The Vinyl Revival and A Look Back On Music Formats


Garrett Clarke

Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 Album “Rumors” as a Vinyl Record with it’s cover and sleeve

Garrett Clarke, Senior Editor

It’s obvious that over the past few years many people have started and/or expanded their collection of vinyl records, a music medium that has been used since it was invented in 1930 by RCA Victor but could only hold one song per side, as the technology advanced they would be able to hold up to 21 minutes of audio per side by 1948 created by Peter Goldmark at CBS. These would be what we consider an LP or a vinyl record. A 12-inch (or a 7-inch for a single which is played at 45 rpm) circle of polyvinyl chloride with little grooves that when played at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute and picked up by a needle would be amplified through a record player or a turntable connected to speakers to produce sound.

Another major piece of music technology was the cassette tape, which was invented in 1963. But cassettes wouldn’t begin to outsell records until 1983. The 8track tape was a similar piece of music tech that would be invented in 1965. The main difference is that 8tracks were marketed to play music whereas a cassette tape was seen as a recording device not entirely for music. Once pre-recorded cassettes became popular they would outsell 8tracks as well in 1982. The popularity of the cassette led to the removal of 8track players from cars and home listening systems would often find themselves replaced by tape decks. The Sony Walkman also played a part in this as it was a portable cassette player that could be used with headphones instead of speakers.

In 1982, the first commercially available Digital Audio Compact Disc would be Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” in Japan. In the United States in 1983, the first commercially available CD would be “Born in The U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen. The CD would out sell vinyl by 1987 and the pre-recorded cassette by 1989. The CD would remain popular and would peak in popularity in 2002. One thing that made the CD favorable over other forms of music was it’s ability to skip directly to any track that you wanted on the CD.

As computers were becoming more and more popular in 1988 the first audio file format started being used. The AIFF (Audio Interface File Format) was developed for sound storage on computers by Apple. However, the most used audio file format would be the MP3 and since it was used so much for music sharing, it put a dent in music sales since people could get the music they wanted for free by downloading it on to an MP3 player. The compact device plus the fact that it made music piracy easier and more discreet than ever made it so popular that they were almost banned in the U.S..

Six years after the MP3 file format was invented the original iPod was released. With its small size weighing in at 6.5 ounces and it’s ability to hold 5GB of music, or 1,000 songs, beating any other MP3 players. As Apple continued with the iPod and it’s iTunes software there would be 5 more models of the iPod which was discontinued on May 10 2022 with the final model being the iPod Touch. This was almost 7 years after Apple released their music streaming service Apple Music in June of 2015.

The music streaming market is a big one, making $10.8 billion in 2022. With so many choices like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Youtube Music, Pandora, SoundCloud, and even more. The most popular on the global scale is Spotify. According to Spotify “Today, Spotify is the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service with 515m users, including 210m subscribers,”

But what does this all have to do with “Turning Back the Clock?” In 2022 vinyl records outsold CD’s for the first time since 1987. The analog sound is one that seems to have skipped an entire generation only to return stronger than ever with 41 Million vinyl records being sold in 2022. The difference between vinyl records and CD’s other than there physical appearance is how they sound, records tend to provide a warmer sound that when compared to the digital sound of a CD is more authentic as it is the grooves providing the sound whereas a CD produces sound by the laser reflecting of the CD and measuring the reflected light and turning it into sound.

But what makes records so popular for teens? “I like to listen to vinyl because I like the way it sounds with speakers,” Freshman Jocelynn Hanson said. But sometimes it isn’t just the sound that one likes about a record, having a physical copy of something you appreciate creatively and artistically as a way to express yourself can be such a fun thing to do. “It’s just pretty nifty to be able to own a physical copy of something you enjoy,” Sophomore Kennedy Brewer said. Since records were very popular in the 70’s now that they are more popular the collection of a family member could make it’s way down generations. That was the case for Logan Davis, a Freshmen. “[it is] Family tradition and passing on the records to my kids like my dad,” Davis said.

As vinyl is becoming more popular more retailers are beginning to sell more records, places like Target and Barnes & Noble’s often have new releases on their shelves. But that is no the only place they are available, records stores are popping up more than ever in an attempt to capture the demand for records. It also provides a chance to shop local and support a small business, and could also save you some money as most local shops will have a $5 or even $1 bin full to the brim with a mix of stuff you might not have heard and maybe a cheap find of something that you do like.

Silver Platters has locations in Bellevue, Seattle, and Lynnwood. They also have a rewards program that could save you even more money. But most recently Stargazer Records, a record store in Snohomish owned by Mark and Dave Florian opened in January. While the store isn’t too big they do find a way to keep a well stocked shop. Shortly after opening, on April 23 2023 the store participated in Record Store Day. A program dedicated to “Spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently-owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally.”