The Intercollegiate Student Magazine

Why Vinyl Is Making a Big Comeback

The way we listen to music has seen many different iterations throughout the years. From the 8-track to the cassette tape, the boombox to modern streaming platforms, people have utilized many technologies to listen to the songs they love so much. Despite the convenience and accessibility of music via modern streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, one old-school method has seen a recent resurgence in popularity: vinyl. In 2021, vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s — despite the vinyl press shortages resulting from the pandemic. So what exactly is it that has people, especially in younger age demographics, ditching the convenience of instantaneous listening just about anywhere in favor of the scratch of a needle on a disc? 

Vinyl records provide a physically grounding experience which contrasts the abstract nature of music. No matter the genre — R&B, indie, rock, country, rap, pop — music has a special way of helping us process and express emotion and connect to the people and world around us. However, that sense of connection is abstract in nature. There’s no easy way to measure the effect music has on people’s lives or predict the response it elicits from any one person. However, having a physical object, say a vinyl, can connect us to these sensations and experiences via a tangible representation. The etching of the grooves under your fingertips, the scratch of the needle on the disc, the gentle buzz of the record player running through the motion, the slight static pause in between tracks — all of these things are sensory experiences that can’t be replicated by modern methods of music streaming. While this method of listening to music comes with its imperfections — like warps and scratches on the product — those imperfections make the experience that much more real and personal. For some, vinyl is the purest, most authentic way of consuming musical media.

People also drift towards the antiquity that is the vinyl for the aesthetic. The beauty of the physicality of vinyl doesn’t only lie in its ability to form a tangible link to the abstract, but also in its visual appeal. Whether it’s the album cover art adorning the walls, specialized art displays made of the discs themselves, or even just shelves that are filling up empty space by bursting at the seams with record after record, a large part of the experience of vinyl is appreciating its artistic merit — in whatever form that may take. Like any decoration, the way people use vinyl to enhance their space tells a story of their personality, their interests, their journeys, their hopes and dreams.  Then of course, there’s also the aspect of collection. Much like coins, baseball cards, and more, hunting down different editions of the vinyl adds an extra thrill to the experience of procuring and curating one’s music library;  it adds an extra layer of accomplishment and satisfaction that makes listening to those tunes that much sweeter.

Lastly, vinyl provides a link to simpler times. People have a tendency to look back on fads and facets of eras past with rose-colored glasses and bask in the nostalgia they bring.  Vinyl, the latest in the current wave of vintage resurgence, is no different. The advent of the internet, digital streaming, and social media has made it virtually impossible to avoid being bombarded with an overwhelming selection of content marketed for consumption. This mirrors the fast-paced, high-strung pattern that characterizes modern society in the face of globalization. Stepping away from the screens and picking up a disc gives listeners a way to disconnect — a portal which they can use to teleport themselves to a simpler place where it’s just them and the music. Free of the distractions of modern life, the croon of a voice out of the speakers from a record player just has a way of making the world fade away in a way that no other form of listening to music can. The entire atmosphere changes, and that’s reflected in the listening experience. 

While digital streaming isn’t going away anytime soon, it doesn’t seem like the classics are either. With the more personal listening experience that vinyl provides to consumers coupled with the boom in the vinyl business right now, records are here to stay — and music is all the better for it.

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Louisiana State University

The populace is ill-equipped at rigorously filtering through the wildfire of information produced by the digital age.