We hear music everywhere. In the car, on the computer, on the cell phone, but when we stop to listen to a vinyl record, magic happens.
To hear Vinyl’s Discs turns music into an activity in itself and not just background music. There is something magical and romantic about taking a shiny vinyl record out of its protective cover.
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 entire experience it provides is something that no digital file these days 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 phonographic records.
The flat and rotating disc that forces a needle to go through the recording grooves, 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 capabilities of these discs were quite limited and the sound very imperfect.
It was only in 1948, when the LP (long play) format appeared, a 12-inch-diameter 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 33 rpm speed 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 appeared, but the LP and EP remained as standard formats.
Since then, vinyl records have witnessed the birth and death of various physical media 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 outmaneuver any other support that came after it. 2020 was even the year in which, 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 music albums on vinyl. Interest and purchase has grown among millennials who are looking for a very different experience from digital. And the experience is not just about the music, but also about 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 the decoration of their homes, 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 has memory of its use.
Bands that escape the mainstream also record on vinyl betting on this parallel culture, as do 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 fans of rock, electronics, classical or indie.
According to the 2021 annual report on the record market, Audiogest recorded a growth of 29.4% in Portugal in relation to 2020 in music sales on physical support. These figures are higher than those achieved before the Covid-19 pandemic and are clearly concentrated in the vinyl record sales segment. Revival combined with lockdown seems to have been a golden combination to keep the interest in vinyl alive for many, many years.