Vinyl finally making comeback

Record Swap owner Bob Diener looks through records in the shop Wednesday afternoon Erica Magda

Record Swap owner Bob Diener looks through records in the shop Wednesday afternoon Erica Magda

By Kevin Marshall

It was nearly 20 years ago when the music industry’s feet were swept away by the invention of the compact disc. Not even two decades later, the use of the CD is considered a faux pas in the modern age of technology.

It’s a no-brainer that people have switched to MP3 players as the preferred way of listening to their music. Listeners can use them anywhere: in school, the car, the gym or the office.

But try as they might, MP3 players can’t ever fully replace vinyl.

Spun on a turntable, the vinyl record has trickled back into the spotlight after what some people had called the demise of “Long Play,” or LP, records in the 1990s.

Some wonder why, after all the technological advances, vinyl is still around. But to vinyl users, it is no surprise.

“I think LP’s sound better,” said Bob Diener, owner of Record Swap, 114 E. University Ave., Champaign. “I strongly believed that records would make a comeback and become more popular.”

Diener knows the world won’t return to where it was before the CD, but he has seen an increase in sales of vinyl in the past two years.

“That’s why we never really cleared out our vinyl and why I had a lot of it in storage that I’m bringing out now,” he said.

Diener said that in the midst of increases in vinyl sales all over the country, more and more record labels are stocking stores with the original product. Manufacturers shipments of LPs increased by more than 36 percent from 2006-07, to more than 1.3 million, according to the Recording Industry Association of America . CD shipments dropped more than 17 percent to 511 million.

And although LP production and sales still aren’t anywhere close to that of CDs, Diener has no doubt that LP’s are here to stay.

“In another 10 to 20 years, there will still be lots of vinyl for people to buy,” he said. “But CD’s are slowly going to start to disappear. We’ve seen it already. They aren’t selling like they used to.”

There have always been vinyl fanatics, but the younger generation is now becoming interested in turntables and records, even with access to their MP3s and iPods.

“(Turntables) are now coming back in more of a retro way,” said Alex Rosen, freshman in LAS. “I’ve had mine for a year, now.”

His reason for preferring vinyl was simple.

“They’re cooler than CDs and get better sound quality than CDs and MP3s,” he said. “It’s how music was meant to be played.”

Although Diener is happy for the so-called “resurgence,” he feels people are missing out on the culture of music and what it used to be.

“Back when we were listening to records, it was more of a group thing where you’d have friends over with big speakers,” he said. “Now, it’s more of an individual thing with iPods, earphones and stuff like that.”

But he has seen some students become more engrossed in the world of music in the last few years.

“About a year or two ago, I saw students getting into vinyl and buying albums like Hendrix, The Beatles, Zeppelin, Floyd,” he said. “But I’m encouraged to see some students going further into the racks and discovering some of the other great bands.”

For many, vintage has become the new thing, thanks in a large part to the Urban Outfitters franchise and its “old-school” persona with all of its vintage apparel and accessories.

“Two years ago, I didn’t see anyone have a record player,” said Rosen. “Now, I see it more in stores. For instance, Urban Outfitters is selling record players and vinyl frames to put your albums in.”

But what Diener needs people to see is that vinyl isn’t just a retro thing.

“There is a lot of new music on vinyl which people are buying up,” he said. “It’s not just a vintage thing. The major labels are beginning to bring out new vinyl also.”

As people engage themselves in a new vinyl market for collectibles, Diener can’t help but reflect on the days before the Internet and the struggle to find that rare record.

“One of the things we enjoyed doing a lot was the hunt for vinyl,” said Diener. “For a lot of record collectors, part of the fun was to search out a rare jam amongst a lot of other albums. That’s missing a lot.”

Vinyl records are on their way back, and in the center is a man immersed in his 40,000 or so records, waiting to welcome someone into the world of music.