Vinyl’s revival: hipster trend or a better way to listen?

Barnacle Records in downtown Kamloops has plenty of vinyl in stock for collectors new and old. (Marcela Arévalo/The Omega)

Barnacle Records in downtown Kamloops has plenty of vinyl in stock for collectors new and old. (Marcela Arévalo/The Omega)

In recent years, the popularity of vinyl records has been on the rise as more people choose to go back to the vintage way of listening to their favourite artists.

But why the sudden spike in popularity when digital streaming services continue to grow and offer a much more convenient and inexpensive way to enjoy any type of music?

“For me, it’s just like owning a copy of the book I really like instead of the digital version,” said Ronan McGrath, a co-owner of downtown record store Barnacle Records.

Although he states the reasons that people choose to collect vinyl all depends on the person.

Steve Marlow, the programming coordinator for campus community radio station CFBX, said he believed there were two main groups that are buying vinyl records.

“One is your basic nostalgia of your baby boomers, who used to own all kinds of records in their youth and now can buy it back,” Marlow said. “There’s also the hipster factor, where a lot of people want to have these things on vinyl because it’s cool and different.”

McGrath also mentioned the nostalgia factor, but also that he believed, “it’s the disenchantment with digital music. For a time people were very excited that free music was available online. Then, they started preferring to just use the iTunes convenience to buy songs. Now that we’re at the streaming service level, people have normalized to digital. It leaves a desire to have a sense of ownership – just like owning books and owning art. It tells a story.”

When comparing vinyl to digital, there is one key difference according to McGrath. “Vinyl is analog, so the sound is being interpreted and generated through the cartridge (a small needle-like device on a record player) and the mechanism of the turntable which then is getting amplified. A CD is digital information. Ones and zeros being reconstituted synthetically to create the music, whereas, vinyl, it’s organically being made in the acoustic experience.”

However, owning and playing vinyl records can be expensive. Other than the records themselves, which cost about $30 on average, the equipment to play them comes with its own steep price tag.

“I tell people if you’re buying a turntable alone, not an amplifier or speakers, don’t spend less than $300, because that is the minimum price for quality,” McGrath said. “However, you’re looking at $1,000 easily for each element of a record player if you want something decent.”

Regardless of price, vinyl records are still on the rise in popularity.

“Digital is good, it’s convenient. But there’s something more to vinyl that digital doesn’t have,” McGrath said.