The Edit

Vinyl Record Revival

Vinyl record being held on someone's lap

How has the new digital age affected the historic physicality of music, namely, the vinyl record? We caught up with Eric Mueller, the President of independent vinyl manufacturer, 'Pirates Press', to find out how the industry has changed over the years and what he predicts for times to come.

Since Eric founded the company in 2004, Pirates Press has earned its stripes as a champion for independent labels, bands, artists and businesses. Find out more here.  

Since you started at Pirates Press, have you witnessed changes in the demand for vinyl with the trending vinyl record revival?

The trends have definitely changed, and they continue to evolve. Some of the larger trends followed significant investments made in vinyl by specific major labels and other big players. In general, the trend since day-one of Pirates has been positive & upward. Records are selling better than they ever have, and while the specific records that are selling continue to change, the constant is that new collectors are entering the market in droves and have been doing so since the early days of the company.

The attention to packaging and quality that exist today is often seen as one of the things that has really taken off more than anything since the early 2000s. With music getting cheaper and easier to consume digitally, putting extra care into the packaging is something that people consistently do to give people a bigger reason to invest in vinyl - promoting and supporting that has been a focus of ours from the start.

How do you think this comeback has affected the music industry?

Today’s music industry is infinitely harder to survive in than in years and decades past. The disintegration of the CD market, and now the download market as well, have both basically dried up the two major sources of revenue for artists and record labels. Vinyl has stepped up in some ways to help, but ultimately selling 1000 records is not going to make up for the loss of not selling 10,000 CDs, or downloads - which in today’s world simply translates into tens of thousands of streams, and a disappointing pittance financially.

While it is easier and cheaper now for many bands and artists to record, film videos, and many other things due to changes in technology, not having the overall revenue stream that once existed puts independent musicians and record labels at a serious disadvantage. Major labels and other larger publishing houses dominate the world of placement of music in TV, movies, advertising and other venues that could also create sustainable income for independent musicians; but in reality, that industry just reinforces the power that those labels have over the masses culturally. There are always exceptions, but that is an undeniable presence in today’s music world.

For popular bands, and popular independent record labels, vinyl can be somewhat of an equalizer, but unless it is combined with significant merchandise sales and other things, it is still very difficult for independent musicians to establish a sustainable career for themselves these days.

Nonetheless, the optimistic part of the vinyl story gets brighter when you examine the sales of turntables, especially lower-cost models to a younger demographic, entering the vinyl collecting market. For bands, and independent record labels alike, these statistics are perhaps the most uplifting, knowing that there are people who are likely to continue to purchase older catalog titles, as well as the newer ones.

Statista vinyl record stastistics for US sales from 2006 to 2018

(Image via)

Are there any specific music genres or vinyl albums that have become increasingly popular in recent years?

As noted above, the demographic of people buying records continues to change and span a larger age demographic. As a manufacturer, we often see trends in vinyl associated with the types of people purchasing the vinyl, and in this case, we certainly see larger numbers of records being made for artists and bands that are being marketed towards a younger crowd.

It’s not necessarily genre specific, but there is also a financial component to it. For people to participate in vinyl collecting, they obviously need to have some disposable income. Perhaps correlated or associated with that to some extent, we often see more music manufactured on vinyl that may be directed towards more of a suburban youth market, rather than an urban youth market.

Is there anything in particular that you think has driven the vinyl revival? Do you believe the trend will likely carry on or taper off?

For many people, collecting vinyl is a connection to the artists or bands that someone loves. Unlike in the past where it was necessary to collect all music on a physical format, today people have to make the conscious choice to do so, as there are so many intangible formats of music that people can consume cheaply and conveniently. When people choose to collect vinyl, they are making a statement about both their connection to the music, as well as their passion for it.

As the trends continue to evolve, as more people take the cheap and easy route for consuming music, the meaning that vinyl collecting has for the artists gains significance, and in doing so, the relationship between the collector and the artist gets closer. It’s not realistic to think that a majority of people are going to start collecting all of their music on vinyl, but the passion people have for the format, and all of the wonderful things they get out of participating in the collectors’ market and then having connections with the band or artist through their vinyl, will never disappear.

As new generations come into the market, they will inherit their parents’ and grandparents’ collections, and turntables, and the nostalgia and meaning that carries with it will undoubtedly fuel many of them to begin collecting records for themselves. If you surveyed many vinyl collectors today, you’ll find that trend to be quite consistent - especially for people who began collecting vinyl before it was ‘cool’…

Taking that model and knowing that older record collectors are certainly NOT dumping their collections and habits, one could naturally assume that the overall vinyl market will continue to grow. At what speed, only time will tell…

Personally, what do you hope for the legacy and future of vinyl records moving forward?

I hope that Pirates Press and other companies who are equally passionate about vinyl will continue to evolve in ways that provide the vinyl collecting market with enjoyable new trends, exciting new improvements and packaging ideas, and other things to entice more and more people to continue to collect - and keep collecting vinyl. As a manufacturer, we take great pride in our work, and our investment in the future of vinyl - and the feedback that we get from our work is constant, and constantly uplifting; driving us to continue to do the best job that we can everyday.

Beyond that, we see our customers inspired by and challenged by each other’s work - pushing themselves to reach new heights with vinyl. That overall sense of community that we’ve created amongst labels and bands is something we don’t take lightly. We are unbelievably grateful for, and appreciative of the endless support. Long live vinyl!

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