Quartz: Vinyl Sales Rise as Vinyl Usage Declines

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Vinyl record sales have seen a 350% increase over the past five years, but that growth has apparently not been matched by actual use of the format. “…Professional use of vinyl by DJs has dried up to about nil,” the revered Panasonic Technics 1200 has been discontinued due to “market realities,” and turntable sales have remained largely flat. Apparently, vinyl consumers are buying records for the larger art, not to actually play the music. While this is a minor success story for large-format graphics, it also confirms my skepticism towards this much-hyped boomlet in vinyl sales. Die-hard vinyl fandom has always struck me as being more about an elitist consumer self image than about the music itself. Read the story at Quartz.

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  1. Would you elaborate on what you mean by “elitist consumer self image”?
    As an advocate of the tangible vinyl record as an object of permanence and a refutation of the unfortunate ephemeral nature of digital music, I think that might be a bit small minded to say (if I understood you correctly)

  2. Patrick: “elitist” is too pejorative a word, I apologize. I think what I meant was that vinyl consumers are highly self-selecting, and that the importance of vinyl to many of these people is more about self-image than audio.

  3. Just thought I’d let you know that many music lovers like myself buy vinyls for the music. We started when we were teenagers and we never stopped buying them. And I’m glad I did, because when I see the state of my CD collection today, I wouldn’t have much to listen to if I didn’t. Though music lovers exist, I have to admit that you have a point, but how do you measure the use of vinyl ? Some of my friends who are DJs don’t carry their vinyls around anymore. However, they keep listening to them in the comfort of their sofa at home.

  4. Khoi: I do see where you are coming from. But I will add that I believe that the apparent “trendiness” of vinyl and “authentic-ness” with elitists and hipsters is also a manifestation of the underlying errs with the digital music revolution. Just as the trendiness of local organic foods is so popular with the same discerning individuals. Ultimately the vinyl album is about as close to the epitome of an authentic music experience that a consumer can have. I love it and believe that amongst those who care, it is ALL about the music itself… but your point is valid.

  5. Record player sales might be flat, but is there any (valid) reason at all to believe it’s because ‘hipsters’ — I hate that a word packed so tightly with judgment is so readily used — aren’t actually playing them?

    As a member of the described demographic (22-year-old vinyl purchasing/listening art student) I feel that my own experience might be worth mentioning: no one I know who listens to records bought their record player brand-new. Personally, I bought my first record player about five years ago from a friend’s parent who was moving, and my next record player will be from a small shop that deals in well-maintained used audio equipment. I’ve spent many nights over at friend’s places listening to records on players that were bought at garage sales, scavenged from their parents’ attic, even found at the side of a road. Realistically, between rent, food, tuition, and supplies, no one is dropping the cash for a new record player; for them the ever-more-frequent pops and cracks are fine.

    I really hope the older crowd can bring themselves to abolish their use of the perniciously-vague term ‘hipster’ and get on admitting that they’ve got the same flaws and fears of those they judge and criticize.