Open Mic: Is The Surge In Vinyl Sales ‘A Hipster Thing’?


The BBC reports that vinyl record sales have hit an 18-year high:

Earlier this month, Pink Floyd’s The Endless River became the fastest-selling vinyl release since 1997. UK’s Official Chart Company told the BBC it will soon launch a weekly vinyl chart.

And we’ve seen a surge in electronic releases on vinyl, ranging from reissues of classics to new releases, like Aphex Twin’s Syro, above.

“In an era when we’re all talking about digital music, the fact that these beautiful physical artefacts are still as popular as they are is fantastic,” said Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company.

vinyl-records-kill-mp3sThe article notes that buyers seem to be split into two group: people who grew up with vinyl and ‘hipsters’:

“I think it’s sort of a hipster thing,” remarked one shopper at Rough Trade East, a popular record store off Brick Lane in East London. “Things that were cool decades ago, but fell out of fashion, are making a comeback.”

Open Mic: What do you think of the resurgence in vinyl LPs as a music format? Is it just a ‘hipster thing’, nostalgia, or do you think there are qualities inherent in the format that makes it a more satisfying format for music?

52 thoughts on “Open Mic: Is The Surge In Vinyl Sales ‘A Hipster Thing’?

  1. Does it matter if it is? And what the hell exactly is a “hipster” anyway? I hear that term all the time, and as best as I can tell, it means “someone who likes things that I don’t.”

    1. On a daily basis, on the surface of our popular culture, Hipster really is a consumer reduced to any critical thinking, other then following the crowd. As for Vinyl. Even early Philps/Sony promo materials from early 80’s, while promoting CDs, admitted in their selected classical catalogs, that vinyl as format, offers 15% more resolution then red book CD. That won’t make a poor recording better, but 1:1 with red book CD, when done well, Vinyl does give more resolution.

  2. mastering for vinyl sounds better 99% of the time to me.

    i think lossless digital is good too as a virtual format, but vinyl fails a lot better. it’s a lot easier to end up with an unplayable cd or get a drive wiped or lose access to “the cloud” because of corporate shenanigans.

    good stuff can be worth it for the “artifacts”, the art, the notes, the design too. i think too much touch screen use is causing some people to forget that our fingers pick up a lot of sensations. 🙂

    12″ format is really nice for getting creative with albums, for a lot of different styles of music if the musician is still into making them. people were already encoding digital information to be decoded on vinyl in the 80s, but there’s still a lot of creative uses for combining it with digital. cds had what 1 tricks? the hidden pre zero track?

    also as a musician i like that there aren’t the same kind of visual distractions, you can’t look and see that you’re 3 minutes and 33 seconds into a track and that there is 45 seconds left and crap like that. good tunes take you out of time and imo digital formats make it too easy to subvert that accidentally. imo soundcoud is the worst, massive spoilers if your music uses dynamics. it’s more difficult to put a record on and not be an active listener.

    vinyl isn’t the best thing ever, but too often we get all binary, old is 100% crap new is 100% good or vice versa and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. there are unique positive qualities in everything. there are actually some really interesting laser and optical methods for decoding and playing vinyl and i hope that we hear those technologies come down to an affordable level now that vinyl is getting popular again. like one method i saw too super high res photos of the sides of the groove, how cool is that?!

  3. Is The Surge In Vinyl Sales ‘A Hipster Thing’? ……..sometimes…..sometimes….(just look at the main picture illustrating this article)………..shit recorded on vinyl is still shit…..

  4. It could be a hipster or collector’s thing at least in the way they are sometimes marketed, by which I mean a lot of times when I buy new vinyl releases they also include a CD copy of the album and/or a digital download code. What this implies is that labels believe vinyls have become mere archival collector’s items for the buyers and hence why they include a CD and/or downloadable copy of the album as well. But in a way this can be also understandable when you think that some people would like an album’s artwork in bigger size than the traditional CD format. So then it makes for a good compromise (especially since CD pressing is really cheap) for fans of a band that perhaps don’t own a vinyl player to admire the artwork in a bigger size and be able to hear the music on their CD players.

  5. It’s definitely a ‘hipster thing’, but that doesn’t make vinyl any less great a format.

    The larger format provides a perfect format for album art and physical formats encourage you to really focus on the music and listen consciously.

  6. The overanalyzing here is amazing. Some times it’s just cool to hold a record in your hand, place it on the turntable, apply the needle to the groove, look at the artwork and read the liner notes while you listen to it. I love to sit in front of my dad’s collection and play records, I can do that all night. It’s a far more engaging process than clicking on tracks in itunes, or letting a playlist play. It requires one to be an active participator in the process, which at least for me, gets me more involved as a listener.

    1. I genuinely miss the artwork and liner notes. You can’t cram the artwork from a triple album down to one-fifth its original size and not lose out, which was about half the size (or less) of the original artist’s work. I feel the same about books. Its an intimate experience you can’t get with a Kindle. Having options when you travel or find yourself in some odd pinch is welcome, but don’t lose touch with what it means to lay your hands to something for real, from keyboards to girls. (Here’s a tip: touch-sensitivity counts for one hell of a lot.)

    2. Last year, I finally bought a replacement record player, and have gotten back into vinyl. I’m listening to records I bought when I was young, albums that I inherited from my father, and some new releases (the Cake box set is great fun). Records can have pops and surface noise, but there’s a physical connection and a human element that I just don’t get from an MP3 file.

  7. Lot of bull.
    Vinyl is dying and dying. The distribution companies like Juno, Decks keep on telling they have high sell rates.
    But its totally not true, they do this to stimulate the business. Go ask a round labels, artists, you will get the real answer. Since most djs went digital, over and over stories pop up like, vinyl sells like never before blablabla.

    You also can’t compare a hipster that buys 1 record a season, of some indie band. With a DJ that buys 10 a week.

    1. Record pressing plants have been pretty consistently backed up from too many orders for the last few years. First it was just around record store day and sxsw, now it’s pretty much year-round. I am an artist and am pretty involved with multiple labels. Right now my biggest problem is slow turn around from the record plants. True, most labels are pressing smaller amounts than they were 15 years ago, but vinyl is not dying. It’s suffering from lack of production facilities.

      1. This is totally correct, the number of weeks for production has been steadily rising.

        I know this because I work for a small independent record label and they have had to restructure their production and release schedule.

  8. It’s a fact that it’s a hipster thing.
    Hipsters look for something odd, so they can differentiate themselves even more.
    Vinyl is a perfect medium for that.
    They don’t give a toss about the sound quality.

      1. he said the medium not the music.
        yes, i know 6 or 10 people that started to buy vinyl the last 2/3 years. All are hipsters. They have odd tastes, they are involved with fashion, they are involved with odd art,(probably all kind thats sound fashion.) And they dont care about the quality of the medium.

        To prove my point , I listened 2 of these people playing as DJs. One of them had no knowledge about EQing while mixing. More bass = Good music philosophy. The other one is totally an Alice in wonderlands person. The only objective while playing is try to get some pus** in the end of night

        I dealt with vinyl 10 years ago while I was producing some beats. Then I moved to electronic and now I have no interest in this medium. It’s heavy to move , needs to clean everytime, and i don’t wanna to listen cracks and pops, scratches, deformed waves while listening to my synths. If you complain you don’t get involved with the music while listen to a mp3, then blame the complete lack of initiative to get more art involved in this digital field. Theres a lot of high-end technology out today to get you involved. Deeply. Just someone didn’t get the initiative yet

  9. I don’t think to much about why I buy vinyl these days actually. I just do it. It gives me a nice feel to take the time every once in a while to play a record on my turntable. Also I use a lot of Spotify. But playing vinyl is more like reading a good book than watching tv shows.

  10. I think people have a long held fallacy that vinyl sounds better, when time and time this has been disproved. Just the compression rate alone, to stop the needle bouncing, makes vinyl a poorer format. But studies have found what is attractive about vinyl, it ages and warps in a nature manner, it was discovered that people were judging the quality of vinyl on the quality that is degrades, which is really the wrong reason to be lured into using this old tech – just a better all round education into what is real would reduce vinyl sales.

    1. The degregation part is not all of it, “better” has been wrongly used as a synonym for unfalsified sound and I think your conclusion of what would reduce vinyl sales also fails there. Imperfections sometimes add quality to sound. That’s why i prefer my sherman filterbank to any filterplugin I ever heard. The distortions etc. experienced by vinyl playback sound pleasant. Having a sterilie as possible reproduction of sound is of secondary importance as it’s not really achievable anyway unless you sit in the musician’s studio maybe. Probably the format’s sound properties are also preferable or less so to specific musical styles and tastes. As simple as that really. Other people already indicated the process of listening, basically the fact that you get forced to do a bit of monotasking by the process of putting on a record etc. Also there are different situations for listening to music. Loads of people work in offices, hence it’s more practical to have streams there, you won’t be dedicating most of your attention to it either. At home nonetheless, nothing beats a tea+food+record session to unwind by the use of music. And this combo is (among other reasons like not wanting to wait until the postman comes), why it makes sense to bundle digital with vinyl.

      1. But the sound is stripped, and depending on genre can have a random effect on making it better, and most likely worse. What people are saying when they prefer to listen to vinyl is that ‘ they prefer to listen to music that is distorted to this lesser extent like what vinyl does.’ It is like preferring the sound of a pure guitar running into a cabinet, it may be a preference but it isn’t adding anything special to the sound, just stripping the top and bottom and squashing the middle – but the difference there is that a cabinet is a controlled effect used with purpose, and vinyl isn’t. I suggest if people don’t have the wit nor skill to control and conform a sound to their own liking then it is unwise to leave that distortion to the packaging of one format, vinyl – in fact that actually sounds really stupid put like that. I see it as a dead debate. I think many of us have grown past these trappings, we are over buying analog modeling synths that add fluff for effect or tape saturation fx – if I mess a sound up then I’ll do it, and I’ll do that with purpose and intent, and not use some random side-effect of a process from a time gone that has no real meaning or context, other than be a relic in history. I think you can tell a lot more than you’d expect from the cut of someones jib regarding how they hark on regarding vinyl, vintage synths and other trappings. It is like a cameraman attaching a camera to a car as he personally likes a vibrating and distorted image, even if it is the worst creative choice he could make regarding everyone else.

  11. Vinyl is just cool, in the past and for the future! If u have a solid Vinyl master u’ll geht the best sounding medium for music ????????????

  12. Oh, seriously just shut up. So, many damn know it alls. I started buying vinyl because the used market is filled with cheap music if you know where to look. It’s that simple. 15 years ago I was living in a college town and buying jazz, country, classical, and electronic records for $3-$5 a pop. This was/is a much cheaper way to discover new music than spending $15 on a cd and it’s a lot more fun and can also be very lucrative. I got turned onto stuff like Brotzman, Braxton, Varese, Howard Budd, Fahey, Nick Drake, Laurie Anderson, Buck Owens, Stanley Brothers, etc. stuff I may never have discovered otherwise. I also prefer a format that forces me into a listening experience and doesn’t allow me to grow impatient and skip tracks.

    As far as it being a hipster thing, isn’t everything at some point? I mean, scarves, tight pants, loose pants, cats, bacon, cassettes, fanny packs, south western prints, pointy boots, colorful sneakers, pbr, craft beer, water, noise music, folk music, bad music, sherpas, trainers…I could go on and on. Apparently everything was, is or will be hip, so who cares? Enjoy life, like what you like. Oh, and I can assure you sales are definitely not dying, at least not in the US.

    Also, do yourself a favor and don’t take “sound quality” advice from people who post their poorly produced music on Youtube.

  13. I come from Poogle’s angle. Vinyl’s necessary compression leads to a “warmer” sound I can enjoy, in part because its where I started, but it became a reduced art form when CD’s removed artifacts like rumble, crackles and hiss. I miss the room for amazing cover art, but not all of that surface noise. I would no more bad-mouth LPs than I would badmouth a solid synth that simply doesn’t suit MY needs. Setting aside personal tastes, it really IS all good. Loosely speaking, there’d have been no Jupiter-8 unless there’d been a MiniMoog first. Would you really trash-can one in favor of the other? Hell no! 😛 Just enjoy all you can of what really excites you and repeat after me: “I DON’T LIVE IN THE SUDAN.”

  14. I’ve had my music pressed on vinyl both recently and back in the day. When you get it back from the factory it sounds duller (‘warm’) and compressed (‘fuller’) with less stereo + added surface noise. I get my master, and subtract it from the result to discover what’s happened. What you hear is all the things that vinyl takes away from your production – air, tightness, liveliness.

    Vinyl is a visual artform, and people like it for the same reason as magazines and paintings. That’s cool, but it’s not about the sound. Make a great package and put in a CD.

  15. From a DJs perspective, i dont think its hipster. At one point people swapped the gorgeous sound quality and playbility of vinyl for the convienience of cds (cdjs) and now mp3s (traktor/serato etc). I think recently people want the vinyl sound again and feel a bit nostalgic and have dusted off their 1210s. I doubt that there are many born after 1990 that choose vinyl over mp3. Especially Djs. Mixing vinyl on 1210s is a real pleasure.

    1. Cute that you’re posing as me but I’m 40, can’t fit into skinny jeans very well, and can assure you that no one would ever describe me as a “hipster”.

  16. The fascinating thing about vinyl besides the anticipation of finally arriving by post… Was just sitting there listening and flipping the front and back of the cover staring at the artwork and thinking what does it all mean? … My first record was Cocteau Twins “The Spangle Maker” 12″

  17. I guess so. Hippies only had vinyl back then, you know…Oh, hipsters you said. I guess so. cd’s and mp3’s just get lost in those massive beards, you know…

  18. I like vinyl and still buy it sometimes and sometimes I buy a CD or download something, it depends on the band/artist/genre for me like back in the day I would buy a particular thing on cassette or vinyl, whichever suited the release, or what felt right, e.g. the orb uforb was a cassette for me but Orbital brown was on vinyl, SAW v1 on cd..etc dunno why just seemed right, anyhoo, I am into wax cylindars now, might grow a beard too… 😉

  19. Vinyl makes sense as a musical object, an objct that has no other use. That apeal used to be part of the cd in the beggining but not anymore.
    As for hipsters, applications for ios are for hipsters, va vst’s are for hipsters, workstations are for hipsters, well at least more than vinyl..

  20. My town (Portland Oregon) is overrun with hipsters, and they are fucking annoying. The funny thing is that hipsters get into all this stuff because they think they’re being ironic and unique. Anything that is old, odd, and obscure is sure to adopted by the hipster crowd. Vinyl has simply been out of style long enough to make it acceptable and “cool” again, for the hipsters.

  21. I don’t miss vinyl at all. The more you handle and play records, the more pops and scratches you get out of them. They just degrade and die. You have to constantly clean them due to static electricity, and styli only last for a while before wearing down. They are not portable, and inevitably need to be transferred to digital to listen to on the go. There is a lot of false nostalgia and this will undoubtedly fade.

  22. Nah, vinyl isn’t a hipster thing… If you’re an audio-person (the next step up after being a synth-person, both being more than a mere musician) you understand that the grooves in the vinyl (as opposed to the tracks on a CD) are an actual physical representation of the sound-waves which are being reproduced. Digital audio is just 1’s and 0’s (both of which are quite adequate for sound-reproduction) but there’s just “something” that I like about vinyl!

  23. It’s the circle of life.

    I discovered music on vinyl when that was still the dominant medium. The came buying vinyl and transferring to high-quality cassette. Then came CD’s and CD-R copies of my vinyl and cassettes. At this point I was ready to stop listening to music because it was such a pain. Now it’s pretty much some form of digital download or rip from CD. Some sound better than others. Shrug.

    Its time for the “hipsters” or whoever to experience that cycle. Been there… etc.

  24. Give some serious thought to this question before you answer it, how much of a dick do you have to be to spend your time criticizing things you have no interest in that make other people happy?

    Seriously, if you were in a Mexican restaurant eating your dinner and someone walked in and started telling everyone how much they don’t like Mexican food, wouldn’t the first thing that came to your mind be
    Wow, what a dick.

  25. I don’t see what’s hipster about buying fantastic recordings for pennies on the dollar at thrift stores. 🙂 There are 20th century compositions that were issued once on LP and never again out there. There are lots of visionary recordings that never went anywhere in the day, but modern ears can appreciate more fully….

    1. I also still use LPs and buy old ones unavailable as MP3, butI don’t buy them because they are “better” or “warmer” or any other nonsense.

  26. A 62-year old bus company owner in Brazil, Zero Freitas, owns 3 million vinyl records and is buying as many as he can. An August 8 2014 NY Times article said that all his life he has been unable to stop buying records. “I’ve gone to therapy for 40 years to try to explain this to myself.” He recently bought a collection of 12.000 polka albums. He studied music composition in college and has a second business renting sound and lighting equipment for rock concerts. Hipster?

  27. It’s all about sentimenality and nostalgia. Hipsters also prefer homeopathy over real medicine and spirituality over science.

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