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Vinyl record sales keep spinning
By Jay L. Zagorsky, Boston University,
Over the past decade, vinyl records have made a major comeback. People purchased US$1.2 billion of records in 2022, a 20% jump from the previous year.
Not only did sales rise, but they also surpassed CD sales for the first time since 1988, according to a new report from the Recording Industry Association of America.
Who saw that coming?
I certainly didn’t. In the mid-1990s, I sold off my family’s very large collection of records over my wife’s protests. I convinced her we needed the space, even if the buyer was picking up the whole stash for a song.
I now teach at a business school and follow the economy’s latest trends. Sales of records have been increasing since 2007, and the data shows the vinyl record industry’s rebound still has not peaked. Last year, the music industry sold 41.3 million albums, more than in any year since 1988.
Another theory is that records are cheap. While that might have been true in the past, today’s vinyl records command a premium. “Cracker Island,” the Gorillaz album that is currently topping the vinyl sales charts, lists for almost $22 – twice the cost of the CD. Plus, subscribing to an online service like Spotify for 15 bucks a month gives you access to millions of tracks.
A third explanation for the resurgence is that people claim records have better sound quality than digital audio files. Records are analog recordings that capture the entire sound wave. Digital files are sampled at periodic intervals, which means only part of the sound wave is captured.
In it, he explained that people often buy items as a way to gain and convey status. One of Veblen’s key ideas is that not everything in life is purchased because it is easy, fun or high quality.
Sometimes harder, more time-consuming or exotic items offer more status.
A cake is a great example. Say you offer to bring a cake to a party. You can buy a bakery-made cake that will look perfect and take only a few minutes to purchase. Or you could bake one at home. Even if it’s delicious, it won’t look as nice and will take hours to make.
But if your friends are like mine, they’ll gush over the homemade cake and not mention the perfect store-bought one.
Buying and playing vinyl records is becoming a status symbol.
Today, playing music is effortless. Just shout your request at a smart speaker, like Siri or Alexa, or touch an app on your smartphone.
Playing a record on a turntable takes time and effort. Building your collection requires thoughtful deliberation and money. A record storage cube alongside an accompanying record player also makes for some nice living room decor.
And now I – the uncool professor that I am – find myself bemoaning the loss of all of those albums I sold years ago.