The Vinyl Renaissance Era

How the old media form has found its way back into the headphones of the masses


Nick Molnoskey

The first vinyl record rotated at a speed of 75 rpm (revolutions per minute). That was the standard until 1948 when Columbia Records developed the 33 1/3 rpm disc, which is the standard disc of today.

Nick Molnoskey, Advertising Manager

For more than a hundred years, the most popular form of recording music was through the use of analog hardware and devices, such as vinyl, reel to reel tapes, cassette tapes and  CDs. These captured music in its raw purest form, with minimum, if any, editing or enhancing capabilities post recording. Skip track to the 90s and the invention of mp3 files and use of digital music and digital recording altered the world in a way that caused a paradigm shift throughout the minds of the developed world. These recordings had cleaner audio with less scratches and distortions, incredible amount of convenience – especially with free online music sites and it in turn gave producers the ability to edit music tracks post recording. Vinyl was almost forgotten by the younger generations for two decades. Yet, recently there has been a revival of vinyl; Productions have increased, older ‘retro’ artists’ recordings have been being repressed and many popular new artists have been printing albums on vinyl records as well. This renaissance of vinyl has been caused due to the public responding to the pressing dangers of a world full of invisible music lacking any soul or true talent.

Starting in the early 2010s, there was a trend of analog sources of recorded music sales increasing. But, this spark quickly spread into a forest fire spanned across all generations. While some analog music is being revisited, no forms are as strong than the vinyl. According to a Forbes article, vinyl sales growth is proportionally dominating sales growth in all music fields. Physical sales have fallen in general while vinyl is skyrocketing, steadily increasing by an average of 5 percent for the past several years. CDs sales, which account for most of the physical music industry market, have fallen 18 percent from 2016 to 2017. While cassettes have increased 19 percent in the same years, cassettes sales are not generally popular enough to save the physical music industry, due to their iota of sells. On the other hand, in 2017, there were 9.7 million vinyl albums sold, which is an increase of 12 percent, which leads vinyl to now account for one-third of the physical music industry. Which is much needed support for the physical music industry, as CD sales have dropped to only 600 million dollars, which is still a significant number of sales, but it is the first time CD sales have been below 1 billion dollars since 1986.

While much of physical music is declining, vinyl seems to be the exception to this pressing trend. In the Recording Industry Association of America 2018 Year-End Music Industry Revenue Statistics, it is shown that in the year 2018, vinyl records sales climbed to the highest level since the year 1988, which is the first time this has happened since the shifting music paradigm towards CDs and eventually digital music.

This trend is showing how culture is bringing back physical forms of music and reviving a once-defunct medium. Contributing to this, is the trend that many popular current artists are printing a lot of their new albums on vinyl. Artists such as Kanye West, Tyler The Creator and Kendrick Lamar are now investing a lot into the vinyl industry with a large amount of albums being sold on vinyl.

In 2016, Third Man Records, a record label started by John Anthony Gillis, purchased more vinyl presses than the amount that were currently in the US in the year prior. Most vinyl records have been coming out of their two factories/stores/recording studio/show venue/ headquarters for the Third Man Record record label. One is located in Memphis, Tennessee and the other in Detroit, Michigan. While Third Man Records is contempt with their money and sales, Gillis saw an opportunity in late 2017; Third Man Records bought out Paramount Records, a record label from early 1900s with a heavy focus on African American race records and blues. Paramount Records served for artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainy, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver. Since then, Gillis has personally designed kits of records, books, cuff pins, digital tracks and remastered 1920s blues advertisement recreations.

While many say that digital music is just more convenient and you can listen to it wherever, there is no competition when compared to the romantic soul of listening to a new vinyl. Whether or not the majority of the population will utilize the beauty of vinyl, there is no denying that this is a market that is resurfacing amongst the digital age. This is just evidence of how music culture is an ever shifting and evolving paradigm that manifests society into otherwise unorthodox trends, ones that involve reverting to previous technologies derived from a century ago. Through mirroring vintage pop culture and reviving an industry that was born to express insights and deepest emotions, the legacy of vinyl has been reborn as a product of a Lazarus effect, in order to resume its reign.