As we fully embark into 2024, it is also time to bid farewell to another record-breaking (hopefully not literally) year of vinyl sales. In the UK alone, the BPI (British Phonographic Institute) reported its 16th consecutive annual increase in sales, a staggering fourfold from the previous year that marks 2023 the best of the decade.

But why now, in a digital age, are we witnessing this remarkable comeback? When streaming services dominate – offering by far the most affordable and accessible way to discover and listen to music – what is causing consumers to turn back to one of the earliest audio formats ever invented?

The most practical response would be to account for notions of superiority that have always surrounded the record. Any self-proclaimed audiophile or avid collector won’t let you hear the end of how the record “just sounds better”. Even only the casual listener who lived through the record’s original peak will still carry a sentiment akin: nothing beats reading the sleeve notes, lowering the needle, or the classic crackle. 

Perhaps, part of this record resurgence is attributable to nostalgia; those who had previously traded in their hauls of LPs and singles may now long to return back to what had been taken for granted. Even for younger listeners who had never lived through the record’s golden age of the ’60s and ’70s, a certain ‘anemoia’ — neologist John Koenig’s word for the nostalgia of a time that one has never experienced — may suggest a similar appeal that also ties up closely with ideas around vinyl’s fetishisation, its ‘aesthetic’ value, and consumer culture. 

Despite this, the allure of the record for the younger or newer collector does not lie solely in audio quality or collectibility. As many grapple with an acute awareness of instant gratification and reliance on our devices, the merit of the record may simply be due to its analogue and physical nature. To hear and appreciate music whilst detached entirely from the online world is not only the most authentic experience, but now a rare and refreshing one too.    

Some buyers also favour the physical form as it is often regarded as the best way to truly support artists – and stores too for that matter. A collection of your favourite band’s entire discography has always been (an albeit vein) evidence of your fandom, but can also be considered the more ethical option when compared to the abysmal rates/income offered by streaming platforms like Spotify. 

However, It cannot go without noting the saturation of pop, and already well-established artists that lead the line in the recent sales boom. Indeed, BPI’s 2023 top 10 best sellers saw Taylor Swift clock up 3 entries, alongside reissues of past albums from Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. Considering this, more questions must be raised: is vinyl’s revival truly indicative of a rekindled, deeper appreciation for the format and music itself; and a revival also inclusive of smaller and newer artists across all genres? Or, is it simply another vehicle of dominance and opportunity for the industry’s conglomerates and megastars to cash in on?

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