Record Store Day 2012: The Appeal of Vinyl

by Dave Mainella

This coming Saturday, April 21st is the 5th annual Record Store Day, a day when music fans and record aficionados congregate at their favorite local independent record store to celebrate the warm hiss and crackle of diamond on vinyl.  It is the culmination of a century of lasting mechanical ingenuity and hours upon hours of artistic integrity, and the opportunity to find one-of-a-kind musical magic.

Such a romantic depiction of this holiday is deliberate; the romanticism of vinyl records continue to inspire music lovers to covet this musical medium.

The Recording Industry Association of America released its 2011 sales figures a few weeks ago.  2011 marked the first year-over-year growth in the music industry since 2004.  Total value of all music shipments were up 0.2% from 2010.

For the first time, digital music shipments comprised slightly more than 50% of all music shipments in the United States.  The digital trend is crystal clear.  The avenues by which music fans and collectors can obtain the physical identities of their favorite music and songs are steadily shrinking.

Physical music distributions dropped 4% from the year before, led by an 8.5% value decline in CD shipments.  The CD is becoming more and more obsolete.  And music fans are turning to vinyl to answer their needs for a physical relationship with their music.

Shipments of vinyl albums were up 31.5% from 2010 to 2011, with 5 million units yielding approximately $119 million.  Vinyl records are adding value to the physical segment of the music industry that has been in decline, cause for celebration among vinyl collectors and independent record stores.

There are several reasons fans, collectors, and the curious will line up at the local record store on Saturday morning to buy vinyl. Vinyl records are a complete artistic experience.  A complex entity of multimedia creative expression, they fill the empty holes of music appreciation that digital never did and CD’s are leaving behind.

Vinyl albums continue to offer that physical experience.  The way a needle passes over grooves and vibrates, recreating the sounds of our favorite songs, is a very physical process.  A listener can see and feel the entire listening experience unfold before his or her own eyes and ears: the tactile element of the music fan.

Album covers are just as collected and cherished as the music they protect.  Artists such as Norman Seeff, Mati Klarwein, and Andy Warhol have left lasting impressions on the art and music communities with their visual representation of music and musicians.  The beautiful artwork of an album’s cover speaks to the visual element of the music fan.

Add in the hiss and crackle, the random and spontaneous, to the visual and physical aspects of vinyl records, and we’re at the debate that the vinyl album “sounds better.”  But fidelity aside, vinyl albums offer an aesthetic sincerity that often seems lacking in the digital downloads or streams of today.  They are a fantastic and meaningful medium by which to enjoy the fruits of artistic dedication.  They appeal to the romantic in every music fan.

For more information about Record Store Day, including participating stores near you, a list of releases, and in-store performances, visit http://www.recordstoreday.com.

Dave Mainella is a musician, producer, composer, and writer living in
New York. He graduated from New York University in 2011 with a Jazz
Studies degree. See what he’s up to @DaveMainella.

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