Some fascinating statistics around the continued renaissance in the popularity of vinyl records recently.
Sales are at the highest level since the ‘80’s but 48% of purchasers never play them and 7% of this audience doesn’t even have a record deck.
So why is this?
Some of the respondents mentioned that they bought records as a souvenir of their digital download of the same album.
This seems to be a strong kick-back against the intangible, invisible nature of digital compared to the intrinsic, tangible attributes of a physical record.
I’ve also noticed a trend in many individuals seeking to re-address their work and play balance by turning off their mobile at the end of the working day and maintaining radio silence when they go away for an extended weekend or on holiday – no sight of an ‘out of office’ message either.
So are both these changes signs that we are growing tired of the ‘always on’ digital technology that infiltrates every part of our life?
Sleep experts have been warning us for some years now to avoid watching television in bed and to ensure that mobile devices aren’t brought into the bedroom.
A recent power cut at home illustrated how much the background noise and LED lighting of digital technology intrudes – the incessant hum of hubs, modems, satellite TV boxes, wirless speakers, game consoles, bluetooth devices and their accompanying power-on and network lights.
In the vinyl age, the audio experience was preceded by a visual and tactile experience through interaction with the precious album sleeve, often featuring fabulous designs and extraordinary artworks and crafted album notes. A sense of musical theatre.
Conversely the digital music experience is often through a sterile device that we use for many things – telephone calls, texts, emails, web browsing, apps – irrespective of whether we might listen to the music on the same home speakers that were used to listen to vinyl in the past. These devices by their very nature are interruptive and distracting – having our listening experience punctuated by texts, phone calls and emails is something we have to accept unless we switch off web connectivity.
And before digital there was the CD – a halfway house between vinyl and streaming and yet many were never comfortable with this medium which was viewed as a poor substitute in comparison to its predecessor because of its hard, clinical presentation, on both an audio and visual level.
We have seen a similar scenario with e-readers of course with many stating they would be the demise of books and magazines and yet sales of both are at an all-time high.
As humans we have an intrinsic need to touch and gain a sense of proximity as part of our sensory experiences – something which digital simply isn’t capable of delivering – for the moment at least.
And for some perhaps, buying vinyl is symbolic of their rejection of everything digital, a want to enjoy uninterrupted appreciation of an art form in the whole, to experience the visual portrayal of sound through a beautifully designed sleeve as conceived by the artist and as well as the music itself.