Vinyl Sound on Rebound

Some things never change.

It seems that for the past few years, vinyl has seen a rebound of sorts, especially with the younger generation discovering the wonderful medium of the record. This trend seems to only be speeding up instead of stopping anytime soon, as a recent nytimes article will attest.

The article: “Vinyl Records and Turntables Are Gaining Sales”

In the article:

“Rachelle Friedman, the co-owner of J&R, said the store is selling more vinyl and turntables than it has in at least a decade, fueled largely by growing demand from members of the iPod generation.

“It’s all these kids that are really ramping up their vinyl collections,” Ms. Friedman said. “New customers are discovering the quality of the sound. They’re discovering liner notes and graphics.” In many instances, the vinyl album of today is thicker and sounds better than those during vinyl’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sales of vinyl albums have been climbing steadily for several years, tromping on the notion that the rebound was just a fad. Through late November, more than 2.1 million vinyl records had been sold in 2009, an increase of more than 35 percent in a year, according to Nielsen Soundscan. That total, though it represents less than 1 percent of all album sales, including CDs and digital downloads, is the highest for vinyl records in any year since Nielsen began tracking them in 1991.”

So vinyl may be surviving more than it is truly thriving (which I don’t think I could ever see happening again), but at least it seems it won’t go the way of the 8-track and disappear altogether. And vinyl is surviving with good reason– you simply cannot beat the sound, especially with record-cutting technology today, nor can you beat the large piece of art with liner notes– night and day compared to the stamp-sized digital piece of art that comes with mp3 downloads, like on itunes. Records are more tangible. From a tactile perspective, you can actually hold them in your hand and appreciate them– especially in the throwaway culture of today. Sonically, the warm sound of analog is unmatched and it seems that more and more people are forgetting what music is meant to sound like. People’s ears are getting dumbed down by over-compressed digital audio files and it is nice to see that people– especially young people are realizing this. It’s a crazy thing to think that some of the children of the current generation of children may also inherit record collections one day. It almost carries a sense of romanticism, as I can recall when I inherited my father’s record collection in vivid detail. My music listening habits were ingrained in stone right there and I can’t help but smile at the thought of a new generation being able to enjoy the same thing.

Vinyl fan or posessed, tormented soul?

So this past week, I decided to see for myself the music purchasing trends of random groups of people at two different record stores that I had not yet visited in the South Jersey area. I visited Tunes in both Marlton and Turnersville, NJ. Tunes offers new and used CDs, cassettes, vinyl, DVDs and video games. I was only concerned with people who were purchasing music. I did this just to get a taste of what music and what format people were shopping for at the time, and on a regular basis. It was difficult to get a considerable amount of people to participate (holiday shopping rush), however the results were compelling. This was done with their consent, although for reasons of anonymity at the request of most of the people I presented with my brief survey, I changed their names while retaining their ages and their respective towns of residence. So without further ado, here are my findings:

Firstly, here is what my little survey looked like:

All in all, 20 different people participated. I capped it at ten surveys per store. Here is what I found at the two Tunes stores:

TUNES IN TURNERSVILLE

  • Steve McGlinchey, 22 of Pine Hill tends to buy rock and alternative CDs once a month. He has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/7/09, he purchased Wilco, Self-titled on CD.
  • Jane Anderson, 43 of Turnersville tends to buy rock and jazz CDs once every few months. She has not purchased a vinyl record in decades. On 12/7/09, she purchased Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart on CD.
  • David Jenkins, 35 of Turnersville tends to buy rock and blues CDs once a month. He has purchased a vinyl record as recently as a year ago. On 12/7/09, he purchased Norah Jones, The Fall on CD.
  • James Morrissey, 16 of Blackwood tends to buy rock and alternative CDs and MP3s once a week. He has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/7/09, he purchased The Dead Weather, Horehound on CD.
  • Stacey Smith, 28 of Turnersville tends to buy rock, rap and alternative CDs and MP3s once a month. She has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/7/09, she purchased Lady Gaga, The Fame on CD.
  • Ben Harrison, 46 of Williamstown tends to buy rock, jazz, alternative and classical CDs and cassettes once a month. He hasn’t bought a vinyl record in years. On 12/7/09, he purchased Bruce Springsteen, Tracks on CD.
  • Bill Harley, 25 of Woodbury tends to buy rock, rap and alternative CDs and MP3s once a month. He has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/7/09, he purchased The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute on CD.
  • Lucy Hayes, 32 of Pine Hill tends to buy rock, jazz and country CDs, MP3s and vinyl records once a month. She has purchased a vinyl record as recently as a month ago. On 12/7/09, she purchased Josh Groban, Noel on CD.
  • Mary Langley, 22 of Mullica Hill tends to buy rock and rap CDs and MP3s once a week. She has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/7/09, she purchased Cage the Elephant, Self-titled on CD.
  • Mike Ross, 52 of Berlin tends to buy rock, jazz, classical and blues CDs once a year. He hasn’t bought a vinyl record in years. On 12/7/09, he purchased Susan Boyle, I Dreamed A Dream on CD.

TUNES IN MARLTON

  • Jennifer Ross, 33 of Chery Hill tends to buy rock CDs once a month. She hasn’t  bought a vinyl record in years. On 12/11/09, she purchased Kings of Leon, Only by the Night on CD.
  • Andrew Newman, 20 of Marlton tends to buy rock, rap and jazz CDs and vinyl records once every few months. He has purchased a vinyl record as recently as a month ago. On 12/11/09, he purchased Yes, Tales of Topographic Oceans on vinyl.
  • Peter Griffin, 46 of Somerdale tends to buy rock and rap CDs once a year. He hasn’t purchased a vinyl record in decades. On 12/11/09, he purchased Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti on CD.
  • Annette Montgomery, 55 of Haddonfield tends to buy rock, jazz, classical and country CDs once a year. She hasn’t bought a vinyl record in decades. On 12/11/09, she purchased Miles Davis, Quiet Nights on CD.
  • Fred Morris, 29 of Lindenwold tends to buy rock, rap, alternative and blues CDs and MP3s once a month. He has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/11/09, he purchased Queens of the Stoneage, Era Vulgaris on CD.
  • Patty Mayonnaise, 45 of Belmawr tends to buy rock, jazz, alternative, classical and blues CDs  once a month. She hasn’t bought a vinyl record in years. On 12/11/09, she purchased Taylor Swift, Fearless on CD.
  • Dave Fox, 33 of Runnemede tends to buy rap CDs and MP3s once a month. He has purchased a vinyl record as recently as a year ago. On 12/11/09, he purchased 50 Cent, Before I Self-Destruct on CD.
  • Andrew Lester, 18 of Marlton tends to buy rock, jazz, classical and blues CDs, MP3s and vinyl records once a month. He has purchased a vinyl record as recently as a month ago. On 12/11/09, he purchased Neil Young, Live Rust on vinyl.
  • Jim Pierce, 23 of Collingswood tends to buy rock and rap CDs once a month. He has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/11/09, he purchased Logos, Atlas Sound on CD.
  • Denise Mulligan, 16 of Ashland tends to buy rock and rap CDs once a month. She has never bought a vinyl record. On 12/11/09, she purchased Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion on CD.

RESULTS

This was obviously not a legitimate scientific study, nor was it done with a large enough cross section of customers over a wide enough geographic area to find any real patterns or trends, however it was great for getting an idea of what demographic seems to be buying what.

It seems that those who are more inclined to buy vinyl are are members of the younger generation (late teens to early twenties) and it is this same demographic that is more inclined to purchase Mp3s as well. Perhaps being a target demographic of Apple’s itunes and other similar services has led to many of them branching off to vinyl in search of better sound, and as I said earlier, music that is more “tangible.” The nytimes article seems to allude to this and I think there is some truth there. One person (Dave Fox) purchases hip-hop on vinyl in order to scratch on his turntable, something which is far from dead in the DJing world.

Members of the older generation (40-55) were more likely to have owned vinyl in the past, although it seems that most of them have sold their turntables or given them away and moved on to other mediums. Many were even surprised to hear about the slight resurgence of vinyl. One man I talked to said that he, “knew he should have held onto all those records.”

As I assumed, the medium of cassettes is pretty much dead and the one person (Ben Harrison) who buys cassettes only does so because his car lacks a CD player. There are also not many country fans in South Jersey– at least ones who shop at Tunes.

I’d like to graph some of this information, but I haven’t yet had time, so stay posted, for the record