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The Eternal Sunshine of Vinyl Records
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The Eternal Sunshine of Vinyl Records

While vinyl records were first invented in the mid-19th century, by 1910 they had became by far the most popular an...

The Eternal Sunshine of Vinyl Records

While vinyl records were first invented in the mid-19th century, by 1910 they had became by far the most popular and beloved sound format, selling in vast quantities. But vinyl's true dominance was during the golden period of music from the 1950s until the 1990s, when it reigned supreme and sold in immeasurable quantities.

 

When the CD was introduced, it was marketed by the Phillips company as “the perfect sound forever,” but it was inferior to vinyl and far from perfect. Even though it improved sound-wise through the years, the CD never reached the same allure the vinyl had. But with the introduction of the mp3 digital format in the mid 90s, the floodgates to piracy and online sharing were opened wide, worsened by the record industry's unwise decision to fight digital distributors. For the last 20 years, music sales have declined rapidly, especially in terms of physical copies. Numbers vary depending on sources, but the sales of digital music and CDs are at an all time low. People find their music for free at pirates’ web sites.

 

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But to those who believe, miracles do happen. A format that was put aside and almost forgotten is making a comeback. While digital and CD sales are in constant decline, the vinyl is coming back in full glory. In 2007, roughly one million vinyl albums were sold, while in 2013 the sales topped 6 million, which represented a 32% rise compared to 2012.

 

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This year, on April 20th, or Record Store Day--a worldwide event used to promote and improve record sales for small independent record stores--it was announced that overall vinyl album sales hit a new high with sales of 369,000 LPs compared to the 244,000 LPs sold around that date the previous year. Signs of vinyl production expansion can be also seen from vinyl pressing companies. The Nashville-based United Record Pressing, one of the biggest of its kind, is expanding by 16 new presses, doubling its capacity.

 

But the question remains about what makes vinyl records so alluring. First of all, they are meant to be listened to in continuity without skipping or shuffling tunes. In this busy world, distractions come from all directions and the attention span is too small to devote yourself to music as it was once listened to.

 

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Sound-wise, the vinyl offers the best experience in that sense. Importantly, the sound has more depth and character, and a natural feel to it. Even the plastic disc that carries the audio information is physically unique.

 

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For musicians there is a distinct appeal in vinyl. While it can't be pirated and bootlegged in the same way as with digital files, the release of a record on vinyl somehow inspires the same gratification an author feels about publishing a book as a physical artifact.

 

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Recent historically important reissues like Led Zeppelin's first three records on vinyl, among other available formats, reached the Top 10 charts and sold in huge quantities. On the other hand, there is Neil Young who recorded his latest album, A Letter Home, using a restored 1947 Voice-Graph booth that records directly on vinyl. The sound is ancient, but the feel is heartfelt and soulful, the way music should be regardless of genre. Vinyl can achieve that. Vinyl was always here to stay regardless of current fashions.

 

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