While most trends come and go, some trends never really fade away, and have gone on to become ingrained in our culture, albeit not all of equal prominence. This is the case with the vinyl record, an audio medium that existed in the early 20th century and still enjoys its fair share of popularity even in today's digital age.
Statistics show that sales of vinyl records have increased by at least 7.5% over the past 10 years in the US, a clear indication that the love for the audio medium is just getting stronger and stronger. “There will always be vinyl and the prevailing culture around it,” notes Diego Castillo, a vinyl enthusiast known for being the guitarist for Sandwich, and as the other half of vinyl-playing duo The Diegos.
Vinyl culture, which was part of the underground scene in the 1990s when CDs were dominating, has made a comeback in 2007 as people started to appreciate the experience of listening to the warm sound of vinyl as the record stylus touches the record's surface.
In addition to its rise in terms of sales, there are events celebrating vinyl records worldwide like Record Store Day, and in the Philippines, Satchmi’s Vinyl Day. We talked to five enthusiasts, and asked them what makes vinyl tick even in our digital crazy world:
1. The sound quality is impeccable. Even with the advent of streaming sites like Tidal and Spotify that provide music that have CD-like quality, nothing beats the sound quality of vinyl. “We've been spoiled by digital music to be satisfied with a certain level of sound, but vinyl brings out the best in music—it always comes out full-bodied and concentrated,” law student Leiron Martija says, adding that genres like Jazz and RnB sound at their “absolute best” in vinyl.
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e-Learning supervisor Sarah Samonte seconds Martija’s sentiments. “Vinyl is a guilty pleasure because it's closer to what the artist and the producer really wants the music to sound like,” Samonte explains, adding that vinyl is a better avenue for artists to promote their work, as compared to other formats. Vinyl has the ability to produce details that are normally heard in digital music, such as low frequency sounds and intricate guitar strumming tricks.
2. Every record is unique.
For Castillo, the album artworks that come with vinyl records take the experience to new heights. “It's much more beautiful to see it realized in a bigger format,” Castillo shares, adding that special features like gatefolds and colored discs make them extra special.
For Stereofiles Audio store owner Che Cruz, who started selling records in 2013, these special features, including details where a particular record was pressed, make vinyl collecting an exciting, though expensive, experience. “Vinyl records have more value kapag tumagal, lalo na when [it is] out of print,” Cruz adds, sharing that she herself keeps a handful of hard-to-find vinyl as part of her personal collection.
In addition to the album artwork, unique features like the weight of each record, colors, and irregularity in shape, also factor into the uniqueness of each.
3. Music is appreciated on a more personal level.
Cruz was surprised at the demand for vinyl records. “Even students ask for brand new copies with brand new bands,” Cruz shares. In fact, even newer artists, both local and foreign, are producing their albums in the decades-old medium. “Yung iba ngayon nagugulat kase di nila akalain dadami yung mag-produce ng albums,” she adds. Local artists like Ogie Alcasid, Sandwich, and Bamboo, are also releasing albums in vinyl, albeit in limited quantities.
“It gets people to appreciate music more and revive the culture of collecting music,” marketing officer Mark Villanueva, who describes himself as a hipster guy who wants to experience how people used to do things (hence his fascination with vinyl), notes. Sharing music records with your friends also become lengthy conversations on your favorite artists and genres.
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4. It's a hobby that can be enjoyed with fellow enthusiasts.
“We always come together and talk about the records we have, what our new finds are, what we're listening to,” Castillo explains, adding that sharing and swapping vinyl with one another helps each other in discovering new music. "There are many of us who form a network of people who help buy, sell, and trade vinyl," he adds. Examples of these vinyl swap meets include Cubao X and Arbie's Kagataan.
5. There is a future with vinyl. Even if it's an old format, there will always be a group that would prefer analog over digital. “Vinyl culture has always been there,” Castillo said.
Though Castillo, Martija, Cruz, Samonte, and Villanueva agree that collecting vinyl is an expensive hobby, vinyl has become more affordable and accessible to the public, thanks to stores like Urban Outfitters and Satchmi, and bazaars like Cubao X. Samonte notes that more affordable vinyl players are available in the market nowadays, such as portable record players from Audio Technica, Satchmi, Numark, and Crosley.
Besides it becoming more and more accessible, vinyl, according to its growing number of enthusiasts, still gives the music lover an experience that digital has yet to match (even Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal have yet to find a way to produce streaming music that matches the quality of vinyl—organic, tactile, and full-bodied. "The only thing better than [vinyl] would be a live performance," Martija said.
Whether its resurgence is due to novelty or to quality, vinyl is here to stay, ready to go head-to-head with other formats. “We're all music lovers in the end, and we all want to listen to our favorite songs on a different avenue,” Samonte said. And vinyl proves to be a compelling one.
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