So Many Vinyls, So Few Vinyl Record Players

Some time ago my dad sent me his vinyl collection, which consists of fifty + jazz albums. My father used to play the clarinet, and he was (and still is) a big jazz fan. So, he wanted me to have his vinyls. But guess what, I do not have where to play them. And guess what, my dad does not either.

The vinyl revival started a while ago. If we could agree on a date, I would say this has been going on for 10 to 15 years. In ‘the first wave’ of the revival, people started hunting for old records in the usual places: flea markets, grandpa’s attic, garage sales, etc. And then there came ‘the second wave’, where new records also came in vinyl.

It has been at least a decade since almost every new album started also being released in vinyl format. Ten years in music. How many records can that amount to? I do not dare risk a number. You may have come up with a number on your own, or at least gotten my point. Bear with me a little, because we will get back to this…inconsistency.

WHERE DO I PUT THIS OBJECT.

Back to my family dilemma. Even though I am 34 years old, I have never listened to a vinyl recording — nor played a vinyl, for that matter. With everybody talking about how supreme the quality of its sound was, I was pretty desperate to find a place to play my stash. Looked everywhere for a player. My cousin has one, but it has been out of commission for some good fifteen years. Then there was this friend, but we grew apart.

Flea markets and antique houses also proved a non-viable option: the two or three pieces I could find were ridiculously expensive (not to mention ugly). Quite discouraged by the outcome of my explorations, I asked the experts ‘don’t they produce players anymore?’. At the time, the answer was no.

So, why were record labels mass producing vinyls and not devices to play them? What was the point? Were those new vinyls just decorative pieces? Or were they only meant for DJs and sound engineers? That did certainly not add up.

The obvious answers.

People have some theories as to why this is a ‘vinyl-record-without-vinyl-record-player-revival’. The mother of all speculations is: ‘there’s no market for record players anymore’. This includes all record players: cassettes, compact discs and also vinyls. Y-Gens (Millennials) embraced digital music a while ago. Tweens and Z-Gens (the children) do not even know what a MP3 is, because streaming is their weapon of choice. So, no one is interested in an object that takes up space without offering a substantial benefit.

Theoretically, the only ones that would care for a vinyl player are the exact same few that buy records in vinyl format. While this may be true, it does not necessarily have to be that way. There is a market here, a market behind those few geeky thirtysomethings. With all do respect.

The Selling Potential Of The Vinyl Industry

Have you ever walked into an Urban Outfitters store? They are pretty cool — obviously, these are products for cool people. The first time I visited Urban Outfitters something caught my eye. UO does not only carry clothes and accessories, they also offer beauty products and various objects for your home, among other stuff. What I found most interesting was the placing of the objects, rather than the objects themselves. Instead of being placed in separate sections, the objects where intermingled with the garments in the different aisles.

This particular UO was located in one of Boston’s most expensive areas, Newbury and Massachusetts Ave. As soon as I went through the door I bumped into a table with shirts, socks and Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine. The combo was absolutely pleasing to the eye.

Ph: Urban Outfitters website.

UO made a selling strategy out of vinyl records. It is not Tower Records, yet it sells albums. And even if people do not buy the albums (which I doubt), its strategic placing among other items pulls sales of other products and also brings about a general air of ‘nostalgia’.

In establishments like these, the vinyls are part of something much bigger called lifestyle. Vinyls are often associated with slow life, minimalism and many other movements that started out as elitists and now they are gaining followers by the thousands. Everybody wants the good life.

What companies should be doing.

Five words: they should be mass producing. But not right now. They should concoct a mass production strategy for the near future. We have just seen that vinyls provide much more than excellent sound quality: nostalgia, status, personality, even aesthetics (oh, that word!).

There are already a fistful of companies that produce beautiful vinyl record players, Crosley and Pro-Ject being the first two that come to my mind.

These companies produce for a niche of nostalgic, well-off 30-somethings very concerned with interior deco. That is why their products are so expensive.

But other companies could totally dig in in this business. I mean big manufacturers, manufacturers that can afford to venture in a market that almost everybody considered hopeless. Sony, Yamaha, Panasonic, Pioneer, that kind of big. This kind of companies can afford to produce something that is not insanely profitable, at least in the beginning, and then mass produce it til it becomes standard, affordable and, yes, insanely profitable.

Of course people is not going to throw away their phones and computers and start buying records by the thousands. This is obviously not going to happen. What I am trying to say is that there is a significant market out there. People would buy even more vinyls if they had where to play them. And they would buy a record player if it did not cost more than 500 dollars…so there you are.

Vinyl Is In.

Urban Outfitters is just a good example of a marketing strategy that features the vinyl. Why? Because a wide age range shops there. This is a place where youngsters who never had access to physical records (but read all over the Internet that vinyls ‘are it’) can actually hold one in their hands.

Today, there are more ways than ever to make an object wanted. Virtual Reality is the biggest promise for advertisement. Instagram brought back the InstaxMini, an object that a decade ago was a mere collectible and is now owned by one out of twenty people. Maybe Snapchat can do the same for the vinyl record player? The possibilities are endless.

Maybe we will never see 12 year olds asking for vinyl record players as their birthday present. Be as it may, I would never underestimate the power of a youtuber to make anything an object of desire. I close my eyes and see Pew Die Pie reviewing ‘the new Pioneer turntable for kids’ and I see dollar signs.

Just saying.