Vinyl Comeback in Era of Streaming

A smell of antique and dust fills the nostrils while Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blasts from the speakers. Inside the hall a sign reads “Welcome to Europe’s largest market place for records, CDs and Pop Memorabilia.”


Youngsters and elders flick through tables with boxes full of vinyl records through, as they try to find the perfect vinyl to take home. Two generations united in the same fair with the same purpose, to remember the good old 80s.


Nearby, a 20-year-old man called Luca grabs a special edition of “That Kind of Magic” by Queen. As he studies the vinyl he says, “This is my dad’s favourite Queen’s album. I am going to give it to him as a present for his 50th birthday.”


Alongside, two people are shouting at each other. A woman and a man argue about what song from the band Rush is better, “Tom Sawyer” or “Limelight”.


Across the western world vinyl records have made a remarkable comeback, with more that 14 million LP sales in the United States and more than four million in the UK in 2017.


The streaming era has come and changed the music scene. The creation of online platforms to listen to music such as Spotify, has made CDs sales drop notoriously. In June 2018, Spotify had 83 million paying subscribers, and it keeps on growing.


2016 was a year of unexpected events, where many legends left us: David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, etc.


Their loss is considered one of the main reasons for the revival of vinyl records. In consequence of their deaths, many fans started buying mementos, in order to always remember their musical icons and idols. After David Bowie’s death, he became the best vinyl selling artist of 2016.


But it is not only the music itself, it is also Bowie’s covers what attracted people to buy his vinyls. His art covers were more than just pictures, they had an inner meaning. A clear example is the cover of his last album “Blackstar”. Bowie chose not to write “Blackstar” in the cover but to put the symbol. It symbolizes finality, darkness, simplicity, the representation of the music, since Bowie was facing his own mortality.


Tom Spencer runs a vinyl shop in Notting Hill Gate called “Music & Goods Exchange,” one of the oldest surviving independent record stores in London. It is a chain of two shops that buys and sells records from rock, pop, jazz, soul, dance, classical and beyond.


One of the rarest records that the shop has sold is the album July from the 60’s band July, for 1,400 pounds.


Tom has got his own favourite vinyl cover, “Low End Theory” by the American rap group called A Tribe Called Quest. “At the time in 1991, it was provocative, but at the same simple with a touch of originality; it captivated me,” says Tom.


Tom has not got a favorite vinyl record, since it changes everyday, but today’s is “Madvillainy” from the American hip hop duo Madvillain.


The revival of vinyl started in 2006 when the UK’s return to an interest in indie rock of the 1980s took off. It was helped by the release of Artic Monkey’s debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not”.


According to Tom, many people buy them vinlys without having a record player, just because of the cover art. “They like to hang them on the walls as if they were paintings.”


Everything in vinyl records has changed from their packaging to their art cover, to the price. Back in the 80s vinyl records were a very commercial product, whilst now they are considered premium products.


In the 80s vinyl records used to cost around five pounds. They were less valuable, their packaging was less detailed, they were sold to be listened to, and their art covers were simple and “cheesy,” according to Tom.

Whereas now, vinyl records cost around 20 pounds, their packaging is more elaborated, they are sold as an experience, as mementos, rather than just to listen to, and the use of technology in art covers, means, covers are now more detailed.


Throughout the 20th century, we have seen the rise and fall of vinyl records. And their resurgence in the end of the 21st century.


The major period of vinyl sales was from the inception of the vinyl LP in 1948 to 1988 when CDs outsold records for the first time.


During WWI, the US Armed Forces produced a large number of discs made out of vinyl for the first time, because the material was less breakable, for the troops overseas. This event changed the vinyl’s industry since zinc was no longer going to be used as the disc’s material.


Before, composers would write long, elaborate symphonies and operas because the audience may only get to hear several performances in a span of time.


After the record player was invented, musicians had to redesign the way they wrote music. The record player only held a few minutes of music; now we can hear infinite music in just one device.


Technology helps determine what we hear and how we hear it. Aficionados of vinyl records would probably say: Be a rebel and do not succumb to the streaming era, continue with the legacy of vinyl records by buying them.