The 70’s & 80’s
Vinyl record sales skyrocketed in their prime time of the early 60’s and on through the 70’s. Business was definitely booming for the record industry at that time. Led Zeppelin’s ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ (1971) was a defining album of the 70’s and it has accumulated an estimated sale of 37 million copies worldwide. Fast forward to the 80’s and the king of pop, Michael Jackson, is powering through the top charts. His legendary album ‘Thriller‘ (1982) has acquired an estimated sale of 40 million copies worldwide. Now that’s a lot of records.
Late 90’s & early 2000’s
However, through the progression of modern technology, vinyl records were changed to be more compact, with less maintenance and cheaper to manufacture. Thus, the compact disc, aka, the CD was born. Starting in the years of the early 90’s, vinyl record sales began to dwindle, and consumer demand was almost exclusively geared toward CDs. This new format of music was easily portable, convenient for on-the-go listening, and storing them was simple. Record companies were pressing very limited amounts of vinyl at this time due to such low demand for this format of music.
2010 & 2015
Eventually, like everything, CD’s became old news compared to the new way of listening to music. This new format was, of course, digital audio. Downloading and purchasing music on the internet without any physical production became very popular in the mid-to-late 2000’s and by 2010, it was by far the most common way of listening to music. All your music was stored on a small compact i-pod or mp3, available to listen to when and where you chose. In 2012, the United States had the most illegal downloads across the world, with 96 million downloads. Almost all music was released firstly on different platforms of the internet, before being released physically in limited numbers. This is also around the time that music streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal became popular. For a small monthly fee, users can have access to all the music they want and are still able to support the artists, instead of illegally downloading tracks.
2015 & present day
While the world of digital downloads and streaming is still highly prevalent in the modern day, in a strange twist of events, vinyl records are making a comeback. The Global Trade value for vinyl records in 2007 was estimated to be approximately 55 million (USD). In 2015, that number soared to an estimated 416 million (USD). Record collecting is becoming a very popular hobby amongst the new millennial generation. Of course, it still remains those collectors who’ve been collecting since Abbey Road was released, but vinyl seems to be appealing to teenagers more each day. Personally, vinyl collecting has been a means of separating music from the constant buzz of social media. When you put on a record, all you have to do is sit and listen. When you play music from your phone or i-pod, oftentimes it becomes background noise, therefore you lose the true value of the music. Aside from the fact that listening to records really embodies the whole concept and meaning of the record as a complete piece of art, you also get it in a physical copy. You get the added components of the album cover, the gatefold spread, the inner sleeves, lyric sheets, posters, artist’s notes, etc. Sometimes if you’re lucky, the record itself can be art. Beautiful colored pressings can really finalize and unite the album as a whole. I think this is one of the most considerable reasons as to why millennials are bringing back vinyl records, due to the fact that records are a tiny fragment of physical possession, in a world where everything is digital and stored on hard drives.
This music revolution has caught the attention of the mainstream media, inspiring the creation of news broadcasts, and mini-documentaries. With all luck, the vinyl revival revolution will continue on its journey for decades to come.
“Vinyl is the real deal. I’ve always felt like until you buy the vinyl record, you don’t really own the album. And it’s not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive.” – Jack White