We hear music everywhere. But when we stop to listen to a vinyl record, magic happens. A good Christmas present.
To hear Vinyl’s Discs turns music into an activity in itself and not just background music. There is something magical and romantic about pulling a shiny vinyl record out of its protective sleeve.
In the way we can admire the booklet and design of this cover as the needle lands on the flat, black surface. Not only is the sound different from what comes out of a computer, a cell phone or any other electronic device, but the whole experience it provides is something that no digital file today can replicate.
Vinyl records: a story made of resilience
Vinyl records, as we know them today, were created in the 40s of the last century when a new plastic material, with the same name as the record, began to be used to replace the shellac then used to manufacture phonograph records.
The flat and revolving disk that forces a needle to go through the grooves of the recording, was invented in the USA in 1887 by the German Emile Berliner, who also created the Gramophone, but until the appearance of this plastic material, the capacities of these disks were quite limited and the sound very imperfect.
It was only in 1948, when the LP (long play) format appeared, a 12-inch disc that guaranteed 45 minutes of music recorded on both sides, that the new vinyl records began to gain popularity and higher quality. The LP’s speed of 33 rpm was joined by the EP’s 45 rpm (extended play) the following year. This disc with a diameter of 7 inches offered 15 minutes of music recorded on both sides. In the following decades other formats emerged, but the LP and EP remained the standard formats.
Since then, vinyl records have witnessed the birth and death of various physical supports for recording music such as cassettes, in the analogue world, mp3 players or CDs, in the digital world. Smartphones reign supreme in the digital music market today and the vast majority of revenue comes from streaming.
But if we talk about physical music, recorded on a support that you can buy and take home, the big winner is the vinyl that survived until the 21st century to outdo any other support that came after it. 2020 was even the year that, for the first time, sales of vinyl records exceeded sales of CDs in several countries, including Portugal.
Vinyl records: who buys and why?
It’s not just nostalgic revivalists who continue to buy vinyl music albums. Interest and purchases have grown among millennials who are looking for an experience that is very different from the digital experience. And the experience goes not only through the music, but also through the artifact itself.
A record and its cover are increasingly considered works of art, as is the device on which they can be listened to. They are objects that look good in home decor, that combine with a slower and more significant consumption of music and that are also seen as an innovative gadget by a generation that no longer remembers their use.
Bands that escape the mainstream also record on vinyl, betting on this parallel culture, just like the stores that sell, buy and exchange vinyl records. In Lisbon and Porto there are numerous stores of this type, which create an interesting cultural itinerary for rock, electronic, classical or indie fans.
According to the 2021 annual record market report, Audiogest recorded a growth of 29.4% in Portugal compared to 2020 in physical music sales. These values are higher than those achieved before the Covid-19 pandemic and are clearly concentrated in the vinyl record sales segment. Revivalism combined with confinement seems to have been a golden combination to keep interest in vinyl alive for many good years to come.