A SOUND IDEA
Written by Annie Dunlap
A decade ago, it seemed that Saturday afternoons spent elbows deep in the trenches of the record store belonged firmly to a by-gone era. Nostalgia seemed to have a moment in 2011, and vinyl sales began to rise from the ashes. In 2012, much to my mother’s amusement, I purchased a briefcase record player and Abbey Road. The sound quality was awful, but the “vintage” instagrams taken on my iPhone 4 were not (or so I thought). Gradually, I began to appreciate the physical ownership of vinyl, something even hundreds of Spotify playlists couldn’t give me.
That moment of nostalgia has spanned nearly 10 years, with more growth on the horizon. My own affair with vinyl is hardly unique, collectors under the age of 34 made up 42% of vinyl sales in 2019. In 2020, vinyl sales exceeded CD sales for the first time since 1986 and have increased nearly 30% in the past year.
Young adult collectors aren’t the sole reason for the 2020 pandemic vinyl boom - their older counterparts are re-discovering their own love for records in waves. Vinyl collecting presents the perfect combination of late 20th century nostalgia with the excitement of new technology, and starting out doesn’t necessarily require a big investment. Turntables range from cheap suitcases with built-in speakers to higher-tech bluetooth enabled players, but even a decent bluetooth player won’t put you out more than $200.
It’s also never been easier to curate your collection - websites like Discogs allow you to catalog your records online, shop thousands of record stores worldwide, calculate the monetary value of your albums, and sell to other users. If you’ve ever wondered if your old records sitting in storage are worth anything, Discogs should be your first stop - first editions of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles regularly sell for upwards of $1000. Like art or antiques, vinyl is ultimately an investment. The longer you hold onto your first or second edition pressings, the more valuable they become.
Vinyl collecting is an incredible way to celebrate and support the arts and local businesses following an incredibly trying year. Without the opportunity to tour, artists and their teams are almost completely dependent on album revenue to pay their expenses and keep creating. Local record stores, like other small businesses, need the support of the community to stay afloat. Many of Columbus’ record stores, like Used Kids Records, have been part of the local music scene for over 30 years. If you’re still avoiding in-person shopping, you can browse and order from their collection online.
So, how do you get started? There are hundreds of turntables to choose from, and even more records to sift through. I’d recommend reading online reviews, like these ones from Wired, to figure out what kind and brand of player is right for your needs and budget. The records on your list are more of a personal decision (in my opinion, everyone needs a copy of Queen’s Night at the Opera, but that’s just me). If you’re short on ideas, check out Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
A vinyl collection, like so many of the greatest albums ever made, transcends time. The 7-inch singles left by my grandmother still sit proudly on a shelf in my mother’s house. In the height of quarantine last March, my family enjoyed browsing her collection, recalling memories, and laughing at the workout routines she had written on some of the covers. A vinyl collection is deeply personal and emotionally evocative in a way that most other collecting hobbies aren’t. It’s an incredible way to narrate your life and only grows in monetary and emotional value with age (and it’s never too late to start).