“Vinyl is the real deal. I've always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don't really own the album. And it's not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive.”-Jack White (highest selling vinyl album of 2014)
It’s uneasy [for me] to call the increased sales and usage of vinyl records a “comeback,” since vinyl’s never really left. Perhaps by “comeback” we mean “young people are buying vinyl records”. Nevertheless, the sale of vinyl records and turntables has boomed, with sales in the U.S. growing 260 percent since 2009, according to a Nielson report. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported, “For the fourth consecutive year, vinyl sales in the United States hit record levels, surpassing 9 million units for the first time in over 20 years.”
What is the reason behind these soaring numbers? Why are vinyl records popular all over again? Is it just “how it is”? Like in fashion, how everything comes back around? Possibly. But after surveying nearly 100 locals, I found several reasons for the vinyl revival of which I am a part. Profoundly, most of the responses could be composited into four categories.
- We are bombarded with digital everything. With new technologies developing daily, there is a sense of stability and comfort when it comes to vinyl records. It’s as if they stand the test of time; and vinyl records are an easy fix if we feel the need to escape this world of information overload that we live in.
- Tangible nostalgia. Holding a vinyl record is having the ability to literally grasp a memory. For example, maybe this Grateful Dead album has the song that played when I first made out with a boy in high school: flashback to the tie dye tapestry behind him and hearing his pothead best friend in the next room coughing his face off. Flashback to that same boy’s Bar Mitzvah three years prior and how long that service was, but I looked on fleek in that pink top and skirt combo…you get the point. That is an example of tangible nostalgia.
- Storytelling, Part 1. If you have ever owned a vinyl record, you know there is a lot more than just a disc. There are images on the case, inside the case, perhaps a signature from the artist or a pamphlet included with the lyrics. It’s as if each album is a brief picture book. Who doesn’t study the ins and outs of a new album? Not many.
- Storytelling, Part 2. Have you ever been over a friend’s house and spotted a crate filled with vinyl records? Or, better yet, someone who you met along the parade route and kindly allowed you use of his or her bathroom? Naturally, once the crate is spotted, you start flipping through their collection and with each passing album that slips through your fingers, a better understanding (or judgment) is painted of that person. You cannot do that with digital music, at least not within the time limit of using a bathroom along a parade route.
You may be asking, “Where can I buy vinyl records in New Orleans?” Here are the top five I visited.
- Peaches. Located in the French Quarter the past 10 years, Peaches relocated Uptown earlier this month. You can now find them near Ms. Mae’s and Nirvana at 4318 Magazine St. (504) 282-3322
- Domino Sound Record Shack. 2557 Bayou Road (504) 309-0871
- Louisiana Music Factory. 421 Frenchmen St. (504) 586-1094
- Jim Russell Rare Records.1837 Magazine St. (504) 522-2602
- The Mushroom. 1037 Broadway St. (504) 866-6065
Finding a Turntable
You bought your records, now you need a turntable. Most of the stores listed above offer turntables for sale in store. However, there are other options if you can’t find a fit for you in one of these establishments. On Amazon, you can find a turntable for as little as $40 or $50. You can get a Jensen 3-speed at Target for $45. Some turntables are rather ironic, providing the option to plug in your mp3 player or phone, and also offer Wi-Fi. Others come with a simple dial radio. Some are portable and come in a cute vintage suitcase. Some Crosley turntables come in the form of a vintage radio, may it be 1920 or 1980, and include cassette players as well (also making a small comeback of its own). I’m not a turntable connoisseur, but the two primary brands I have come across are Jensen and Crosley.
Top 10 Selling Vinyl Records of 2015
- 25 – Adele
- Back To Black – Amy Winehouse
- The Stone Roses – Stone Roses
- X – Ed Sheeran
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Original Soundtrack
- AM – Arctic Monkeys
- Royal Blood – Royal Blood
- The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
- Chasing Yesterday – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
- 10. Unplugged In New York – Nirvana
To finish us off, here is the list of the top ten best selling albums of all time (according to Rolling Stone Magazine).
10. The White Album – The Beatles
9. Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
8. London Calling –The Clash
7. Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones
6. What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
5. Rubber Soul – The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
3. Revolver – The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles