Back to black: the vinyl record is returning and replacing the cd

Record store Plato in Groningen sells more vinyl records than CD’s. Photo: Else van der Steeg

The vinyl record is making a comeback. The nostalgic music medium is growing in popularity amongst young adults.

Nowadays, music is just one click away. Streaming services like Spotify and iTunes bring every type of music to smartphones and laptops. Despite this easy access to music, sales of the much more user intensive vinyl record are strongly increasing.

Two years ago, about 60 percent of records sold at Plato Groningen were cd’s, 40 percent was vinyl. According to store manager Herre-Jan van den Berg, the two have now traded places with sales of vinyl rapidly gaining ground.

“It’s all part of an experience,” Van den Berg says. “The process of taking a disc from its cover, placing it in the gramophone player, and listening to those first sounds makes you enjoy the music more actively.”

Henry Boeree, age 25, has been buying vinyl all his life. “Even when I was a little kid, I was fascinated by the fact that music came out of this moving black disc.”

“When I was younger, collecting records was a gimmicky thing,” Boeree, who consciously experienced the increase in vinyl sales, says. “No one would publish on vinyl and it would be really hard to find something. Nowadays, you can find almost everything anywhere.”

People buy vinyl for the nostalgia, according to Boeree, “The 60’s to 80’s are coming back in fashion. Listening to gramophone players is a part of that.”

Most people buying vinyl are between twenty to thirty years old, Van den Berg notices. “They grew up downloading music, so being able to physically hold their favourite album is a really nice experience.”

“There is nothing quite like a record,” Boeree says. “Even a CD feels less personal. You can record over it or copy the music to an iPod.”

Van den Berg is not worried about competing with the big streaming services. “People like collecting and having something tangible. If anything, the two complete one another. For example, people will listen to Spotify to explore new music and then buy records of the albums they like the most.”

The listening experience on Spotify is completely different for Boeree. “On Spotify, I just put a playlist on shuffle in the background,” he says. “When I put on a record, I really commit to that music for the next twenty to fifty minutes.”

“I just buy my favourite records as a little treat to myself,” Boeree says. As a student, he can’t afford to buy many. “A record on vinyl is unique: it’s a permanent incarnation of the music. You can hear all the crackles, even the dust on the record. Somehow that gives it a warmer sound.”

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