MUSIC IS POWERFUL. IT’S UNIVERSAL. IT’S THE ONLY LANGUAGE ON EARTH THAT DOESN’T REQUIRE TRANSLATION. IT KNOWS NO BORDER, RACE, COLOR OR CREED; AND IT BRINGS PEOPLE CLOSER TOGETHER THAT ANY OTHER FORM OF MEDIA. FROM RECORDS TO 8-TRACK TAPES, COMPACT DISKS (CDS), AND MP3S TO STREAMING SITES, THE WAY WE LISTEN TO MUSIC—AND THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE—HAS CHANGED A LOT OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS.
From the burnout of big box giants like Tower Records, Virgin and Blockbuster Music, to the slow death of CDs; the rapid rise of streaming sites like iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and Jay Z’s newest venture, Tidal; to the legal battles and congressional hearings about publishing rights and how artists get paid—the industry is in full disruption mode.
An unlikely winner has emerged from all of this disruption. Want a hint?
It was also this season’s top selling audio device on Amazon—the record player. Ironically, these turn tables weren’t being gifted to baby boomers; it was the children and grandchildren of baby boomers who were buying and receiving them. An entirely new generation of music lovers are turning to pressed vinyl as an alternative to compressed MP3s.
Today, vinyl records sales are growing faster than downloads and streaming. According to data by Nielsen Soundscan, more than 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in the U.S. last year — an astonishing 52% increase over the year before.The Wall Street Journal also reports that the vinyl sales are the highest since SoundScan started tracking them back in 1991. Even more startling are the figures that show a decline of digital downloads.
Meanwhile, more vinyl records are being pressed, and production hasn’t been as high since the late 1970s. In Nashville, United Record Pressing is making around 30,000 to 40,000 albums a day, and the company is expanding to keep up with demand.
So, what’s behind this resurgence of vinyl—especially here in Chicago—where, according to Nielsen, it accounts for over 9% of new vinyl sales in the entire country?