The production studio WIXQ, Millersville University’s campus radio station, houses one of the largest collections of records on campus. / Kat Delaney/Snapper
Music is and always has been a driving force in our daily lives – it uplifts, inspires, and captivates, influencing our emotions and actions as the soundtrack of our moods and memories. As generations of listeners invent new ways of creating and listening to music, some more vintage methods manage to make a comeback, among them being the classic vinyl record.
According to reports from the likes of Vinyl Restart and MRC Music-Billboard, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed to more than 40 million units, an 18 to 20% increase in just this past year – and for good reason. A traditional but innovative format, records transcend time, as they allow musicians across decades and genres to be appreciated as a physical disc rotating at the heart of the room.
The phonograph record, also known as the gramophone, was patented in 1877 by Thomas Edison, as an invention intended to create music by scanning grooves, the source of sound, on a record, through a hard, sharp object such as a needle, or stylus. The vinyl record acquired its more popular name from polyvinyl chloride, the chemical commonly used in the plastic within the material. Vinyl records were the predominant format for music listeners for the bulk of the 20th century, only fading into obscurity in the 1990s when more portable devices, such as cassettes and compact discs (CDs). came to the forefront.
Nearly two decades later, vinyl records have once again emerged as the format of choice for both avid music fans and casual listeners alike – but why?
I received my record player and first album, The Beatles’ “1,” when I was in high school, and have been collecting ever since, my inventory ranging from Florence + The Machine to original copies of the Star Wars soundtracks. As a listener and collector, records allow me to appreciate the full discography of the artists I love and want to get to know more, beyond the singles I hear on the radio or on Spotify. Records are also designed to boost creativity and innovation in terms of how we process and listen to music. The larger size of the album allows more room for cover design, both front and back, and tracks are often placed in specific order to create the optimal visual and auditory experience. In essence, the vinyl maintains its status as a favorite even today due to the sheer novelty and joy of experiencing an artist through the tap of a stylus.
Numerous record stores, ranging from familiar franchises to homely mom-and-pop shops now line the streets and strip malls of town, further preserving the music and culture of yesterday and today (to learn more about record stores in the Lancaster area, check out my article under Features). With artists now also releasing new albums as vinyls, and many of these stores making them accessible to customers, they enable physical music to once more take hold as the preferred source of music.
While portability and the ability to choose what music we listen to may allow streaming services to remain the mainstay, there will always be that craving to physically hold the tunes and albums we love most. The same can be said for books – there will always be that desire to physically hold the pages in our hands, to feel and smell the papers we flip to get to the next chapter. Physical media, such as novels and vinyl records, provide a more immersive experience for us to consume and embrace.
No other format of music, let alone physical forms, have captivated listeners as much as the circular black discs we have grown to know and love. There is always something so fascinating and so peculiar about the feeling of taking out the record, placing it on the table, and letting the stylus echo the sounds that drive your soul and fill the room, as well as your heart. Regardless of which music methods come and go, vinyl records are here to stay, and deserve to remain on our bedroom shelves and in our music collections.