Vinyl records make a comeback across US

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Music fans have had a long and complicated relationship with vinyl records through the years.

It's a tale that dates all the way back to the turn of the 20th century when vinyl records first started being played in America. The format made it easier for Americans to listen to songs in their homes. It even had the power to make entire genres, like disco, a national norm.

But, following their peak in the 1970s and 1980s, things changed. Vinyl records soon found themselves taking a backseat to other music mediums, like compact discs and mp3s.

In 1993, according to Nielsen SoundScan, there were only 300,000 vinyl record sales recorded in the US.

One would probably think that scenario would have spelled the end of vinyl records.

But, it didn't.

Turntables all across the country are now coming out of storage as America steadily renews its interest the format.

Every year, since 2005, vinyl record sales have actually increased, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In 2013, their sales even tripled in comparison to the previous year.

So, what's bringing the format back? Well, it depends on who you ask.

For some, it all comes down to audio quality. Some music lovers say the records have a better sound than their digital counterparts.

"There's a warmer sound to a record," said Leon Reed, the store director at Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop. "It's just a different feel than listening to something in a digital format."

Others say it's the artwork. A vinyl record sleeve comes with a bigger picture and more details than the one you can find on a CD.

"It's an interactive experience versus the passive experience you find on an mp3," said Pat Mason, an employee of the Record Exchange in South City. "Mp3s generally just become part of the background while a lot of people are doing their multitasking activities."

But, in the end, the resurgence of records could be thanks to teenagers. Parents who grew up listening to vinyl are now handing records down to their children.

Mike Riede recently gave his collection to his 15-year-old daughter, Courtney. He said he couldn't believe his daughter had taken an interest in records

"Yeah, nobody talked about vinyl records anymore," Riede said.

Courtney isn't the only St. Louis teen listening to vinyl either.

"All my friends do, we kind of have a collection," she said. "So, we kind of trade vinyls."

Reed said he's seeing the trend in his store too. He told NewsChannel 5 that teens and young adults are actually driving up sales there.

"It's popular, we have a whole new generation that is listening to vinyl now," Reed said. "Kids are coming in with their parents, both looking at Led Zeppelin or Stevie Wonder records."

While records sales are gaining steam, they still have a way to go to catch up with CDs and digital albums. Nielsen SoundScan found that there were more than 160 million CDs and another 118 million digital albums that were sold in 2013. During that same time, only 6 million vinyl records were sold.

But, while vinyl records and popular music streaming sites like Rhapsody and Spotify have seen growth over the years, other formats have not.

From 2012 to 2013, CD sales went down 14 percent, while digital albums stayed flat.

Jeremy Miller is excited for the future of the record business. The St. Louis resident has been running Dead Wax Records on Cherokee Street for a little more than a year with the help of his wife Casey Miller and friend Tim Hendrickson.

He said he is drawn to vinyl records because they are a way of preserving the past.

"You know an Ornette Coleman record that's been around for 50 plus years, it still sounds good," Miller said. "I think that's what it is. It's something old that you can preserve and kind of take care of it."

And, in the end, Miller says records can even leave their listeners with a present: peace of mind.

"It slows you down and it forces you to listen," Miller said. "So, much of our life, we're so connected, there's a lot of hustle and bustle."


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