While my parents don't admit to being hippies, their record collection tells another story. My youth is peppered with memories set to music, not unlike an episode of "The Wonder Years." I remember running my fingers over vinyl packaging, picking out albums with intriguing album art (The Who's "Tommy" stands out in my mind) or Cream's "Wheel of Fire." I loved the velvet tones of vinyl, and the way the sound seems to fill a space. At some point, the needle on the turntable broke and didn't get replaced. We got a CD player, the records were boxed up and piled in a closet, and the beat went on.
Since then, music has changed form a few more times. First from CDs to MP3 players like the iPod, and then to streaming with early adopters on Pandora, but now we've entered into an interesting era. In 2016, every sales channel music is slumping except for two: streaming (up 50%) and vinyl (up 11%). I don't think this is a coincidence. There's no ownership associated with streaming. Listeners can quickly sample songs and artists--literally millions of both--for either no fee or a nominal one. When listeners connect with an artist deeply, they want to invest in an experience. That's where vinyl trumps CDs, iTunes, any other form of listening experience.
Naturally, I know I might be a little biased given my childhood love for vinyl. But there's a tangible experience that comes with holding vinyl packaging and dropping that needle, and I think there's a kind of craving for that kind of close-up sentimentality. Of course, there's more to it than that, and TuneCore has a few more ideas as to why vinyl and vinyl packaging is making a resurgence.
Vinyl Packaging as a Form of Art
Whether your shelve it or frame it, album art has the potential to be iconic. Just look at The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper" album cover. And in 2016, it's risen beyond just the album cover to origami and custom box level.
Vinyl is Tangible
I love Spotify, but here's the thing: you can't leave MP3s or Spotify playlists to your kids, or frame your favorites to put on the wall. You can't have your favorite artists sign the album like vinyl packaging. Digital has a lot of positives, but also a lot of tradeoffs.
Vinyl Goes Mobile
The majority of records purchased today also include a download code so users not only have their gorgeous album, but can also download the tunes to their mobile devices or computers for listening. Amazon is an early pioneer in providing the MP3s along with vinyl purchases.
Vinyl Sounds Off
Vinyl packaging is superior, there's no loss in mobility, so how can it get better for vinyl fans? It usually comes down to the strongest argument...sound quality:
Sound is a range of frequencies. When there is a complete presentation of frequencies that diminishes as the frequency increases, the sound seems to be more complete. Vinyl tends to present the widest range of frequencies due to its analog-to-analog production process. Digital music, because of its compression to keep file sizes manageable, doesn’t present as much of a continual range
When people make this argument, it's a passionate, emotional one. And it's one echoed by an entire community of people who keep vinyl alive through patronizing smaller shops and hunting through garage sales as well as shopping online. Don McLean may have thought the music died, but it's alive and well decades later.