By Claire Van Zee | Reporter
Across the world, hipsters and collectors alike continue to support the decades-old industry of vinyl records. Despite being one of the oldest forms of recorded music, vinyls continue to make a way for themselves in the age of streaming.
In recent years, vinyl sales have been on a continuous rise in the United States, according to Statista’s data recording LP album sales between 1993 and 2019 in the United States. During a time when you can stream any song imaginable within seconds, this continual growth is somewhat of a phenomenon.
Vinyl album sales in the United States have shown consistent growth since 2006. By 2019, the industry was up by 14.5% from the previous year, having sold 18.84 million vinyl records, Statista reported.
However, the United States isn’t the only country experiencing the resurgence of vinyl popularity. In 2017, the Japanese arm of Sony Music announced in a press release it would open its own vinyl record manufacturing factory in order to keep up with the demand of the Japanese vinyl market.
But what is it about vinyl records that keeps people interested?
Robert Darden, professor of journalism, public relations and new media, believes there is a warmth that comes through vinyl of which other formats, like CDs and streaming, can’t compare.
“Because it’s a thing. A physical thing we can see and touch and appreciate,” Darden said.
For the same reason people go to Israel — to feel closer to Jesus, to walk where he walked — is the same reason people love records, Darden said.
“A record makes you closer, not just with other lovers of this [vinyl], but with the original creator. When you’re downloading and streaming, you don’t have that same kind of visceral connection,” Darden said.
Stan Wojciechowski, owner of Waco’s own independent record store Spin Connection, also said he believes there is no comparison to listening to a record.
“What’s unique about vinyl is that putting on a record isn’t as convenient as pushing a button. You have to physically turn it on,” Wojciechowski said.
With pride, Wojciechowski tells the story of a time when a Baylor tennis player came into the store by recommendation of a friend, trying to figure out what all of the hype of vinyl was about.
Instead of explaining it, Wojciechowski said he decided to share the hype by turning on an old ACDC album.
“I turned it on and he was just standing there taking it in. When it got done, he said ‘I’m never going to listen to another MP3. This is great!” Wojciechowski said. “There is just something really authentic about recording music on vinyl.”
Wojciechowski said oftentimes with digital music, when musicians electronically enhance things, while perhaps arbitrarily, they often lose the message of the song.
“With vinyl, that just isn’t the case,” Wojciechowski said.
Wojciechowski and his wife opened up the record store, Spin Connection, six years ago, in 2014.
Longtime collectors themselves, the couple and their son decided to take their hobby of selling records online and at vintage markets in Austin into a legitimate business in a brick-and-mortar space.
Spin Connection houses a diverse collection of vinyl records, from jazz and spoken word to pop and rock. While most of their inventory is vintage, they also carry newer albums by artists ranging from Halsey to Mumford and Sons.
While the owners saw an increase in business throughout the years, they claim it’s not due to the increase in vinyl popularity, but simply through word of mouth.
Some nights, the space also doubles as a concert venue. Previous gigs include rock, punk and Skaw music performed by groups from all over Texas.
“A lot of them want to come back because it’s just a different environment. It’s not a club where people just come to drink, or whatever. They like coming in because they are appreciated,” said.
With the help of vinyl connoisseurs and businesses like Spin Connection, records will continue to thrive in their own little corner of the music industry.