–You Spin Me Right Round: Vinyl’s In Style Again

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I have been searching high and low on the internet for some new music lately. It’s not iTunes or any other mp3 download sites where I’m focusing my search, it is for places where I can find the best deals on used and new vinyl LPs.

Despite an infinite supply of free digital music downloads at a click of the mouse, vinyl album sales are on the rise once again. Vinyl sales started climbing again back in 2006 — increasing in sales by 36%. Meanwhile, CD sales started decreasing 17% that same year, due in part to their competition with digital downloads &mdash and these trends have continued to grow.

Many people and audiophiles claim that these vinyl recordings simply sound better, even with the crackles, pops, hisses, and the occasional skipping. Reading and understanding how the analog to digital conversion process works might open one’s eyes and ears as to how digital media such as CDs and MP3s really butcher what that music was actually supposed to sound like.

According to the most recent report from Nielsen SoundScan, new vinyl sales nearly doubled from 990,000 in 2007 to 1.88 million last year. This was vinyl’s highest sales total since Nielsen started to track their sales in 1991. However, those sales figures are drastically underestimated because nearly 2/3 of vinyl records sold are by independent record stores, Craigslist and eBay — and other sources do not usually report these figures to be tracked.

While the internet has invented new ways to get music, it’s still a goldmine for finding these vinyl treasures. BuyVinyls.com has a great search function and displays the infinite variety of albums for sale, with comparable prices and links to the various seller auctions (such as those available on Ebay).

Interested in what other vinyl aficionados are currently talking about? A simple Google search for “vinyl record blogs” returned more results than I could ever look at. A blog site called “Collecting Vinyl Records” claims to be “your source for the latest vinyl record information”, and I must admit that there was some really great information on the subject that was updated daily, as well as numerous links to some other great sources.

I am fortunate to remember a few of my parents’ records spinning on the same turntable that I am currently using today. The beautiful harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Chapin, and the Burl Ives Christmas Album actually form some of my earliest memories of life. It wasn’t too long after that I discovered the Beastie Boys and tried my hand at making some of those cool scratchin’ sounds myself. However, soon after my first DJ performance, the turntable and records were stored far out of my view and reach (which is probably why they still live today).

Years later, I continued my love for vinyl when I unearthed and reclaimed my parent’s old turntable and records. I had to find a new needle for the turntable, which turned into a pricey special order from Radio Shack, and hooked it up in my first apartment. I loved the listening experience so much, that I started searching through the piles of records at my local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores for a diamond in the rough. I was also fortunate to have a great record store in my college town, and my collection started growing with the many selections from the $.99 bin. I even picked up a small piece of history with the Who Quadrophenia album from 1973, but I’m still on the lookout for a cheap Quadraphonic turntable to bring this beauty to life.

On the top of my wish list is an advanced order of the new Eminem “Relapse” record, anything on vinyl by the White Stripes, a live album of Old and In the Way, and I’m also looking for a 180 gram vinyl copy of Saucerful of Secrets to complete my Pink Floyd collection.

Even Best Buy, the 3rd largest music seller in the US behind Apple and Walmart, recently announced that they plan to set aside space in all 1,020 of their US stores for vinyl albums. Amazon.com has also introduced a vinyl-only store and search feature of their selection of 150,000 titles across 20 genres. Amazon claims their biggest vinyl sellers are alternative rock, followed by classic rock albums.

There are also many musicians out there today, believing in and striving to resurrect the vinyl format. Jack White from the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and his new project “Dead Weather”, believes in the tried and true analog format — right from the studio recording process, down through the mixing, and the final offering of the album releases available on vinyl record.

Inventing the phonograph in 1877 utilizing a rotating tinfoil cylinder, Thomas Edison intended to use the machine as a voice recorder for office dictation. In the early 1950s, the 33 1/3 and the 45 rpms became the industry standard for these vinyl albums to be played on the modern phonographs. The musical revolution of the 1960’s helped to dictate the concept of an album, providing artists a way to maximize and convey their musical messages via their 20 minutes per side, and provide a visually aesthetic medium to display their artwork and album notes on the cover and inner sleeves.

There are some new technologies for this old school format out there nowadays, with many of the advances on the turntable player end of the spectrum. Some of the newer record players are offering built in phono pre—amps and USB outs, to help with the process of transferring to one’s PC and making digital back ups, and easier connections with today’s home theater systems. I even read about a turntable with a price tag over $3,000 that uses lasers to read the vinyl records, providing superior analog audio quality with no friction, needle or record wear. Also, many of the new release LPs now come with codes allowing the buyer to log on and also download their contents as MP3s, and some are also coming with special DVDs, thus providing more value for the consumer. All items you can find quickly by using a modern search engine (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc.).

What is old is new again, and what comes ‘round goes ‘round. Don’t be in denial about the style of the vinyl, and be good to your ears. Don’t just play the music, but give listening a try.

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