It may seem odd that at at time when there is more access to music than any other in history, that vinyl, an analog format, is thriving. There are 35 million songs available on Spotify at the swipe of a finger. Neilson Music reports that in 2018, there have already been 7.6 million records sold, a number that’s up 19% from last year. Sales of new records in 2017 were the highest for a single year since 1991. Figures for used vinyl are harder to calculate. Forbes used data from sites like Ebay and Discogs, and combined what what they could gather from physical retail to arrive at a number that seemed to peak at just above $16 million. To understand that market better, it’s worth diving into a few factors that have fueled this uptick in record buying.
Consider a young person without a collection who visits Barnes & Noble or Urban Outfitters, which stocks titles ranging from the Violent Femmes to Post Malone on the same shelves. These young people may not have inherited a collection and lack a place to start looking or get a foothold. With all of the digital data stored on our devices, many have an urge to hold the music again and have a desire to listen to older songs in the format they were originally released in on equipment that was designed for the music.
Darren Revilla owns Revilla Grooves & Gear, a shop that recently opened in a new space that pulses with shoppers sifting through records. He explained that an interest in the records is a form of “time travel,” where the listener can evoke a feeling of times past. According to Revilla, streaming music has also helped boost interest in records, and older music in general. It may seem like a paradox, but he noted that on a streaming platform, “You can play Pandora and have a constant flow of Fleetwood Mac linking off of something like Grizzly Bear. A kid may hear the older song that way and go into Barnes and Noble or Urban Outfitters to buy it, but the new records are $30.” It’s hard to build up a collection with titles in that range, so that’s where a used shop comes in. Revilla says that shoppers “come in and the
Fleetwood Mac records are $5. They want the $5 Billy Joel Records or the the $10 Bruce Springsteen records, which are records that never used to sell for those of us who are collectors, but now people just getting into the hobby have to re-up their collection.” Price, then, is a reason that used stores see more customers in recent years.
Another advantage of a pre-owned copy is quality. Darren explains that when you buy a used copy, “You will also probably get a better pressing. These days, the records are run too quickly and the quality is low.”
The nature of collecting and obsession factor into buying used titles. He notes that the idea of collecting is a primal instinct we all have. Once buyers start getting the collecting bug, the thrill of the hunt can be tough to tame. Of his own collection, Revilla said that he’s worked hard to shrink what was once an incredible 7,000 record collection to a “couple thousand” today.
All of these ideas and more have helped Revilla Grooves & Gear to continue to crank out bin after bin in the new space. Whether it’s a rare Brazillian record for $200 or a copy of Prince’s Purple Rain, the shop caters to both seasoned collectors and those those just getting the itch.