Vinyl has got its groove back.
Don’t throw away your old record players and vintage vinyl’s, make way for the vinyl revival. 2017 reported a 25 year high in vinyl sales, more and more people are ditching their iPods and smart phones, preferring to listen to music through a good old fashioned record player.
The crackle of the needle as it finds its groove on the vinyl; record players have become a sentimental and treasured aspect of music and popular culture. The nostalgia attached to the record player has ensured its comeback over 120 years after the first ever commercial record player was released. Urban Outfitters store assistant and vintage lover, Rebecca Raymond, describes how the re-emergence of vinyl’s and records is down to the nostalgia and sentimental values attached to the record player, “I think the popularity of them has re-emerged because it gives people nostalgia.”
It is important to note the differences between the turntable and the record player, the terms are often used interchangeably despite a few technical differences. The turntable is part of the record player, with its name originating from the part which turns the vinyl disc. The turntable includes the part where the stylus finds its groove on the record for a transference of sound, however the turntable cannot make any audible sound without a phono preamp and speakers.
Record players are usually described as ‘all-in-ones’, containing the whole kit to produce and play sound. Record players contain amplification systems and speakers all within their structure. Record players were in fact realised for public consumption long before turntables, nonetheless, turntables with external receivers and speakers became more popular, especially for people djing and mixing records.
The history of the record player dates back to 1857, in which the earliest version of the turntable was actually a scientific instrument designed and crafted by Edouard-Léon de Martinville, known as the phonautograph. This instrument was patented in France in 1857 and is widely considered the first sound recording device, however, the phonautograph only had one caveat and could not play sound back. Instead it would inscribe airborne sound onto paper which could be studied visually.
Following the creation of the phonautograph, the real breakthrough for record players came from German/American inventor Emile Berliner, whom created and built the gramophone which was patented in 1887. This design provided the blueprint for the modern record player today, reading the grooves of the flat disc which was easier to produce and market. Subsequently, the first commercial record player was released in 1895. As technology and knowledge became more advanced, the late 1950s saw the ability to reproduce a stereo recording onto a disc, allowing companies to mass produce records in stereo. This boosted the sales of record players, ensuring their increasing popularity through the Golden Age.
123 years after the release of the first ever sound recording device, many music fans are continuing to use record players and vinyl despite the influx of streaming and portable devices. Many believed the introduction of the CD would be the downfall and demise of the record player, though recent years have seen a 25 year high in vinyl sales.
American multinational and lifestyle store, Urban Outfitters, sell a variety of modern record players with vintage and contemporary records. With consumers still yearning for the classic record player, but wanting a more accessible and quality sound, modern record players have proved popular. Rough Trade store manager, Sam Jones, describes the newer record players as hugely popular, “I would say they are much better quality generally and obviously easier to find in useable condition and therefore more popular.”
Urban Outfitters best-selling Crosley record player contains several modern features to ensure a high quality, immersive experience. Equipped with Bluetooth technology for streaming music wirelessly, belt-driven turntable mechanism, manual return tone arm, 3 adjustable speeds, dynamic full rang, built-in stereo speakers, a headphone jack and an AC power adapter. The Urban Outfitters exclusive record player comes in a variety of colours and textiles, perfect for any music lover wanting a vintage inspired antique, still with a high quality sound.
Music emporium and independent record shop, Flashback Records, sell a mixture of vintage classic and modern vinyl LPs. With the vinyl revival under full swing, it is interesting to look at the sales of vintage and modern artists. Flashback Records store assistant, Richard Root, discusses the vintage/modern blend, with customers buying a diverse range of vinyl from a variety of decades. “We get a variety of people in looking for both vintage classics and more modern vinyl LPs. From Louis Armstrong and classic soul and funk, to modern hip hop icons and singers such as Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran or even Amy Winehouse” said Richard, discussing the importance of a wide range of stock, “we stock a huge variety of genres and decades to ensure customers find exactly what they’re looking for.”
Not only are record players considered to be a vintage collectable and antique item, the whole experience of visiting a record shop becomes nostalgic and treasured. Music fanatic and regular record store visitor, Alice Baker, explains the experience behind visiting a record shop to streaming music, “I love going to a record store and just flicking through all of the different genres and categories. Often finding some treasured records I’d never heard of before but now are some of my favourites”.
With several CD and DVD stores being forced into liquidation, record shops have surprisingly remained a constant fixture in the music industry. Rough Trade’s Sam Jones, discusses the ‘vinyl revival’ which has seen a steady rise in the sale of records and vinyl, “it actually started years ago so certainly has already passed the fad stage in my opinion. Vinyl sales are still growing and have done very strongly for over five years now. Vinyl is, without doubt, the most popular physical music format right now.”
Nielsen’s Year-End Report released on January 9th 2017, revealed 2-2016 vinyl LP sales reached 13 million, an all-time high since records began in 1991. Music Watch disclosed a comprehensive overview of how Americans consume music, stating half of record vinyl buyers are under the age of 25.
The resurgence of popularity is partly down to millennials buying records and wanting to escape back in time. Rebecca reinforces the nostalgia devoted to buying records and vinyl, “In the age that we live in, we can get everything at the click of a finger, streamed through our devices and every song ever made is right there on your screen. So it’s nice to have a hard copy, something physical of the music that you can touch. Vinyl’s are a part of the whole musical experience. We live in this virtual reality and digital age where we can source everything online, which is great and has its perks but people are longing to go back in time. To a simpler time.” It is unclear what the future will hold for the treasured record player, but no doubt they will remain a staple within the consumer music industry.