Big vinyl may have raked in more money last year than music streaming, but the people apparently aren’t listening to what they’re buying. Maybe audiophiles just like tasteful home decor, instead?
That’s an apparent conclusion following a U.K. survey, which shows that 48 percent of people who buy vinyl albums don’t even own a turntable in the first place. It’s kind of like how I own a football autographed by Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten but never toss it. Or really any sort of cherished memorabilia—except that, you know, vinyl is intended as an interactive acquisition.
Saturday marks National Record Store Day. If you’ve ever walked into a shop like End of an Ear in Austin, Texas, and had that intangible, sinking feeling that people are here to buy cheeky wall art, you were right all along.
My Airbnb has no record player but 6 Fleetwood Mac LPs. That's weird, right?
— Austin Powell (@_AustinPowell) April 12, 2016
According to the ICM Unlimited survey, half of vinyl users are self-described “collectors.” As a Manchester college student told BBC News this week: “I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor. I don’t actually play them. … It gives me the old-school vibe. That’s what vinyl’s all about.”
This is a sobering reality for the long player. One that leaves a major dent in the long-running notion that the vinyl fetishist demands a more authentic, warm, crisp listening experience and thus stands distinguished as a more learned fan. (“There’s just nothing like the needle drop, like the crackling before ‘Black Dog’ revs into gear,” said an absurd millennial.)
That’s an obscene amount of stacked wax collecting dust that’s not getting the rock star treatment it deserves. Notes Pitchfork: “In the U.K., as in the U.S., vinyl sales have been surging. U.K. LP sales last year totaled 2.1 million units, a 21-year high, according to the trade group BPI. The BPI has also tallied sales of nearly 640,000 LPs in the first three months of 2016, up more than 60% from the same period last year.”
For a medium introduced in 1948 juxtaposed against the backdrop of an industry jostling for ways to serve you on-demand listening, it’s an organic final stage.
The lead singer of the Meat Puppets once scoffed when I asked him about his band’s use of digital recording software. All that matters is the music, he asserted. There are certainly appreciators with better ears than this reporter’s, but vinyl puritanism has emerged as the ultimate emperor’s-new-clothes ruse.