Vinyl with Style: Collecting Records in 2019

Dylan McCormick, Staff Writer

In 2019, you don’t have to jump through many hoops to listen to music. In most cases, all you have to do is turn on your phone and hit “play.” But there was once a time when the only way to listen to music was through vinyl records. As opposed to phones and MP3 players, records require much more physical action: removing the record, placing the needle on the groove, and flipping it over when each side is done playing. With questionable sound quality and unnecessary inconvenience, one might think they’d would be obsolete now. But believe it or not, they’re making a resurgence. Sales have been climbing for years and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

On paper, it makes little sense for them to be selling as strongly as they are. They’re inconvenient, expensive, and tend to have a worse sound quality than other formats. With all of this in mind, one might think that CD and digital sales would be much higher than records and that records should be dying off, but the truth is quite the opposite. In fact, a recent report by the RIAA showed that revenue from record sales increased by over $25 million between 2018 and 2019, while CD sales revenue only increased by $2 million. So why are records coming back, and who’s making the push?

There’s a number of reasons as to why people continue to appreciate vinyl records. As someone who’s been a semi-avid record collector over the past few years, the first thing to draw me in was the tactility of it all. I felt like it was cool to own music in a physical form, and when taking into consideration their other physical aspects— album artwork, liner notes, and any other goodies that may be packaged— I was hooked. Others enjoy things like the experience of having to put on the record and being able to relax and just focus on the music. In 2019, records aren’t just a different way to listen to music. They’re a novelty.

This is especially evident in how records are currently marketed, packaged, and sold. One of the most common trends right now in the industry is exclusive, limited-stock color variants. While the average LP is just black, these records’ colors can vary, some being mere recolors while others have wild splatter patterns.

Other releases come in specialized boxsets filled with a number of various goodies. For example, the first vinyl pressing of Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! was only available in a $60 box set that included a glow-in-the-dark cover, photo book, and cardboard VR headset with access to a virtual concert. Intricate packaging is always fun to see, like Third Man Records’ 2019 repress of the album Trout Mask Replica that was packaged with an actual trout mask replica, or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Squeeze Box box set that was shaped like an accordion. They’re not just for the average music listener, but for the collector and enthusiast.

While independent record stores still exist and continue to operate, their presence is dwarfed by bigger retailers and chains like Newbury Comics and Urban Outfitters, both of which offer their own exclusive variants. There’s also specialized online services like Vinyl Me, Please, which offer their own exclusive pressings and reissues of albums, some of which have either never been pressed before or are extremely rare.

Alternatively, online marketplaces such as Ebay and Discogs flourish as places to buy records from other individuals and independent retailers. These sites can be used to buy anything from a common release that one may be able to find at a local chain, to expensive rarities like Frank Ocean’s Blonde, which is currently listed at $550 on Discogs.

Record collecting has changed over the years, but there’s no better time to start than now. Sure, it’s become more of a novelty than a primary way to listen to music, but it’s a novelty that people continue to increasingly love. So drop the needle, sit back, and enjoy the music— just be ready to get up when Side A is over.

Photo Credit: Dylan McCormick