Entertainment Music Vinyl: The unlikely victor in the war against CDs

Vinyl: The unlikely victor in the war against CDs

Vinyls are experiencing a resurgence in Australia. Photo: Getty
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Despite the plethora of music streaming services providing incredible sound quality in 2018, audiophiles are increasingly attracted to rich, crackling sound of a vinyl record.

According to recent data released by the Australian Recording industry Association (ARIA), vinyl sales were steadily increasing for the seventh consecutive year, with $18.1 million in album sales – a $3 million increase in album sales compared to the previous year.

The vinyl resurgence

Music giant Sony last year announced it would re-enter vinyl record production to meet increasing demand, which suggests the format that many had written off a decade ago, is here to stay.

But is the vinyl resurgence really about the sound? Nostalgia? Or something else?

Australian Institute of Music’s Senior Lecturer and lead guitarist from Australian rock band Icehouse, Paul Gildea, said the fascination with vinyl wasn’t necessarily about the audio quality.

“The vinyl resurgence is definitely happening but it’s not based on the sound quality, that’s to do with how the music has been reproduced and what type of headphones you’re using,” Gildea said.

Icehouse’s Paul Gildea (left) says streaming music is dominating in Australia. Photo: Getty

“There’s more to owning vinyl than just sound and for young people it’s about buying something they can keep as a collectable.”

“People love owning a 12-inch record with artwork – there’s something special in that.”

Gildea said even with its popularity, the vinyl resurgence wouldn’t save the music industry.

“The other day I asked a class of 16-year-old teens if they owned vinyl and more than 50 per cent put up their hands – so it’s come so far over the years.

“But it won’t save the industry – subscription music is the key driver for that.”

CDs and music streaming

ARIA’s data showed CD sales plummeted last year to sales at $74.6 million, compared to $87.2 million the previous year.

With digital downloads dropping from $105 million to $77.7 million, subscription streaming services are clearly taking over, raking in $213 million last year.

JMC Academy head of music and two-time ARIA award-winning producer Dr Lachlan Goold said CDs were the best for sound quality, but were quickly becoming forgotten.

“CDs were a victim of convenience and this is why music streaming has taken over,” Dr Goold said.

He said the advantage of streaming music was that listeners could readily access a multitude of songs within seconds.

“CDs were marketed as having the perfect sound forever, especially if you’re comparing this to vinyls, but with music streaming services – it offers that experience at your fingertips.”

The vinyl experience

Your author recently stayed in Los Angeles and, being a music lover, decided to visit Hollywood’s music Mecca, Amoeba Music, which bills itself as the world’s largest independent record store.

I explored aisles upon aisles of music while digging the crates buried underneath the shelve pits to snare a rare gem.

What I loved most though was bonding with other music nerds. When I stumbled across the country music aisle, another music fan started talking to me about the history of Johnny Cash’s infamous album Folsom Prison Blues and other interesting facts about the Man in Black.

The world-famous Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Photo: Twitter 

I spoke to several longtime customers who remembered their penniless days when they would sell their old records at the Amoeba counter for quick cash.

But, when I asked Hollywood locals why they kept coming back, considering most had access to streaming services, their answers were simple – they loved collecting vinyls and the “authentic experience” of visiting a record store.

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