Vinyl records weigh a ton and getting music used to be a big deal. For all intents and purposes, the mesh should have destroyed the market for vinyl records. But the data says differently. An article in Fortune, “Vinyl Record Sales Are At A 28- Year High,” by Chris Morris, states, “Fueled by that unique sound quality and a nostalgia wave, sales of vinyl records were up 32% to $416 million, their highest level since 1988… Put another way: Revenues from vinyl sales last year were higher than those of on-demand ad-supported streaming services, such as YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s free service, which only accounted for $385 million”.
It’s perhaps the lack of marketing that has helped vinyl the most. While other music services like Pandora, Spotify and Youtube now make money by exposing viewers to mandatory advertisements, unless they pass the ad-free paywall, vinyl remains explicitly uncommercial. There are no ads to skip, and by definition, nothing digital about dropping a needle onto wax. As an industry, intentionally separate from the mesh, records and their recent success harp of deeper human emotion not yet calculated by algorithms–nostalgia.
Big business has tapped this feeling through shows like Californication, hundreds of Beatles rockumentaries, and even Rolling Stones reunion tours. The market for the feeling you get when thinking about 1969 and the summer of love makes money. For those like myself who were not alive during the 60’s, the only connection I have to the era is what the media tells me. I have friends who buy records to “support the artists” knowing that streaming services are giving micro pennies in royalties to the bands who make the music corporations sling. It’s the same argument you get when you hear about someone buying fair trade and organic. Judging by the two cases of records in my room I have been played like a fiddle, and they did it without Google Adwords.
But let’s not confuse the lack marketing from the lack of brand. While their lies captured in the grooves of every record sale a silent yet apparent rebellion against all things digital about modern marketing, the analog nature of vinyl mirrors the sentiment we have for the heyday of marketing seen during the Coca-Cola/Mad Men era. For the disk jockeying hipster what may seem like the small rebellion of a record collection is simply another form of conformity. As a millennial vinyl collector, you are somewhat vain, eager to show the world you subscribe to the “cool” culture of yesteryear and for the marketing giants perhaps they are smart enough to harness the power of the absence of the mesh just as much as the mesh itself.