During most of the twentieth century the dominant musical format was vinyl records.33 rpm , 45 rpm and even at one point 78 rpm records. 12”,10” and 7 “.The first vinyl record was created in 1930 by RCA Victor.The first ever record was in 1889 but this was made from more of a hard rubber and other materials.
Despite other formats such as reel to reel tape , eight track tape and cassette tape , vinyl remained king. None of these formats was able to overtake vinyl. At some point that changed . But what happened ? Well, in the mid eighties digital compact discs were introduced. These were smaller and easier to carry around . You could put a ton in a cd book and bring them to play in your car which now had cd players installed standard. Oh, the convenience ! In 1988 Compact Discs surpassed vinyl in popularity.
This trend continued through the nineties and vinyl became less and less in vogue. By the late nineties not only were Compact Discs the dominant force but in 1999 music could be downloaded for free through websites such as Napster.Other websites such as Kazaa and Limewire also appeared at this time and anyone who wanted to could download any music they chose for free.At this point most stores were clearing out their vinyl records and you could get absolute classic lps for a buck or two. Vinyl for sure seemed like a dead format. Most cities around the world still had a few stores that would sell vinyl along with Compact Discs but those were hard to find.You had to make the effort.By 2003 pay services such as itunes had emerged so people could purchase digital music for their computer or ipod and frequently have thousands of songs at their disposal in their pocket .
However , not long after that ,in 2007 , vinyl seemed to be creeping back into the consciousness of consumers and music lovers. This was the first year that vinyl saw a slight increase in sales. This was also the year that Record Store Day was founded and it is still going as of 2021 with three record store days , drop one , drop two and black friday.Record sales have continued to climb since 2007 and now has seen such a rise that record pressing plants cannot keep up.Often times new vinyl presses can take months to get done even after the album has been released on spotify or other streaming platforms.
So what happened ? Why the shift from a convenient format in digital downloads , stream or compact discs to vinyl records which take time and need storage space and stereo equipment to play ? In my opinion it is the experience of listening to vinyl along with the ability to have a tangible item that you own. A digital download can disappear or be removed and this has happened with itunes. Also, you won’t have an album that you don’t want slipped into your collection unlike what has happened with itunes (I am looking at you ,U2).
Initially , the return seemed to be the domain of the middle aged and older who had a connection to vinyl records having grown up with the format.But in recent years the much younger crowd has become a large part of the vinyl collector crowd. Again, the fact that vinyl is something tangible and the experience of listening to a record is an event . It is time consuming but that’s sort of the point. It is the experience that makes it better. Some say vinyl sounds better than digital but that is something that could be argued until the end of time. Some probably just prefer the sound of a digital recording. But putting a record on the turntable , watching it spin and looking at the album cover and liner notes creates a much different feeling than simply pressing play on Spotify .
I don’t see vinyl going away anytime soon as it seems to be back for good. More stores are opening all the time and major retailers carry vinyl so it’s pretty much everywhere .I feel this is a good thing overall. As long as we make sure to support the small record stores as much as we can afford to as that is the heart of the vinyl resurgence and that kind of support will keep vinyl around in the public consciousness for good.