Vinyl spins back into fashion


Hayden Garcia

An illustration of a record player with multiple different covers of vinyls on the wall behind it

Throughout time, trends have come and gone. Some have stayed for longer, some faded away. Vinyl has experienced both sides of that phenomenon. For listeners of vinyl records, there is a kind of a ritual the listener goes through before any sound is heard. There is the opening of the sleeve, brushing any dust from the record, and the gentle placement of the needle on the record.

A quiet hiss is heard from the speakers and then those first notes begin to play from that favorite album you’ve been looking forward to hearing. It’s that whole vibe, and experience that digital formats and streaming services just can’t provide that attracts many people to prefer vinyl.

There’s just something that hits different about the hiss and the pop when the needle hits a vinyl record.
Vinyl records have been available for sale since the 1930s and were the dominant method of listening to recorded music until the 1980s. Vinyl record sales peaked in the 1970s and maintained high sales through the 1980s, until cassette tapes and Compact Discs (CDs) with digital recordings took over as the most popular format to listen to music in the 1990s.
CD sales peaked in 2002 when they accounted for more than 95% of recorded music sales. Since the mid-2000s, MP3 downloads and streaming services have dominated music sales as people have favored the convenience and lower costs of paying for these digital formats over vinyl records that don’t lend themselves to listening through a cell phone.

However, for the last 17 years, vinyl sales have slowly but steadily grown to the point where in 2022, vinyl sold 43.46 million albums, according to a Billboard article. In fact, 43% of all album sales came from vinyl records last year, and vinyl LPs accounted for 54.4% of all physical albums sold last year (43.46 million of 79.89 million; physical albums include CDs, vinyl LPs, cassette tapes and other niche physical formats), according to a study by Luminate.

For many vinyl buyers, they are attracted to being able to own a physical copy of an album.
Because vinyl records are almost 13 inches in diameter, it makes the protective sleeve and cover large enough for eye-catching artwork for putting on display.

Fans of vinyl say it is the best in terms of sound quality, creating an analog sound that is warmer than a typical CD or digital recording. Turntables create this sound using a small needle that fits in the grooves of the vinyl that make sound vibrations that are then amplified and played through speakers. Some consider the act of playing records as kind of a magical experience to recreate recorded sounds in this way.

Going to record shops is another fun part of collecting vinyl, and Austin has some great local record stores to explore.
It’s thrilling and fun sifting through bins and crates of vinyl records., Through persistence — and pure luck sometimes — vinyl shoppers find sought-after records or discover something new through the hunting process. It’s personally really enjoyable when the employees of the record shop and other customers share similar interests and provide recommendations.

Based on the responses from a survey by The Eagle’s Eye about vinyl record collecting, the two most popular shops to purchase records by Akins students and staff are End of an Ear, which is near Ben White Boulevard, and Waterloo Records on Lamar Boulevard in downtown Austin. These shops offer good deals on their records and they have a wide selection to choose from.

Living in Stereo is a smaller store but I still recommend it. The owners who run the store are very helpful and kind, and they have awesome vintage speakers for use.

There’s not just one reason why vinyl sales have been growing in an age when digital formats tend to dominate everyday life. According to the responses The Eagle’s Eye received in a survey, some reasons include, the sound quality, cover art and the overall experience.

Sophomore Mia Azarte said she likes listening to vinyl because “it’s a whole different way of listening to music.”
“Instead of being on your phone looking for a song you can just put a record and press play and the sound is so rich and nice,” she wrote on the survey.

Vinyl saw a comeback around 2019-2020, further back then I had expected. I initially thought it had started coming back within the past few months, but the resurgence of the format goes back even farther.

Although it’s purely speculation, I believe when Covid hit, people might have wanted to look for new hobbies and discovered vinyl. I think fans of vinyl told their friends about the hobby, exposing newcomers to the awesome form of music. In addition, I believe the parts of the vinyl experience aforementioned had a lot of outsiders curious and excited about vinyl, getting more people into the hobby.

However, one of the greatest appeals of vinyl could be the aspect of a unique experience. Unlike many other formats for music, obtaining vinyl records gives everyone a personal connection and story to their own collection.
I started collecting vinyl records around September of 2022. My dad gave me a copy of Metallica’s “And Justice for All” album from a record store, and I thought it was really cool. I didn’t have a player for it at the time but I would just go play it on my dad’s player.

That was until my birthday in October when I got a record player as a gift and I got Slipknot’s “All Hope Is Gone”. That’s when I really started getting into collecting vinyl and going to record shops. I primarily go to Waterloo and End of an Ear, but I’ve also gone to Target, Half Price Books, and Barnes and Noble. However, typically I’ll try to give money to actual record stores rather than big retailers.

I collect mainly metal and rock but I also have records from Foo Fighters, Caravan Palace, and Gorillaz. I really want to branch out but I’ve slowed down on buying records as it can get pricey rather quickly.

I believe that vinyl is an enjoyable experience, and many avid music enjoyers would agree. I have friends in and out of school who collect vinyl. We frequently visit record shops to buy any vinyl recoreds we’re after. We’re into a variety of music from Ghost, Bjork, MF Doom, Gorillaz, and Metallica. It’s fun to have physical copies of your favorite songs or albums to just look at and enjoy.

It’s awesome when the physical version of your music includes little extra details and bonuses that are normally not available on the online version like lyrics sheets, pictures from recording, or artwork.
All in all, it’s a great hobby I would recommend to anyone who is passionate about music.