Why Vintage Vinyl Records Are Popular in the Digital Age

A child lying down surrounded by vintage vinyl records and a record player File name vintage-vinyl-records

Vinyl records were the primary medium for listening to music for much of the 20th century. Whether they were listening on 33 or 78 RPM records, vintage vinyl records defined the sounds of many of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives. But newer cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and digital streaming platforms temporarily exiled these artifacts of music history to garage sales, thrift stores, and attics everywhere. 

Sometime around the mid 2000s, people started to get back into vinyl, so much so that labels started dropping LPs alongside digital releases and CDs. So, what’s fueling the renaissance of vinyl record popularity? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors. 

3 Big Reasons Vinyl is Back (and Might Be Here to Stay) 

No one can doubt that vinyl is back. While it hasn’t reached industry dominance the way it did in the mid 20th century, it’s certainly in demand. It’s hard to say when vinyl records became popular again, because they never really left! These are three of the biggest reasons: 

  1. Vinyl records are tangible. We get it. Your Spotify Premium account has thousands of saved songs and artfully curated playlists. But what if the WiFi’s out? Nothing you can do but wait, I guess. Or, if you have some of your favorite records, that solves that problem. 
  2. Vintage vinyl records are serious collectibles. Diehard collectors are among the music fans fueling the rebirth of vinyl record popularity. And it’s not just baby boomers, either. (We’ll address the millennial question later in this article…) Vinyl is relatively niche, but for collectors, it has some serious multi-generational appeal. Whether you love the thrill of finding rare vintage vinyl records for cheap at a local store or you’re all-in for the latest releases, there’s no denying how easy (and lucrative) it can be to collect vinyl today. 
  3. The sound quality of vinyl is simply better. Vinyl is simply more nuanced. While earbuds and computer speakers get the job done, many music lovers would definitely agree there’s something artificial and lacking in audio quality that most modern and contemporary formats yield. 

Vinyl Records & Sound Quality 

So, let’s talk about sound quality. Among audiophiles, this is usually the top reason people cite as a catalyst for vinyl’s unlikely resurgence. They’re not just doing it to be pretentious. Most experts find that analog formats like vinyl hold much of recorded music’s original “sounds.” Digital formats by nature are super compressed and a lot of the extra depth is lost. While we do have Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) technology today, you’d definitely have to pay a premium for this. Or, you could just pop into your local record store or order some of your favorite albums online. 

It’s Not Just Nostalgia 

While older record collectors have been investing heavily in maintaining their collections over the years, vinyl owes a lot of its 21st century rebirth to millennials and Gen Z music lovers. Ironically, streaming is kind of what led them here. Platforms like Spotify and iTunes introduced thousands of trendy teens and younger adults to the nearly-forgotten sounds of shoegaze, hard-to-find late 70’s/early 80’s rap, and other obscure oddities. 

So, what’s with younger people and vintage vinyl records, and when did vinyl records become popular again? A recent YouGov survey found that one out of four 14 to 18 year olds bought a record last month. While most millennials were barely alive during vinyl’s decline in the 80s, the digital reality most of us live in may have contributed to a sort of generational ennui. Could it be that younger music fans are just searching for something tangible? Either way, vinyl record popularity is rising, and there’s no doubt vinyl is still beloved by millions.

Woman browsing vintage vinyl records at a record store

Vinyl Record Popularity FAQs

A lot of people — vinyl collectors and complete newbies alike — wonder what the deal is with vinyl’s semi-sudden renaissance. Here are some commonly asked questions about the popularity of vinyl records that we’ll try to demystify.

  • Are records more popular than CDs? If you’re asking this question, you might have heard about the remarkable study that said that in 2020, for the first time in almost a generation, new and vintage vinyl records have surpassed CD sales! You can never be sure about the overall popularity, but it seems that vinyl has a similar intrinsic value to CDs, except with better sound quality, aesthetics, and a nostalgia factor. You’re probably going to see this trend continue to increase over time. 
  • Will the medium of vinyl ever die? We’re not fortune tellers, but every trend and statistic about vinyl sales out there says absolutely not! With the amount of seasoned collectors, specialty shops, and new interest around records, it’s extremely unlikely the vinyl medium will die out in our lifetimes, or even our childrens’ lifetimes.
  • When did vinyl records begin to “die”? Most people agree that the start of the “death” of vinyl was in the late 80s through the 90s. This was directly due to the skyrocketing popularity and viability of cassettes and CDs as a medium. However, the lowest point on their popularity curve was not actually in the 90s, but the early 2000s. 
  • When did vinyl records become popular again? After a sharp decline in the 80s and 90s, there was a gap of a couple decades before the revival. We started seeing the most significant resurgence during roughly the late 2000s. According to one source, Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl sales jumped by 1,000% between 2007 and 2015. Demand is increasing, prompting more investment in the industry. It’s growing even now!

Vinyl in the 21st Century

Regardless of the reasons for the revival of vinyl record popularity, there’s no denying that it’s simply something fun, social, and weirdly comforting. People everywhere are finding new ways to bridge those traditional generational gaps and bond over something real and tangible. 

So, whatever’s fueling your love of all things vinyl, make sure you’re taking care of your growing collection. Big Fudge is the leading source for vinyl accessories, outer and inner sleeves, cleaning kits, and record storage. 

If you want to learn more along the lines of the popularity of vinyl records, caring for your collection, and how to get the most out of your records, we’re here for you! We’ll help you learn how to keep your collection looking (and sounding) great.