If you ask a vinyl record collector why, in the time of iPods, they still like the format, they will give you one of many answers. One thing that remains true is that, no matter the reason, the medium has seen an increase in popularity over the past few years.
As recently as 2006, The New York Times declared that vinyl was practically dead, yet not even three years later the medium registered the highest annual sales it had since the Nielsen SoundScan began keeping track in 1991.
Many vinyl fans are older, and retained their collections after growing up with the medium, but others are young and picked up albums later. Those who were born later than the mid-1980s would need to seek out records, having most likely grown up with cassettes, CDs and, more recently, mp3s. Some were exposed at a young age, with parents playing vinyl from their own holdover collections, while others came to them in other ways, whether it be through friends, jobs or instances of chance.
But young collectors are out there, as is evident by the customers of some New York vendors. One early fall Friday afternoon at Record Grouch, a small shop located below a vintage clothing store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all but one of the patrons who came in to shop appeared to be under 30 years old. On a late fall weekend at Halcyon in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the patrons inside appeared similarly younthful. This is also the case at festivals and flea markets – a lot of the clientele is young, collectors born late enough to be considered part of the digital generation.
The medium itself has some newer elements, as well. In September, musician Jack White of the White Stripes and the Dead Weather introduced a new kind of vinyl – the Triple Decker Record, which is a 12-inch LP with a 7-inch record housed inside. This was a very limited pressing, however, with only 300 copies made. It’s also going green. Brooklyn Phono, one of only 14 record manufacturers left in the country, works with recycled vinyl. They grind down unwanted records and melt the plastic to remake into fresh pieces, which sounds the same as records pressed from brand new, virgin material.
There’s no telling for sure where records, which have been around since the 1870s, will go in the future. Technology adapts, and sales wax and wane, but even with the advent of other, more convenient, media, vinyl is still around and, at least for now, its popularity is increasing.