It's the vinyl countdown- an inside look behind the trend
Picking up Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, admiring the iconic cover art of the rainbow shooting out of the prism on the stark black background, the music lover slips the circular vinyl out of the cover. Placing the record delicately on the turntable and slowly picking up the needle to set it perfectly in a way that doesn’t skip past the beginning of the first track, “Speak to Me.” The song begins, crackling and popping as it spins, spins, spins.
Just as records move in a circle, so do trends. Slowly, but surely records have been making a resurgence in popularity. Old and young alike are finding themselves rummaging through the shelves of record shops searching for the perfect new addition to their collection.
There is no sign of the popularity of records more clear than the three records stores all within a mile of Indiana University. Tracks, TD’s CDs and LPs, and Landlocked Music all cater to college students and people of all ages and record knowledge.
As someone walks down Kirkwood, the first record store they would come across is Tracks. It is a vinyl store in disguise. The window displays IU shirts and other gear, but once the passerby walks inside, he or she finds racks and walls of records in addition to the IU gear that is designed by employees of the store. Andy Walters is the junior manager of their record department.
“They hired me because they needed someone with experience sorting records and who knew a lot about music and I spent my last summer organizing this 5,000 piece collection of this collector in L.A.,” Walters said.
Though he is a collector and lover of records now, he did not start that way.
“I knew a lot about records when I was younger but my dad specifically sold off all of his vinyl and sold off all of his CDs when I was younger and I remember asking him ‘Wouldn’t you want this for the future?’ and he was like ‘No, everything is going digital,”’ Walters recalled. “I felt the same way at the time, it made a lot of sense to me.”
His opinions changed his junior year of highschool when he started watching bands perform live in his hometown. At these concerts he would see the cheap records of the band he just watched, and soon started buying the records. “I would get whatever new album I was listening to,” he said.
Since then, he has upgraded from a cheap portable turntable to a nicer Sony PSLX and owns around 200 records.
As one ventures farther down Kirkwood, there is a stone building that comes up. The front displays a myriad of signs, one of which is for TD’s CDs and LPs. Inside are multiple businesses that all occupy a different room of the building. A single door is opened with an arrow pointing down to the basement. Though it may take some bravery to climb down the narrow dark stairs into the basement of the building, it is well worth it. The store is stacked with hundreds of records as posters litter the walls.
The manager, Kora Puckett, said that he has grown up listening to records his whole life. “I like collecting music and it’s a tangible way to do that and I think they sound great,’ he says as a record spins behind him playing a song loudly.
He has noticed the growing popularity.
“Over the past five years I think it’s gotten more popular,” he said, but admits he’s not sure why.
Emily Coe, another employee and record connoisseur at Tracks shared her theory.
“People are more into vintage,” Coe said. “People want to tap back into the ‘good old days’ and what things used to be.”
She elaborated,“I just think that people want to tap into things that aren’t mainstream,that not everybody else has. People are always trying to find new ways to listen to music also and to some people vinyl is new.”
While Tracks caters to people looking to find rock, hip-hop, or new releases, TD’s CDs and LPs has different styles of music.
“We tend to focus more on rock and punk and stuff like that. Avant-gard music,” said Puckett. ‘It’s kind of our niche.”
If one cannot find the album they want at these two stores, about a block away is another record shop called Landlocked Music, who carries many different genres of music according to employee Jess Mann.
Jess Mann got into the record trend much the same way that Walters did.
“I bought my first record player in high school because I had some bands that I liked that were putting out cool special edition records and I wanted them and I was like I might as well have a way to play them,” Mann said.
Mann believes that the trend is less of a resurgence.
“I think people in my generation have gotten interested in vinyl as they’ve gotten older. So like while they’re hasn’t necessarily been a comeback, there’s been like new people buying it,” said Mann.
Walters, who studies European History at IU, discussed how culturally interesting the trend is.
“Music and vinyl in that sense will always be like artifacts of the recorded sound and from like that period of time,” he said.
As shown by all these employees stories, people find their way into the trend from a variety of factors but a thing they can all agree on is that the aspect they move love about collecting and listening to their vinyls is the sound.
“[Records] sound incredible, compared to just listening to something off of an AUX cord,” Walters said.
Mann specifically cited the warmth and crackle that records have as they play.
“I buy records because I like the physical act of taking it out of the sleeve and putting the needle on and it definitely has a kind of warmth that CDs don’t have.
Coe compared the crackle sound to a fireplace.
Trends, even ones as seemingly beloved as records, come and go.
“Honestly, I feel like as for a trend it’s been pretty prolonged as a whole but I still feel like it’s a trend,” said Coe. “ I don’t feel like in 2030 people are still going to be buying a lot of vinyl because the way technology is.”
A middle-aged customer, named Monica, chimned in as she flipped through a display of records, carefully pulling out ones that interested her. She said that her husband and her have been collecting vinyals for a long time. “I, by the way, will still be buying vinyls in 2030,” she said to Coe.
Records bring people together in a way that only music can. Whether or not records will stay trendy is hard to predict and only time will tell. But, it is obvious that there will always be people who find joy in choosing a record from their collection, holding a piece of history as they ease the record from the sleeve, placing it on the turntable and hearing it crackle as it spins, spins, spins.