January 17, 2014 7:50 pm
Updated: January 17, 2014 7:54 pm

New tune? US vinyl sales jump 32 per cent in 2013: report


Watch the video above: The Vinyl you remember from your childhood – is cooler than ever. Laura Zilke reports. 

TORONTO – With MP3 players, digital downloads, torrents, CDs and an array of other options at your fingertips, it seems a growing group of people are turning back time (as Cher sang) and buying vinyl.

Statista, a statistics website, released new numbers recently showing a huge increase in vinyl sales over the past decade, increasing 250 per cent from 2002 to 2012.

Vinyl sales in 2012 only accounted for a tiny fraction of total album sales in the United States (two per cent) compared to CDs and digital downloads which totaled 165 million and 118 million in sales, respectively.

A Statista graph showing the increase in vinyl sales since 1993.

Handout / Statista

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“For me, it’s not about the sound, a lot of people say it sounds better, it’s about the same, you know, but it’s the experience of putting on an album,” Aki Abe, owner of Cosmos Records said. “On a Sunday afternoon, with your girl, or your wife, you know, get up and put on a record; it’s a really fun time.”

Abe’s store is described as a “vintage vinyl boutique” online and only carries “good quality, 70s and 60s originals,” he said.

The store has been at the corner of Queen Street and Bathurst Street since 1998 but has seen a resurgence of customers in the last few years.

“I see a lot more people coming in. especially the street here has changed quite a bit,” he said. “There’s a lot of new stores and that’s helped us out quite a bit.”

While vinyl clearly represents just a fraction of the market, Abe said it’s distinct from the new technologies.

“I remember when I was a kid, people always wanted a Sony Walkman, something new that came out, you’ve got to have it right,” he said. “There’s always that core of people that want to stick to something that was always perfect to begin with.”

For some lovers of vinyl, the nostalgia of buying a record and exploring the liner notes keeps them coming back. And some records, unlike digital downloads, have stories connected to them that transform the product into a collector’s item.

The Beatles original cover of their ‘Yesterday and Today’ album showed them alongside raw meat, body parts and dolls heads. Dubbed the “butcher” cover, only 750,000 copies were printed before public backlash forced the record company to reissue the album.  In Nov. 2013, a well-maintained copy of the album sold for $15,300 on Ebay.

“We get a lot of really collectible, rare items. And collectors that come in and they’ve been looking for things for 20 years and they find it, they’ve got to have it,” Abe said.

So why are people buying vinyl records when they can get songs at 99 cents a piece with just a few clicks? Will Oremus, a writer at Slate.com, suggests, “the vinyl boom can be seen as yet another manifestation of the societal fetishization of all things ‘vintage’ and analog, which is pretty clearly a response to digitization, corporitization [sic], globalization, and probably some other izations I’m not thinking of right now.”

For jazz musician Neil Swainson, he buys records because he likes the experience of putting a record on the turn table and having to flip it over.

“I like the sound of course but a lot of things on records you can’t get on CDs,” he said. “I’ve always had a record collection since I was a kid and I never got rid of it. So it’s just been growing more than my CD collection has.”

Swainson has a “few thousand” records in his collection.

“There’s 50 years of vinyl out there, lots of records, so I’ve got a lot of it, but there’s much more that I don’t have. So it’s kind of fun.”

© 2014 Shaw Media

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