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The Vinyl Revival is Here to Stay

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Streaming media, which now accounts for 75% of music sales, has been a boon to the music industry. But in the transition from vinyl to digital, fans lost the novelties that made LPs so special: tactile artwork, lyrics, liner notes, and special inserts. It started with the arrival of micro-packaged cassettes and CDs before quickly giving way to digital downloads and streaming services. The “album” as we once knew it virtually vanished from our fingertips and fell into near extinction.

Thanks to Record Store Day (RDS), which celebrates the culture of independent record stores worldwide, music retailers are enjoying a resurgence in physical album sales – and with that has come an epic revival of vinyl. In the United States alone, LP sales have been trending upward for a striking 13 consecutive years.

Aside from all of the re-issues, limited edition and special releases that I look forward to getting my hands on at RDS, I love the celebratory and communal nature of the annual event. It usually becomes a big party filled with live performances, signings and speaking events. You can always count on seeing and discovering emerging bands for free at RDS celebrations, too, where I’ve seen artists like Titus Andronicus, Sunflower Bean, and Afrobeta, a great band from Miami.

This year, my go-to record store, Rough Trade in Brooklyn, threw a great party, as always, with stellar live performances by Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Steve Gunn, and TEEN (my personal favorite). I also scored a coveted 45 from Swervedriver AND I got to see Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. He met with fans, signed albums, and presented an experiential LED art installation called King’s Mouth, which his band’s new concept album is based on.

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King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience

In honor of RDS, The Flaming Lips also issued a limited run of 4,000 LPs, along with a book, “King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience,” which Coyne wrote and illustrated.

While I think there’s a time and place for streaming music services – even for a passionate vinyl collector like me – I don’t purchase music online, and mainly listen to records at home. Holding an album cover in your fingers as the needle spins is a pastime that offers me a portal to special memories and moments in time. One of my most treasured LPs is the Anthology of Bruce Springsteen (1975/1985), which was a Christmas present from my mother 30 years ago. Of course, my original copy of London Calling by The Clash is right up there with The Boss, and my pressing of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life might very well be the best investment out of my 300+ vinyl collection. And maybe I’m tricking myself, but the density and depth of vinyl audio seems far superior.

I can’t wait for RSD 2020. In the meantime, go support your neighborhood record store today. You’ll be glad you did.

Anne Gordon