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For the Record

Dust off your turntable. Vinyl is back.

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The Recording Industry Association of America released its 2014 Music Industry Report in March 2015. While CD sales declined 12.3% and digital sales declined 9.5%, vinyl sales increased for the ninth consecutive year. According to Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl sales increased nearly 52% from 2013 to 2014. In fact, more vinyl albums were purchased in 2014 than any other year since Nielsen SoundScan started keeping score.

One reason for the increase is events like Record Store Day, which promotes vinyl sales. In 2015, Record Store Day, an international event, will be on Saturday, April 18.

Vinyl in a Digital Age

In 2014, vinyl album sales reached 9.2 million, up from 6.1 million in 2012. Of all those vinyl records sold, at least 67% were purchased at independent music stores like Chicago's Reckless Records. Having worked at Reckless since 2008, Rebecca Crawford has seen a rise in vinyl sales. When asked why she thinks vinyl sales have increased, she said, "It is primarily due to the 'digital age' of downloading music causing CDs to dramatically decrease in value. Many people will buy CDs, burn it, and then sell them back."

Crawford also said the renewed interest in vinyl was due to a younger generation discovering it for the first time. "I've definitely noticed a significant increase in younger people buying records. A lot of parents are super excited and bewildered that their kids are interested in vinyl for the first time. It gives them an opportunity to brag to their kids about all the records they used to own," Crawford said.

Chris Rowen, a father of four, purchased a turntable in 2010 after his oldest daughter wanted album cover frames for her 15th birthday. "I took her to my mother's house to look through the stacks of albums that were left behind by my father, sister, brother and me. She picked out some great ones based on the cover art, but she wasn't familiar with a lot of the music," Rowen said. At first, Rowen downloaded some of the music on iTunes, but figured why pay for music he already had. "I did some research online, found a well-reviewed, inexpensive Sony turntable with digital conversion software and bought it. When I started playing those old albums with little pops and clicks, I fell in love with the sound," he said.

Dorm Room Art

Crawford has noticed a trend in people buying vinyl albums for the cover art. "I've had people ask if we will just sell the sleeves. I've also noticed that a lot of younger people seem to buy records as art for hanging on their walls. I'm beyond the dorm years, but perhaps album art has replaced posters on college dorm rooms," she said.

The renewed interest in vinyl doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. Events like Record Store Day and exclusive Record Store Day releases not only promote vinyl sales, but also, the experience of going to the record store instead of downloading music online. Over 175 stores participate in Record Store Day and in years past, music fans have had more than 250 exclusive releases to choose from, with such artists as Adele, Death Cab for Cutie, Duran Duran, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance, Ozzy Osbourne and Ray Lamontagne participating. Rowen also mentioned the rewarding experience of shopping in a record store. "I'm fortunate to have a large, used record store (Mystery Train Records) in Gloucester, Mass. My daughter and I can easily fill up several hours of a rainy Saturday going through the bins there," he said. When asked just how many albums she had on vinyl, Crawford, also a musician and DJ, said, "Too many to count–thousands and it keeps growing."

With most new vinyl releases now including digital downloads, interest doesn't appear to be slowing down. In fact, as older generations rediscover the sound they used to love with all the little pops and clicks, and younger generations hear it for the first time, vinyl album sales could increase for years to come.

Source: Recording Industry Association of America, Nielsen SoundScan, Billboard Magazine
by Jennie Wood
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