The Stream is Dead?
Written by Josh Davey on 31st March 2023
The re-emergence of vinyl records: is it a fad or should Spotify be worried?
From The Beatles to Sam Fender, Fleetwood Mac to The Smiths, whether you listen to an artist from the 50s, 70s or even modern day, chances are you can listen to your music on a good old fashioned record player, but why – even in the days of streaming – are vinyl records still being produced and sold? More confusingly, why are the sales increasing year on year?
Example of Vinyl (Instagram @JoshDaveyMedia)
Launched in the 1930s, vinyl records are coming up on being around for nearly an entire century with thousands of artists printing music on them. Back in the days of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, this was the only way to record music but nowadays Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music make listening to anything you can think of just a click away. So, why are vinyl records still so popular despite being one of – if not the – most impractical way to listen to music on the market?
Scruffy Bear are a modern band which formed nearly 10 years ago with drummer Ryan Hunt sharing his thoughts on why vinyl records are still so popular, and more importantly, why he thinks they’ll always have their place in the music world.
Hunt said: “I think vinyl forces you, in a positive way, to listen to the music rather than have it as a consumable thing where you can use your voice activation to skip a track. That’s what I do in the car.
“I think it’s a way for people to connect with the music, with physical touch, and to really, look at the artwork because of the size it comes in.
“I think that it’s not this pocket sized thing that you don’t have to even think about. I think it’s for the people to truly appreciate having vinyl.
“So whichever media is the forerunner, I guess is the way to put it, so with Spotify taking the lead with streaming or CD sales. I think vinyl will always have its appeal and won’t go away.”
Is this why artists such as Scruffy Bear, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd – artists who are recording in an age considerably more advanced than vinyl records, still release their music in that form?
In 2022, Taylor Swift’s Midnights was the highest selling vinyl album with Harry Styles’ Harry’s House coming in just behind. This alone shows that vinyl is not only a nostalgic way of listening to old music but also a highly profitable way for artists to release their music. The highest ranked vinyl pre CDs – before 1982 – was Fleetwood Mac Rumours with one of the most famous vinyl records of all time, The Beatles Revolver sitting in 18th.
Across the globe there are thousands of vinyl collectors and an example of this is Kieran Harrison. An avid listener of rap and hip hop – whilst open to music suggestions – Kieran has been collecting vinyl for the past year and a half, falling in love after his first adventure in a HMV.
Harrison said: “I don’t think vinyl will die. Vinyls are very appealing to many different audiences, from audiophiles who want the best sounding music, to people who just admire the cool album cover.
“I think as long as artists keep making high quality albums with great album art, vinyl will never die.
“However, I do think the luxury price of vinyls stops them from reaching the sales numbers they once had in past times and maybe holds their growth back a little.”
“As a person that often prefers listening to albums rather than playlists of loads of different songs from different artists, vinyls really appealed to me in that way.
“Also, I think album covers can remind me how that whole album made me feel and collecting vinyls and seeing them is a nice way of reminding myself how much I like certain albums or artists.”
From a practicality point of view, vinyl is outdated. Each album is 12 and a half inches squared, to listen to it you need a record player – which are often expensive for good ones – halfway through each album you have to get up and spin the record, and on top of all this they are expensive. But this hasn’t stopped the world of music from bringing this old school format back from the grave.
Those practical issues, compared to the ease of streaming, makes it seem crazy that people still spend money on vinyl. Streaming is so easy, you open up your Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon Music, search any song you can think of and press play and all this is stored in your pocket on your phone. On top of this, you can create playlists with as many songs as you want, just one of the many reasons streaming makes more sense. None of this changes the fact that vinyl records are here to stay.
But will the vinyl re-emergence die?
15 years strong, the vinyl re-emergence is getting bigger and bigger, year on year. A mixture of getting that feeling for the music as well as having a physical copy of the album artwork look to be the main causes of the hype. Cabinets, wall design or on a shelf… however you store your beloved record collection, you’re part of a huge community.
And it looks set to only grow year by year.
What is your favourite vinyl? Tweet @sparksunderland