Last year, 41.3 million albums were sold on this medium
US$1.2 billion was spent by music lovers on vinyl records last year, with 41.3 million albums sold. That’s a full 20% more than sales for the previous year, 2021. And that’s not the peak. Interest in turntables returned about a dozen years ago, has been steadily increasing, and is expected to continue to grow at an ever-increasing pace.
An interesting fact is that on a global scale, vinyl records have overtaken CDs in terms of popularity and demand, which is the first time since 1988. And almost all musicians release their albums except on discs and necessarily on records.
The American Emil Berliner patented the gramophone way back in 1887. The original idea was not his, but that of Charles Cro and Thomas Edison, who created a phonograph, of which, however, they never managed to show a working model. Berliner further developed their idea, turning it into the prototype of the modern gramophone, whose sound was then reproduced by a large resonator funnel. Such models can still be found today in thrift stores, antique shops and the Internet, where prices can reach several thousand euros. The first gramophone records were released a little later – in 1890, and although Emil Berliner was an American, he did not start producing them in his homeland, but in Germany.
In our country, we remember gramophones and records from the time of the soca, which became popular after tape recorders. In almost every home, music was listened to on a gramophone, and all our popular artists released their albums on vinyl. Western stars such as Modern Talking, Sissy Ketch, Samantha Fox and Sandra were officially selling records. And with albums of the “decadent” rock greats, people could only get their hands on contraband.
The advent of discs, however, threw records and gramophones into basements, closets or directly into the trash. Only the most ardent music lovers saved their huge vinyl collections from the dust. Such a collector is Bogdan Tomov, who does not even know the number of plates he owns. From the old classics – pop, rock and jazz, there is almost no album that he does not own. “I am glad that in the last 5-6 years it has become fashionable to listen to records on a gramophone again. One can always find at a different time the right vinyl, the right music. It’s much nicer when it sounds from a gramophone, the sound and influence are different”, he says. There are also limited editions in the collection, one of them is number 135 out of a total of 2,000 issued with performances by “Yuraya Heap”. “Pink Floyd” has an anniversary edition. And he buys them wherever he travels – London, Paris, Thessaloniki, etc., visiting antique shops. But collectors know that interesting finds can also be found in Bulgaria, thanks to people who decided to clean up the hereditary apartments or houses, getting rid of the old plates.
There are various assumptions about the return of vinyl and the turntable. One of them is the nostalgia of the older generations for their youth. But it turns out that this is not entirely true, because the record selling albums are not of groups of the past, but of artists who are currently at the peak of their fame. And according to data from the record industry, the most active buyers of vinyl are from the very young generation, born between 1997 and 2012.
Vladi Ampov-Grafa is one of the Bulgarian artists who, like their Western colleagues, release their albums both on disc and on record. He’s also noticed a dramatic increase in interest in vinyl. His 2019 Bystander album vinyls are completely sold out. “Moments” is also almost sold out. And the most recent – “Century Forest”, which instead of a black plate he put it in green, marks the greatest interest.
The price of records does not determine their popularity, because it is much cheaper for a person to subscribe to a platform and have access to millions of songs than to pay around 25 euros for just one album. But the pleasure of holding vinyl in your hands and listening to it on a turntable is incomparable to anything else, say music lovers. Something like the comparison between an e-book and a real book. The pleasure of reading while turning the pages is a feeling that cannot be replaced by any modern gadget.
Experts explain that records are analog recordings, which are of much better quality than digital audio files because they capture the entire sound wave. And the crackling sounds that are heard when a gramophone is played create a different and romantic feeling.
There is another assumption about the great interest in records, which is that buying and listening to records became a status symbol. Playing music on your phone only takes two or three clicks. While playing the turntable takes time and some effort. Completing a record collection costs a lot of money, and creating a separate corner for this musical pleasure adds style to the living room.