Methods of music consumption are ever-changing. The music industry has undergone multiple evolutions as people consume music differently, whether it be by vinyl record, compact disc (CD), cassette tape or digital download.
Now, streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music have made music consumption the easiest and quickest it has ever been. Any song from any artist or decade is readily available at the swipe of a thumb.
However, a younger generation, one not even old enough to have lived the first wave of vinyl popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, has skyrocketed vinyl sales within the past few years — in 2022, albums that were less than 18 months old were up 27% in sales from the year prior, according to Luminate’s Midyear Music Report.
And in 2021, “for the first time at the midyear point in MRC Data’s history (since 1991), vinyl album sales outpaced CD album sales — with vinyl album volume at 19.2 million versus CD album volume at 18.9 million,” according to a year-end report from MRC Data.
Vinyl is a music medium that was once largely overshadowed by the growing popularity of CDs in the 1980s. CDs were much easier for companies to manufacture and transport, and soon the availability of vinyl records in retail stores became smaller.
So why has there been a shift in popularity from CDs to vinyl? A young adult demographic seems to be the driving force behind the increase of vinyl popularity in the past few years. Record stores are now often filled with a younger generation who have taken interest in purchasing vinyl, which offer a more nostalgic listening experience.
Psychology sophomore Tara Bowman grew up listening to music on vinyl with their family. Most of the records they listen to now are from their parents’ collections. Even while being away from family at school, they have that connection through music.
“It’s a way for me to feel connected to them without necessarily having to talk to them. It just reminds me a lot of my childhood and some of the albums I remember listening to with my parents,” Bowman said.
Living in the dorms last year, Bowman did not want to bring a record player while sharing a room, but this year they consistently enjoy listening to records while having their own room and space.
Currently, Bowman credits “Get Close” by The Pretenders and “Elton John Greatest Hits” as the two favorites in their collection. These albums are a physical representation of Bowman’s upbringing and love for older music.
Another reason is that vinyl also provides a tangible music experience that is different from CDs or streaming. Purchasing a vinyl record requires the listener to work for it. Record stores have large selections, typically spanning multiple genres and time periods, which means that finding a new record to add to your collection is a whole experience. This medium of music can connect an individual to a physical album that they spent time and energy looking for.
Also, playing a vinyl record is an intentional process. There is no button to press when you want to skip or rewind a song.
“It makes me more engaged in the music, like having to get up and flip the record. I pay more attention to it, rather than if I’m just streaming it and can listen to anything,” Bowman said. “For the albums I do have, I prefer to listen to them on vinyl.”