Few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me about the increase in trend for vinyl sales and production. I thought this was a rather interesting question and hope that I might be able to share some of my thoughts here.
In a recent report by BPI music, it was reported that the vinyl sales in the UK amounted to $45.5 million SGD (source) more than the revenue it has made through Youtube. In this day and age whereby people value convenience and wide varieties of a music library, it is very strange for a consumer to opt for the physical sales of vinyl. Some might argue that vinyl provides a better sound quality than a digital version of a song, but is that really true?
When is comes to dynamic range, a vinyl disc will average around 60dB, a value which is at an acceptable signal to noise ratio (SNR), while a CD (44.1KHz, 16 bits) will range at 96dB (1 bit = 6db, 16 bits = 96dB). When it comes to sound reproduction quality, a digital copy will always tend to be more accurate than vinyl. However, this quality is a double-edged sword as some individuals perceived it to be very surgical (fake sounding) and lacks emotion in terms of the sound reproduction of a CD. Many have described the sound quality of vinyl disc to be warm and musical but all of these boils back down to the calibre on playback equipment used. In addition, the warm sound that many of us loved are often related to the harmonic distortion and surface noise the vinyl disc creates.
Every playback medium will have its merits and flaws and let's be honest, most of us (even the audio enthusiasts) will stop paying attention to these technical details when the music is enjoyable. Often, buying a disc does not solely comprise of just the sonic experiences, but it encompasses the musical journey the production team has planned for you. The sentimental value of each song in the album will increase as you unravel the materials (e.g. artwork, song description) and walk the musical journey. Unlike using a music streaming service whereby convenience and variety are kings, the attention span from a listener on a vinyl disc will be longer as they have committed themselves to an album.
"When you're listening to a record, it's like watching a film and listening to digital audio, it's like watching reality TV", (Pete Lyman, mastering engineer, Infrasonic Mastering). A vinyl record provides tangible feedback to the user as he or she makes the preparations to listen to the music — something that is not achievable with streaming services. Comparing to a generic digital CD album, a vinyl record can be a lot more detailed in its design as the record sleeves provide a bigger canvas space for the album artwork. As most of the sales market audience range at the age of 15 to 35, listening to a vinyl record is a novelty, which makes collecting them more enticing than digital CD copies.
People love collecting items and for a fan, it is like a mental feedback loop (quite guilty myself) as they feel that they are committing to the artist when they are purchasing/collecting vinyl records. At the end of the day, many music lovers will regard sonic superiorities as a second priority. Quincy Jones once said "the three most important things in music are the song, the song and the song", which makes a lot of sense. If the music is not well written or produced in the first place, no one will listen to it. Listening to music through a physical media provides a more intrigued experience and often, avid listeners will value such experiences more.