In recent years, millennials have been blamed for ruining a number of businesses and industries. The cereal industry, Buffalo Wild Wings and the entire paper napkin business are only a few examples of the victims on Generation Y’s alleged hit list.
Despite the industries that millennials are apparently destroying, it appears these individuals are also responsible for revitalizing others — in particular, the vinyl record industry.
The Economist reported in 2016 that vinyl sales the previous year had the largest gross profit since 1988, a whopping $416 million. In addition, the best-selling audio device of that year, not including the iPhone, was the turntable.
A report by The Guardian said that 2017 is the ninth consecutive year vinyl sales have gone up.
A rise in sales has been credited to more widespread exposure, coming not only from national events such as Record Store Day, but also from more places beginning to accumulate and sell vinyl records.
Another key factor in the rise of vinyl sales, as suggested by The Guardian, has been the deaths of legendary musicians. People have been flocking to buy records, especially after the passings of icons, because the records of such artists become keepsakes. The most recent example of this phenomena was David Bowie. Following his death, he became the best-selling vinyl artist of 2016.
“Young people still want something tangible and real. Vinyl is taking on the role that the CD used to have,” Vanessa Higgins, the CEO of Regent Street and Gold Bar Records, told The Guardian,
She also pointed out how an increase in streaming and digital downloads has encouraged the discovery of more music, thus spurring a desire to own a physical copy.
The idea of having tangible and real music is also why De’Lon Warren, a senior majoring in animation and digital arts, believes more millennials are buying records.
“They buy them for the same reasons why people like [low-fidelity] hip-hop,” Warren said. “The imperfections. It’s what makes the sound relatable and more human. Vinyls feel more authentic. With all the processed sounding, mainstream music out today, it’s a nice break.”
The recent influx of millennial attention could also be linked to the rise in millennial-targeted sellers, such as Urban Outfitters, the new allure they have given the turntable and the image associated with owning records by artists they’ve never listened to.
It also helps that the most popular artists of today continue to release vinyl editions of their music. The Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 release of their fifth album, AM, became one of the best-selling vinyl records of the decade.
In 2017 thus far, the most popular vinyl album goes to Ed Sheeran’s record, having sold 31,000 copies since its release in March. In second place stands a reissue of The Beatles’ throwback tracks from their classic album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not far behind is the soundtrack to the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie on vinyl, once again demonstrating the typical millennial fascination with blending the past with the present.
However, one factor not driving millennials to purchase vinyl records is pure nostalgia. As noted by a letter to the editor in response to the Los Angeles Times article, “Why is vinyl making a comeback? ‘Nostalgia’ doesn’t quite cut it,” the assumption millennials could be buying out of nostalgia isn’t completely true, because saying all millennials — especially those born closer to the Generation Z starting point — are buying out of nostalgia doesn’t make sense. How can someone be nostalgic for something they never had? How can a 20-year-old long for an album that came out 21 years ago? The nostalgia fueling the millennial vinyl industry boom is not due to direct experiences; rather, they hope to live vicariously in the past through these objects.
Still, the love millennials have shown, and continue to show, toward objects and cultural elements of the past is a signifying marker of a generation that can coexist with both the past, present and future. Millennials make up a generation that can truly have it all.