Lion of the Blogosphere

The crazy vinyl revival

Sales by dollar volume can be confusing because of inflationary pricing. Looking at a chart of units sold makes the vinyl revival look less impressive.

Vinyl LP/EP shipments peaked in 1978 at 341.3 million. That was a year when 8-track was dead and cassette tapes hadn’t yet made significant inroads into new music sales. In 1978, if you wanted to listen to music (besides radio), then you had to buy vinyl. There was no other choice. Vinyl sales dropped from 1978 to the mid 1980s not because people were buying CDs, but because they were buying pre-recorded cassettes.

Vinyl sales for the first half of 2016 were 6.2 million, an 11.4% increase year-over-year, so the vinyl revival continues to grow, but it’s still only 3.6% of what it was in 1978.

But hold on a minute. That only includes new sales. If you look at used plus new sales, the vinyl market is actually 2.5 times bigger. That article also has some interesting stats on who’s buying vinyl. It turns out that the majority of vinyl purchases are by people under the age of 35, buyers who are too young to remember stores full of new vinyl records. The vinyl revival is actually a hipster/youth-culture thing and not a bunch of old fogies who are too grumpy to go digital.

55+ people are a much larger percentage of vinyl listeners than vinyl buyers, because they are still listening to their vinyl collections they purchased new in the 1980s, 1970s, and even the 1960s.

* * *

Me personally: My vinyl buying days started in 1983 and ended in 1986, as far as I can tell. I didn’t have much time to accumulate many records, especially with my limited money back then, so there are only about sixteen albums, and it turns out that I had crappy taste in music. There are four Night Ranger albums, and Def Leppard’s Pyromania album. There’s Journey Frontiers, a horribly un-listenable album. But I was surprised to find out that I enjoyed re-listening to Van Halen 1984 on original vinyl I purchased in the year 1984. And there are three Genesis albums and a Phil Collins (Sussidio) album which are pretty decent.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 23, 2016 at 10:50 AM

Posted in Music videos

45 Responses

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  1. How ironic that young hipsters account for a large portion of vinyl sales when digital music is unquestionably greener.

    Bella bella

    August 23, 2016 at 11:17 AM

  2. My vinyl purchases were also made in the 1980s, but I was into classical music and somewhat into jazz, so I bought music that I still want to listen to. There is an advantage to being a young fogey.

    After several moves, I still have the record collection but not the player for the records. Does anyone have any recommendations on where to get a good player?


    August 23, 2016 at 11:18 AM

  3. Lion, for your reading pleasure this Atlanta love triangle murder case has much more sensationalism and sexy drama than the Chandra Levy affair:


    August 23, 2016 at 11:21 AM

  4. That Journey album gets good reviews on ‘all music’ and other music review sites. That’s not to cast any doubt on your assessment, just interesting .


    August 23, 2016 at 11:43 AM

  5. As I posted earlier, during about 1975 as a pre-teen, my childhood friend and I split the eight 8-tracks for 1-cent Columbia House offer, then followed up with the mandatory eight purchases at regular price, so I bought only a couple of albums – Little Queen by Heart is one of the few that come to mind. I did by a handful of 45s and at about 12 y/o won a raffle prize of a box of 45s – all 70s hits – Three Dog Night, Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, etc.

    In the late ’90s, I sold all my 45s and two shoe boxes full of ’70s baseball cards to a memorabilia shop in Ft. Lauderdale for $50.

    E. Rekshun

    August 23, 2016 at 12:37 PM

    • We got the Columbia House too. I remember getting Bachman Turner Overdrive, Seals & Croft, Elton John’s Greatest Hits and Paper Lace. I can’t remember the others.


      August 23, 2016 at 7:12 PM

  6. I’m a little confused by the history here. If cassettes killed the 8-track in the late 70s, how were they not also taking share from vinyl at the same time?

    I’m old enough to remember ubiquitous cassettes and the first CD players, but I’ve never seen an 8-track player in use. My understanding was the 8-track partially replaced vinyl — it was superior in that it could fit in a car, but inferior in other respects — and the cassette then completely replaced the 8-track and mostly replaced vinyl, aided greatly by the unprecedented portability of the Walkman. The CD, with superior sound quality, relatively good portability (after solving skipping problems in early portable players), and ease of switching tracks, killed all the lingering alternatives except for vinyl diehards, until it met its end at the hands of MP3s and streaming options.

    Vinyl, because it has a certain aesthetic appeal that its successors all lack, became a hobby, like collecting stamps. You can watch the music being played, and there are imperfections in the playing, which is partly what we enjoy about live performances. It’s physical and visceral in a way the other formats are not.

    Some people will always prefer to sacrifice utility for the sake of aesthetics. As the CD fades from memory, they go back to the most aesthetic and least utilitarian format.


    August 23, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    • I’ve never seen an 8-track player in use.

      I installed an 8-track player in every car I owned, probably about five, in the early ’80s. Lowlifes often broke into cars to steal the 8-track player.

      E. Rekshun

      August 23, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    • Cassettes killed 8 tracks because they were much smaller, sounded as good or better, you could make your own (possible but rare with 8 track), and they didn’t have those annoying track changes interrupting the music. They didn’t make much of a dent in vinyl sales because both were primarily car formats while the 8 track was still alive.


      August 23, 2016 at 8:16 PM

    • Whenever possible most of us back in the late 1970s, early 1980s preferred to buy the vinyl, and then record the album onto a blank cassette for using in cars or Walkmen. Or you would just tape your buddies’ albums, or make mix tapes. Label produced cassettes were notoriously crappy quality, and back in the days before digital, the main advantage of cassettes was portability and the ability to make a customized mix, for which you usually wanted the vinyl for the original tracks. Even after 8-track died record stores usually only stocked the current hits in cassette format and most of the deep catalogue, as well as any “serious” music was generally only available in vinyl until CDs showed up. So, no, cassettes probably didn’t take much direct share from vinyl.

      Peter Akuleyev

      August 24, 2016 at 7:25 AM

      • Correct, we did, in those days, like to buy the LP and then copy it to cassette. You could make a cassette from an LP but not the other way around.

        But sales figures show that people became more comfortable with just skipping the LP and buying pre-recorded cassettes. In reality, cassettes weren’t any more fragile than records, and if you had a dual-cassette stereo (like many did) you could copy them as well.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        August 24, 2016 at 9:06 AM

  7. Please win our eternal respect by telling us the Genesis albums are “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” “Musical Box” and “Foxtrot.”


    August 23, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    • Unfortunately, the albums are Abacab, Three Sides Live and Genesis (the one with the shapes on the cover). But side three of Three Sides Live has an epic live performance of In The Cage combined with a medley of tunes from Wind & Wuthering.

      I do have all of those three albums on CD. But where’s the collect-ability of CDs?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 23, 2016 at 1:54 PM

  8. Def Leppard’s Pyromania


    Lion is cooler than we thought!! Next we’ll find out that he wears a leather jacket too.

    Samson J.

    August 23, 2016 at 1:35 PM

    • I doubt it. Leather jackets have a “guido” image attached to them. I always avoided leather jackets for this reason, even as a teenager.


      August 23, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      • Leather jackets have a “guido” image attached to them.

        Maybe in New York they do. You guys are complete weirdos.

        Samson J.

        August 23, 2016 at 5:27 PM

      • In 1978, as a teenager, I spent some bucks I earned at a part time job on a leather jacket. I have to say it was money well spent, I have only really bonded with two or three women in my life (marriage with a woman one cares about being the goal of most of our lives, for those of us who are men, is an indisputable background to this comment) and one of them (not someone I married, but if I had married her, my life would have been better than it was) may not have been as nice to me as she was if I did not have a cool leather jacket. Neither she nor me were Italian (well, I have lots of Mediterranean genes, so maybe I am sort of Italian, but not in the way, say, the Jersey Shore losers are Italian) ; she was an American girl with Swedish ancestors back to the ice age. Nothing against Italian women but my leather jacket was more of a North European thing.

        howitzer daniel

        August 23, 2016 at 10:02 PM

      • Russians love leather. Leather jackets are the best, but not leather pants, obviously. Leather pants are for girls and faggs. A man never wears leather pants. All my Russian friends wear leather, but not Orthodox Jews. If you see a Jew in a leather jacket, that’s me. Feel free to say ‘hi’. Don’t be afraid, our password is gonna be ‘vinyl’, the reply – ‘leather’. If still in doubt, the second password is gonna be ‘ebook’, second reply ‘leather bound’.

        Lion is trolling. A guy who prefers e-reader to a real book is gonna collect vinyl now? No way! I can see him in a vinyl jacket though. Who wears vinyl jacket? I dunno. If you see a guy in a vinyl jacket, feel free to say ‘hi’, but be assured that it’s not me.


        August 23, 2016 at 10:17 PM

      • Mordechai Jefferson Carver, a.k.a. The Hebrew Hammer, wears leather.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        August 23, 2016 at 10:39 PM

      • Exactly! Leather is the material of choice as it says in Bereshit ( Genesis) 3:21 ‘For Adam and for his wife the Lord God made leather coats [ ketonet].’


        August 23, 2016 at 11:27 PM

      • I wore a dark brown leather jacket in my mid to late teens in the early ’80s, as did many peers. It was quite comfortable and warm. Dark brown was more stylish and less biker-ish than black. Wearing a leather jacket wasn’t considered guido in my area; it was considered cool and I got some cool points even if I was a computer science major.

        E. Rekshun

        August 24, 2016 at 5:18 AM

      • “Russians love leather.”

        Russians love fur even more.

        Lewis Medlock

        August 24, 2016 at 11:46 AM

      • “Mordechai Jefferson Carver, a.k.a. The Hebrew Hammer, wears leather.”

        Two other people with the “Hebrew Hammer” nickname were former MLB player Gabe Kapler and former heavyweight boxer Bobby Halpern.

        Lewis Medlock

        August 24, 2016 at 11:52 AM

      • ‘Russians love fur even more.’

        Oh yeah! I have a gorgeous fur coat from my great-grandmother, the thing is worth a fortune, but none of my kids want to wear it. Very frustrating. Of course I only expect them to use the fur to make their own style coat, but they don’t want fur. This is crazy. What do they have against fur?


        August 24, 2016 at 3:45 PM

  9. Wikipedia is strangely reticent on the issue, but I remember reading an article that whatever corporation bought Pierre Cardin withdrew all products for 10 years or so to erase all the inferior perceptions people had based on years of Pierre Cardin having his name on cheap items from pens to calculators.

    I’d imagine the same reversal of mass commodification occurred with vinyl.

    Lion of the Turambar

    August 23, 2016 at 2:09 PM

  10. I never bought anything by Genesis after Wind and wuthering, I didn’t realise they were so big in the US? Lots of documentaries about them and Queen,Yes etc now. I remember the excitement of fresh vinyl though.


    August 23, 2016 at 2:28 PM

    • I recently read somewhere that Genesis drummer Phil Collins is the second most wealthy drummer in history behind Ringo Starr.

      E. Rekshun

      August 24, 2016 at 5:22 AM

      • Good thing drumming once paid well, because Collins sounds pretty gullible for a rich guy. He paid $175,000 for a belt somebody said was at the Alamo (with no proof), and believes he may have been reincarnated from a participant because a psychic told him so.


        August 24, 2016 at 10:55 AM

      • Not unusual for Hollywood and musician types to be weird like that.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        August 24, 2016 at 2:59 PM

      • But Phil Collins made his money in songwriting, and is famous, to most people, as a singer/frontman. Dave Grohl, who is a drummer in the sense that Phil Collins is a drummer, must be making progress on the wealth list as well.

        Peter Akuleyev

        August 25, 2016 at 3:57 AM

  11. Actually a lot of really old albums aren’t available on CDs. Some of these guys are into the vintage tech of the turntables and racks of sound controls that makes these setups look like something out of a sci-fi movie. And a lot of them just collect them for the cool album art. Some of these album covers are collectors items that cost a handsome sum. Even if they replicate them for a CD, the CD label and insert are ridiculously small, whereas some of the LPs have more inserts and even pages added to them. There are always different reasons, but all of them come down to the new shit not having the cool that the old stuff had. Those CD systems and ipods may be small and even portable, but those giant LP systems with racks of controls just fucking look cool for techies to have at home.

    Joshua Sinistar

    August 23, 2016 at 6:00 PM

  12. Audiophiles jump-started the craze. Hipsters took over. Audiophiles believe in pseudoscience and use their unnecessarily expensive equipment for status signaling.

    The science and engineering of audio reproduction is a settled issue. Digital is better in every way than analog. The most important component in audio reproduction is actually room acoustics. The properties of your listening room distort the audio orders of magnitude more than your speakers, let alone amps or everything else. But acoustic treatment for your room looks ugly and is cheap, so it is not useful for status signaling.

    Good (linear) speakers and amps used to be expensive, but this is not true anymore thanks to modern electronics and speaker design. (modern = 80ies) So the audiophiles had to come up with ever more delusional nonsense in order to justify their status hierarchy. Countless snake-oil companies sprung up to cater to this market.

    Hipsters don’t care about technology as much. They are more self-aware and admit that it is more about style than substance, but the myth that vinyl or tape can do anything that digital can’t is still common among then. If you record your vinyl records or tapes to your PC with a reasonably good sound card ($30) and play it back again (at the exact same volume) then you can’t tell the difference. 16-bit 44kHz PCM captures all of the information from a type or vinyl record with ease.

    Recommended viewing: Audio codec engineer explains digital and debunks anolog myths


    August 23, 2016 at 6:11 PM

  13. The first I ever heard of CDs was around 1980, and they weren’t even out yet. My college roommate, who majored in electrical engineering, told me about this new fabulous technology. Naturally, I thought that he was bullshitting, but sure enough by 1983 the first CD players were being sold. He also told me about the coming phenomenon of music videos. Nobody had cable back in 1980, and MTV didn’t exist. I thought the concept ridiculous, still do.

    When I got my first CD player I took my three cardboard boxes of albums – probably over 100 – and left them on the curb for the garbage man. Good riddance.


    August 23, 2016 at 6:43 PM

  14. Lion, you still bought vinyl in 86? I think I stopped in 81 when I got my portable cassette player.


    August 23, 2016 at 7:07 PM

  15. OT – Hillary is supposed to be mentioning the Alt-right by name in a speech later this week. WOW


    August 23, 2016 at 7:26 PM

  16. All of the albums Lion purchased were on Top 40 radio alongside black artists like MJ, Lionel Richie, Ray Parker, Stevie Wonder.

    Now around that time, proto-SWPLs were racially self-segregating into the fledgling “Modern Rock” / alternative / indie genre.

    But it is odd that Lion’s choices were not rural-prole country, not SWPL, yet still all white. Was it awkward to like black music when growing up among future Guido Law scholars?


    August 23, 2016 at 9:37 PM

    • I never liked Prince either.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 23, 2016 at 10:37 PM

      • You are the little boy who just declared that the emperor has no clothes.

        All this fawning over Prince, who was a mediocrity at best.


        August 24, 2016 at 12:30 AM

  17. This is just hipster shit.


    August 23, 2016 at 9:49 PM

  18. And wasn’t the Sony DAT (Digital Audio Tape) supposed to replace both CD and cassette?

    I never took off, I don’t think that a home retail version was every produced. Allegedly, the sound quality was better than CD. I think they’re used behind the scenes in recording studios to this day.


    August 23, 2016 at 10:56 PM

  19. I always though pre-recorded cassettes were a rip-off because they got chewed up from time to time. My father always encouraged me to record cassettes of my albums to protect the albums, but I never had the patience. My brother did more of that.

    Herb Dregs

    August 24, 2016 at 1:26 AM

  20. my friend had a plan to market an entire series of regulatory electrical devices to audiophiles under the marketing gimmick that quality power inputs would improve their listening experience. he knew it was total b.s but he has such (justified) contempt for audiophiles that he considered doing it, buit i’m not sure what came of it. audiophiles are the people who purchase power cables made out of 24 karat gold, seriously nuts.

    my computer speaker is a $24 dollar logitech single speaker that plugs into the usb. its very portable and only requires two cords and i can take it where-ever i want. i’m sure its quality is less than a regular speaker but its so imperceptible to me i don’t care at all.

    james n.s.w

    August 24, 2016 at 2:13 AM

  21. There were DAT machines available for home use but as far as I recall they were expensive and never caught on. Not sure if pre-recorded DAT tapes were ever sold. Sony came out with the (data reduced) minidisc shortly afterwards and this one had a niche for a few years until it was cheaper and more convenient to just burn CDs and a little later to store and swap audio files on computers.

    I do not think the vinyl revival is mainly about sound. It is about having nice collectible things with beautiful covers, an aspect where already the CD fares poorly. Many people who love to collect stuff kept trying to get vinyl even through its nadir in the mid/late 1990s.


    August 24, 2016 at 5:21 AM

  22. In the 1960s many audiophiles listened to music on reel-to-reel tapes. They were mostly into classical music, but Broadway and pop-oriented consumers used open reel tapes as well. These tapes took more time to load and were more expensive than the other formats.

    Lewis Medlock

    August 24, 2016 at 12:14 PM

  23. I remember Mini Discs were supposed to replace CDs. They were moderately popular in the late 90s to early 2000s as a digital recording medium until mp3 players took off.


    August 25, 2016 at 12:47 AM

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