts about 50-60 records.
“I started collecting on my own when I found a copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show album at a rummage sale,” Noyes says. After raiding the collections of her parents as well as her aunt and uncles, Noyes has found albums by classic artists such as Hank Williams, the Beatles, and Johnny Cash.
Junior Marcus Cooper is a new collector of vinyl, who is developing a mix of classics and new releases.
“That’s one of the first ways music was laid down,” Cooper says, “I like to embrace that originality… it makes me appreciate the music.”
Folk singer Joan Baez was the reason that junior Margaret Mahan first bought a record player in high school. While CDs and iPods are easily portable, she prefers listening to records because the sound of the needle crackling along vinyl is “like hot chocolate to the ears.”
The sheer size of vinyl records allows the needle to cover more vibrations, producing a unique sound each time they are played, Mahan says.
“Each record feels special because there’s a story behind it,” she says.
Noyes agrees that the minor divots and scratches on records add character. When a CD is scratched, it’s ruined, she says.
“Listening to vinyl, it’s like you’re listening to a piece of real music,” Noyes says.