Technology has made such a bold impact for music lovers everywhere. Digital music means instant access to your favorite songs and artists, remastered versions of your favorite albums, and an easier hold of a music library now that there’s virtually no need for physical copies as everything is in the cloud.
However, vinyl is making a surprising comeback – it’s making a bold impact on sales and has created a resurgence of analog for music enthusiasts. Interestingly, it’s not the names one would think. Instead of bigger, more established companies, it’s actually startups who have catapulted vinyl back from its obscurity.
What goes around usually comes back around, and pop culture is no exception. In the same way outrageous fashion and musical styles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s have reappeared from obscurity, the idea of having tangible records seem to have appeal again. In fact, Record Store Day was conceived in 2008 – in celebration of independently owned record stores the world over.
For the past decade or so, vinyl’s resurgence of retro has shown continuously increasing sales. Maybe it’s the feel and nostalgia of having a physical copy of one’s favorite music. For others, maybe it’s a mere trend. And for some, it may just be a different analog sound that digital formats simply cannot replicate. Whatever it is, vinyl lovers across the United States and worldwide are eating it all up.
Interestingly, in 2017 about 14 million vinyl records were sold in the United States alone – an increase of over a thousand percent compared to 10 years earlier. Impressive as it sounds, it accounts for only 8.5 percent of US album sales. However, vinyl still has a bold impact on the music industry, disrupting a mostly digital platform with a century-old technology fighting its potential extinction.
On the business side of things, what makes vinyl special is how it’s made. Although today the compact disc (CD) still exists, vinyl producers have a hard time keeping up with the constantly rising demand for their medium. Because there are no more record press manufacturers, there are a limited number of factories such as Rainbo Records in California and Qrates from Japan would use what are practically antique equipment.
A surprising trend is that startups have been riding on the vinyl train in recent years. Here are just three names who have created a solid following:
Vinyl Me, Please
Essentially, Vinyl Me, Please (VMP) is a vinyl record club for today’s subscription-based lifestyle. Similar to how regular subscription boxes work, this company sends a member one record a month (for $23 each month). Each selection is curated by the men and women of VMP – records they think are worth a listen. In addition to the selected 12-inch vinyl record, subscribers also receive a commissioned artwork print, as well as a cocktail recipe the curators think would match the album. Established in 2013, the people behind VMP have since then shared amazing music from the likes of Father John Misty, Perfume Genius, SBTRKT, and Torres, to name a few.
Dubbed by many as the Netflix of vinyl, VNYL allows its subscribers to receive curated and hand-picked selections as well, three at a time. Each selection showcases various genres, spanning all forms of talent, allowing listeners a more diverse set of music than they probably normally would check out. What makes them even more Netflix-y is that the curators don’t just base decisions on their own personal preferences – they check out what their already-devoted fanbase would listen to, similar to Netflix’s algorithm of suggesting TV shows and movies based on its subscribers activity and preferences.
Vinyl Moon, a subscription service established in 2015, has a $25 per month offering of new indie and electronica tracks. The company’s creator Brandon Bogajewicz personally curates a selection each month in to “Volumes,” much like mixtapes and mixed CDs of the not so olden times. Thanks to his blog The Burning Ear, Bogajewicz has established himself as a music tastemaker – enough to have his then Kickstarter campaign raise an impressive $18,000 in less than a month’s time.
Though vinyl is showing no signs of slowing down or becoming extinct anytime soon, who knows how long this disruptive trend will last? The above companies have struck while the iron’s still hot – but who knows what’s next for music?