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30 June 2017

Sony is bringing vinyl back, but the truth is it never went away

The old time favorites are back.
The old time favorites are back.

Image: matt cardy/Getty Images

Vinyl records are truly a thing of beauty. They were the first thing to bring personal music libraries to the masses, and that’s something we’ll never forget. While cassette tapes, CDs, and streaming services have all succeeded the format, there’s just something about vinyl records that keeps them living on.

Sony Music understands this and has decided to start pressing vinyl records again at a Japanese factory by next March. This comes after a 25-year high in record sales, where we bought more than 3.2 million LPs in 2016. 

Some people might dismiss Sony’s move as faddish. But fads come and go without a lot of rhyme or reason; the vinyl record, on the other hand, has proven to be as much of a classic staple as the little black dress. While sales have crept up and down, vinyl records have never left our sight. And we’ll probably never see them completely disappear.

At least for me, the first band that comes to mind when I picture a record is The Beatles. Love Me Do was released in the early 1960s — 30 years before I was born. And that shows you exactly why records are still around today. They helped music’s biggest legends become the superstars that they were, and they can never be forgotten for that.

It’s something lost on today’s Streaming Generation™️: Paying for music means it has real value. 

There are a couple of other qualities that put records in the “we’re never going away” club. If you actually were alive when record sales were booming, taking them out of their covers is a reminiscent experience that can bring you back to when they were originally released. And for the younger generations like myself, records can remind you of stories your dad used to tell about listening to his favorite band with buddies when they were young. Records somehow have the ability to connect people across multiple generations that a lot of other mediums just don’t have. 

And the great thing about records is that memories aren’t the only thing they give us. Unlike a lot of our music today that we just have stored in a digital library on our phones, records are something we can actually touch. You can keep your collection filed away in your basement or hang it on the wall. But either way, you know you’ve always got a physical copy you can play and look at whenever you want. 

One of the greatest features of the physical record is the cover itself. It’s wonky, artistic, wonderful, and (most of the time) has a lot of meaning behind it. We can see it up close on the cardstock, pass it around the room for our friends to enjoy, and display it proudly. Some of today’s digital album covers are exciting and unique, but it’s also pretty common to just see the musician’s face used as the cover art. And you’re probably not going to pass your phone around the room for everyone to gawk at the art and other songs on the album.

All this adds up to the clearest reason behind the format’s surprising longevity: Vinyl records are made for superfans.

Many people (especially teenagers) had to save up to but records when they were first released. Even today, buying a vinyl record means spending money on music you could easily stream for free (or pretty close to free) on Pandora, YouTube, or Spotify. It seems obvious, but it’s something lost on today’s Streaming Generation™️: Paying for music — specific music — means it has real value. The people who are really driving fandom and love their bands more than anything are willing to shell out a couple of extra bucks to get a “hard” copy, as well they should be. With Sony’s move, that just got a little easier.

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