By the time he got a job selling vinyl at A1 Records in lower Manhattan, Josh Burns had spent 20 years hanging out at that East Village music hotspot, with its vinyl album-covered walls. He knows A1’s longtime regulars and the new, young collectors who “oftentimes are not really sure even how to use a turntable but are excited to get into it.”
Such zeal is part of what’s driving a resurgence of vinyl records that, in turn, has prompted new school pop idols such as Adele and Taylor Swift to record in the same fashion that old school icons like Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Miles Davis did.
“If death is pretty final, I’m collecting vinyl.” -R.E.M. lyrics
“In 2008, it was, like, ‘Oh, wait a second,’” Burns said. “There were kids coming in—18-year-olds, 20-year-olds—looking for records. Since that time, over the last eight years, it’s been a very slow but steady increase. Now we’re at this point where it seems like records are really back.”
Sales of vinyl records have risen steadily since 2007, according to the Recording Industry Association of America “Vinyl Still Rocks” report, released in March 2016. Revenue from vinyl exceeded profits from ad-supported streaming music for a second, consecutive year in 2015, according to that report.
Buying vinyl is so trendy that even clothing retailers such as Urban Outfitters sell albums now.
“I’m still listening to wax; I’m not using the CD.” -Beastie Boys lyrics
“It’s just an appreciation of music, and recognizing and understanding that [vinyl] is the most pro way of listening,” said musician Rahill Jamalifard, a clerk at Academy Records in the East Village. “… Even the scratches on it give it character.”
The same teens and young adults who “would download it or take the music for free,” said Jamal Alnaser, owner of the West Village’s Village Music World, now see vinyl as “a hobby and a cool thing.”
He also noted that, “In 2003, the whole industry got real sinked into that digital and download era. Then, vinyl came back, and it’s, like, a big thing.”
“Vinyl is the real deal.” -Singer-song writer, producer Jack White on NPR
Some new fans of vinyl believe it has a significantly fuller sound, said the manager at 25-year-old Generation Records, who would only give this reporter one name, Jason. What’s really happening, he added, is many of them are listening to music through stereo speakers for the first time, rather than through lower-quality generic earbuds or speakers connected to desktop computers.
Many vinyl fans, he added, also are drawn to the cover art, liner notes and promotional posters for albums.
The younger fans aside, record-buyers at Generation Records, with its two floors of albums, ranging from heavy metal to reggae, still include “a lot of the older generation that probably never stopped collecting vinyl,” he said.
Burns of A1 Records said this about the broad spectrum of vinyl-lovers: “One thing I’ve always liked about any collecting scene is that you see young, old, white, black, gay, straight, all ages. It’s people who just have a real obsession with music and records.”
-Article originally appeared in the NYU Spectrum