Nostalgia Causes Surge in Vinyl Sales


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The shrieks of some obscure indie rock band ooze from The Sound Garden’s open door as people flow in and out of Armory Square’s not-so-hidden gem. Inside customers quietly stroll through ceiling high aisles of DVDs and CDs, but nowhere is as congested as the record section.

The trend of buying vinyl seemed to have died in the 90s, along with bell bottoms, overly fluffed hair and scrunchies, but people are starting to find their way back to the dusty concrete flooring of record stores. Vinyl sales brought more money to the recording industry last year in the U.S. than advertising on free on-demand services such as YouTube and Spotify, according to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Old school LP sales rose up to 32 percent in 2015, accounting for $416 million in revenue. The U.S. record industry group reported that’s the highest sales have been since 1988. While the sales contributed more than they have in decades to overall industry revenues, it still only made up a fraction of the $7 billion business.

That still hasn’t stopped popular artists like Hozier, Leon Bridges and The 1975 from putting out LPs of their own. The top-selling vinyl of 2015 was Adele’s 25 with 116,000 copies, and right behind her was Taylor Swift’s 1989 with 74,000 copies sold.

Records have always been somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, but it seems more and more people are starting to remember how much fun listening to vinyl can be. Owner of the Syracuse record label L.R.S. Records Nicolas Oliver said that people are interested in vinyl for the experience of listening to its live, warm sound. “There’s nothing like sitting in front of your record player, hearing the pops and the space in the sound, or hanging out with friends going through your parents’ old records,” said Oliver.

Records are so popular now that even retail stores such as Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods have sections dedicated to vinyl—and they’re not cheap either. The way records are mastered and pressed today produce a better sound than old vinyl, and the recording industry won’t let you hear the sound unless you pay a nice price. New records are selling for around $40 in today’s market, versus the $10-$20 they were sold for decades ago. Those same old records are even cheaper now, selling for as low as $4.

The quality of new digital records isn’t the only reason people are flocking back to record stores—it’s the whole phenomenon behind buying records. The Sound Garden assistant manager Nicholas Shelton says the store has trouble keeping the used vinyl section restocked because so many people come in looking for old records. “A lot of the times you’ll see a lot of younger people buying records. It’s almost like they have nostalgia for an era they weren’t part of,” said Shelton.

Millennials are working hard to build their own collections, and among them is Le Moyne senior Lee Bauter. He was first introduced to vinyls when his high school in Watertown was throwing away old record players that they had previously used to play dictations for students, and he asked to take one home. The first album he bought was Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Bauter admits that being dedicated to building a great collection takes time and a lot of patience. “If you’re buying for full price, it’s expensive, and it’s not very often you get to dig through someone’s old collection. People who are going to really get into it need to do a lot of searching,” said Bauter.

Though millennials like Bauter can be found browsing through the aisles of The Sound Garden, Shelton says the store still has and sees its regulars: “The die hards who have been buying vinyl since the 90s when it wasn’t cool.” So maybe it’s not just the nostalgic phenomena behind records that keeps everyone buying, maybe it’s the fact that there’s something more personal about buying a record than streaming music or buying a CD. Records can’t be produced in high volumes like CDs and in turn that makes buying them all the more special.