Spinning favorite LPs for hours on end with the volume just a little too loud has long been a hobby for many teenagers. Vinyl records have been around since the early 1900s, providing professional sound quality to the average consumer.
Those of us who grew up during vinyl LP’s prime, from the 1950s through the late 1980s, remember spending endless hours at the local record store. Aside from the radio, a teenager’s record collection was the only access to popular music and was worth the investment of an entire week’s allowance.
That’s not to say the vinyl record didn’t go without competition from other musical mediums.
In the early 1960s, cassette tapes made their way into the music listening industry. The cassette promised portability with the ease of rewinding forward or backward. Unfortunately, cassettes also had the problem of sticking in the cassette player, twisting, or breaking the cassette, usually due to overplaying.
The 1970s brought the 8-track tape. Larger than the cassette, but still portable, the 8-track attempted to replace both the cassette and the vinyl record. However, consumers soon realized that they had their flaws too.
8-track did not offer the same sound quality as vinyl, had the same breaking potential as cassette, and often the music would stop in the middle of a song to change tracks.
Then came the golden age of the compact disc.
From 1988, the CD became the new standard for music listening, leading to the virtual extinction of the vinyl record until 2006, when the vinyl LP began to make a slow but steady comeback.
According to the Nielsen Music Billboard, vinyl sales in 2006 were almost zero, but slowly over the next decade and a half they increased to reach 41.7 million sales by 2021.
Vinyl sales have been steadily rising since 2010, then in 2020 vinyl sales exceeded CD sales for the first time since the 1980s.
Experts believe that several factors have contributed to the recent popularity of vinyl records.
The sound quality of a vinyl record is arguably the most considered factor when purchasing a vinyl record compared to other musical media. Vinyl’s appeal to consumers is the analog sound it reverberates, which is considerably better than a digital CD.
Vinyl also offers superior sound quality compared to streaming services. In the digital audio format used by Spotify or iTunes, the overall sound quality is reduced by compressed files to fit in the memory of your smartphone or streaming platform.
Another part of the appeal of a vinyl album is that the album art is much easier to see and appreciate on a vinyl album cover.
Many record albums, past and present, contain iconic works of art created by known and unknown artists. Very often, collecting album covers is a collector’s dream in itself.
Despite the fact that those of us who grew up with vinyl record albums from the 1950s to the 1980s still hold favorite vinyl records in our hearts, it’s actually millennials who are stoking the sales fire. of vinyls.
People aged 35 and under represent 70% of the current album buying market, while only 27% of vinyl buyers are 36 and over.
Most vinyl collectors today are in it for the “full vinyl experience”. The true vinyl lover loves the hunt as much as the find and will happily spend hours browsing new and vintage albums in search of “the find”.
Many collectors view vinyl albums as an investment that can be resold in the future or passed on to the next generation.
In the mid-1970s, you could buy a 45 rpm record for 95 cents and an LP record for less than $10, but today new vinyl records cost triple the price of a CD, with an average cost of just under $30 (and with the cost of inflation and the growing popularity of vinyl, that price is set to rise).
If you’re considering “investing” in a vinyl collection, keep in mind that your initial investment can add up quickly.
Vintage albums can be more affordable, ranging in price from $1 to $100, depending on the condition of the album and the artist.
Contemporary vinyls are available at many big box stores, but to get the “true vinyl experience” you have to venture into smaller independent record stores.
Fortunately, New England offers a mecca of options for music lovers, with a wealth of small record stores in our area.
Despite the many record store options to choose from, there are several noteworthy stores within driving distance worth mentioning.
Planet Records, located at 144 Mt. Auburn St. in Cambridge is a small store with a large inventory of new and vintage records.
Also located in Cambridge at 538 Mass Ave. is Cheapo Records. They have a huge collection of newer and vintage records, and are willing to try and locate a particular record if they don’t have it in stock.
Mystery Train Records, located at 21 Main Street in Gloucester, specializes in new, used and rare albums. Be sure to clear your schedule when planning a trip there, as you could easily be there for hours.
Somerville Grooves, located at 26 Union Square in Somerville, offers vintage LPs and 45s at very competitive prices.
Vinyl Destination, located at Mill No.5 in Lowell, offers a wide genre of musical styles, specializing in vintage albums.
Spinnaker Records, located at 596 Main St. in Hyannis, has been in business since 1986 and offers a wide selection of vinyl, CDs, posters and t-shirts for music lovers.
Most smaller record stores are also in the market to buy, sell, or trade record collections. If you plan to sell all or part of your collection, call the stores ahead of time, as many require an appointment to view and examine your collection.
Although good music never goes out of style, the format in which the consumer buys, collects and listens to music has changed over the years with vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks, CDs and now streaming services.
But in the end, it seems like the old-but-good vinyl album has stood the test of time with superior sound quality and the nostalgic comfort of an old friend.