They say if you wait long enough, everything old will become new again. That certainly seems to be the case with vinyl records. From ubiquitous music providers to coasters to conversation pieces and decorative items, records have evolved a lot as time, and music fans have changed. A few years back, collectors and vintage audio niches caught the interest of the record biz, who started producing even current acts on vinyl again. But, at that point, it was still more novelty than cash cow.
Now, it seems, records are becoming popular for mainstream fans again. Records stores are starting to pop up all over the place, and not just vintage vinyl shops – though those are still popular. These are retail establishments selling “old” tech to a new generation of listeners who are discovering the joy of analog pop and hiss. Sure, digital is cleaner, but it also feels sterile, less warm, and today’s music fan is looking for a novelty his parents and grandparents took for granted.
How popular are they becoming? Well, according to those who watch this market, several hundred stores have opened across the country in recent years. That might not sound like a lot – and it really isn’t – but consider that, not that long ago, the very idea of opening a retail record shop and not a swap shot would have been laughable. It’s certainly not anymore.
Lots of more recent bands, whose first major albums were on cassette and CD, are now available on vinyl to the mass market. Even some acts that have always been primarily digital are discovering the joys of the record.
Part of that resurgence can certainly be credited to the promoters and creators of National Record Store Day, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. The program promotes events from coast to coast, Maine to California, pushing local record shops and working hard to re-connect fans with vinyl.
The flip is kind of a harsh turnaround for record stores that didn’t quite survive the digital revolution. A few held on, sure, but thousands went out of business when the iPod became the go-to music device. Then, with the advent of audio streaming apps, there were many who said vinyl – as well as cassettes and CDs – were dead for good. So far, that prophecy is coming true for the latter two methods, those without the built-in nostalgia of vinyl records. But records are coming back in a big way.
While some bands are releasing all their latest albums on vinyl, others are using it as more of a celebration of a milestone and a way to connect with fans. U2, which is about to begin its Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary tour, recently announced a pre-sale for a four-platter commemorative record set. Just one more indicator that what was once old can become cool again.
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States.