Why is vinyl's popularity continuing to rise?

A legion of music fans will be coming out in droves for Record Store Day on April 22, but you might be surprised by the age group that is driving the continued resurgence of the vinyl LP
  • A Rolling Stones vinyl LP
    Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images
April 20, 2017 -- 10:00 am PDT

Be honest. You've been eyeing up your parents' vinyl collection in the basement, craving the feel of a physical record in your hand, gently dropping the needle on the turntable as vinyl's classic, rich and arguably superior sound emanates into the room. We're right there with you, and so are the millions of vinyl fans who will celebrate Record Store Day on April 22.

Independent retailers participating in the 10th annual Record Store Day are expecting a surge in vinyl sales by as much as 321 percent. This tracks with Nielsen Music's year-end report that showed vinyl finishing out 2016 with 13 million in sales, the format's highest tally since 1991. The majority of those adding to their vinyl collections — an estimated 72 percent, according to Music Watch — are under the age of 35.

Why is vinyl making a resurgence in the middle of the digital age of streaming?

"Millennials, a/k/a 'kids these days' are who we were back when we, or any generation, was spurred into a mania for records," Miriam Linna, president of independent label Norton Records, told CNBC. "Now with the internet and instant gratification, the younger record fans still love the feel and sound of a physical artifact. It's highly personal."

"It's a tangible form," Clement Perry, the publisher of The Stereo Times, told CNBC. "It's a little personal contact with the music that no other format can really match. It's really special in that regard."

Clearly, vinyl isn't a generationally bound format anymore. Kayla Greygor, a senior communication and philosophy major at the University of Pittsburgh, is one of the many millennials embracing their parent's preferred music medium.

"I started my own record collection separate from my parents' in my senior year of high school," Greygor told The Pitt News. "I liked the idea of being able to pass records around. It's totally different and more special to me, rather than just listening to the new stuff on Spotify."

And high-profile vinyl releases from modern-day and legacy artists alike are spurring on the trend. The vinyl version of GRAMMY winner Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN., is available as a pre-order ahead of Record Store Day, offering those who order by April 20 a signed copy accompanied by a digital download.

The Oscar-nominated film La La Land also got in on the action, with the vinyl version of the soundtrack clocking in at No. 1 for 2017 vinyl releases thus far. GRAMMY winner Ed Sheeran also made Nielsen Music's Top 10 vinyl list for his recently released Divide, along with releases from Bob Marley, Ryan Adams, Amy Winehouse, the Beatles, and Twenty One Pilots.

Monthly Music Roundup: What was new in music in March 2017

Following 11 years of year-over-year growth in sales, now comprising 26 percent of total physical music shipments, vinyl's popularity seems to show no signs of waning.

"Vinyl is huge across all age groups," Jim Johnson, a sales and marketing employee for music distributor Alliance Entertainment in Florida told The Pitt News. "But with popular events like Record Store Day and many younger, hip bands releasing their music on records, it has really allowed vinyl to take off once again."

Check out the Record Store Day exclusives coming your way on April 22

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