2014 was another record year in vinyl sales with 2014, with over 1.3M albums sold. Many are hailing this as a return of physical music after the death of CDs. For some that means an imminent death of streaming music.
But Spotify has 75 million active users and Apple music recently announced it has 15 million subscribers. So streaming music is definitely here to stay.
Instead vinyl is creating something that CDs were never able to do: it’s creating experiences. CDs just sold music in the form of an album and never bothered with creating an experience. This is something that vinyl offers music lovers. It’s not only an object through the disc and the hardware that you need to play it, it offers us a quality of sound that even a high fidelity .FLAC will never be able to do.
The rebirth of Vinyl can actually be put down to how music publishers are leveraging digital to combine the experience. The subscription service VNYL allows music lovers to create a rolling subscription of Vinyl records. Fans input their musical preferences(favorite genres, artists and songs) and the service sends you three new records every month that are sure to fit into your music regimen. The service keeps it subscriber numbers secret but after opening a brick-and-mortar location in Venice, California it’s sure to have gained more than the original 221 Kickstarter backers.
Another examples comes from gaming. Gamers are notoriously huge fans of the soundtracks to their favorite games and big on memorabilia collections. Game publishers have identified this and are taking advantage of this by giving them a better musical experience, through what other than Vinyl! The most recent example comes from Playstation’s Uncharted game which, after the Games Halo 4 and Fallout 3, are releasing the soundtrack to Uncharted 2 on Vinyl. Combined with very visual artwork from the game it’s sure to be a draw for hardcore gamers and music fans.
Sales numbers aren’t the only thing that will determine whether Vinyl is here to stay or not. Instead we need to look to the experience that hardware can enable us while we continue to live our digital lives.