During the first half of 2020, while the world was panicking due to the pandemic, a music trend that we didn’t see coming arose—vinyl records sales have gone up. Vinyl sales have always been steadily rising, but this year, for the first time in 34 years, it has surpassed CD sales. In the first six months of 2020, vinyl raked in $232.1 million of music sales compared to CD, which only brought in $129 (vinyl sales was almost double that of CD sales!). This is quite peculiar.
What is happening here? Why is there a vinyl revival?
Well, first, we cannot deny the fact that CDs sales are continuously and quickly declining thanks to streaming and music flash drives. Second, vinyl is still steadily increasing. But why is there a spike in vinyl sales and is it related to how music is being consumed during the pandemic?
We can only assume things for now because there are no known studies about this topic, but I personally believe so. Heck, I bought a lot more vinyl records during the coronavirus pandemic than last year or the year before. There could be a link!
My first guess is that we are all experiencing digital fatigue. In 2020, everyone is either binge-watching on Netflix, having long Zoom meetings, reading the news and social media every 10 minutes, and buying stuff on Amazon (like custom vinyl records). The moment we get up until the time we go to bed, our faces and ears are attached to our phone screens! This makes everything digital a little too bland. Even if our most favorite movie of all time would stream for free, we won’t get too excited. It takes a lot for anything digital to make us excited because we eat and breathe it daily. We can easily connect to anyone and to any form of entertainment, but we feel disconnected to it; we feel that it’s not so special because it’s just on the phone.
We want something to take us away from it, to make us experience life like before. Just anything that’s not digital and easy! We want something to touch with our hands, to smell, to taste…to experience in a way that doesn’t involve our laptops, TV, or our phones! Spotify is easy, Tiktok is fun, YouTube music videos are cool, but we want to experience something… MORE. We are numb with all this digital stuff!
Maybe this is the reason vinyl records (and coincidentally, cassette tapes) are selling like hot cakes again.
When you have a physical format like the vinyl record, it heightens all the senses. It’s the joy of seeing and touching the vinyl jacket and reading the booklets and/or having fun with the merch (if you bought a special edition box set), it’s being careful with how we hold the records and how the needle touches it.
It’s also the fact that the experience requires us to be present—to be in the room where it is played (we can’t use earphones with this one!) and so maybe we ask our family to gather around and experience music together. To bond with music is something we should all do while we wait out this pandemic and it should be on vinyl to make it extra special.
Lastly, it feels exclusive. Owning a vinyl record of your favorite artists makes you feel like you’re more connected to them than just streaming their music on Spotify or on iTunes. It’s something from them that they actually recorded and pressed (and the custom vinyl record pressing process is quite meticulous!)… and you’re one lucky chap if they signed on it, too! And these vinyl records, you can keep them forever and ever, for as long as you live, and pass them on to your children, which they can pass on to their children’s children.
Streaming is convenient and easily accessible, but sometimes—especially during the time when we are glued to our phones and laptops—we don’t want something so easy or so accessible. We want something more special. And when it comes to music, there is no format more special than the good ole vinyl record.
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