by Aubrey Gelpieryn
WASHINGTON – There’s a rustling as Quincey Tickner shuffles through a crate of records she’s discovered in the radio studio. Excitedly, she picks each one up, commenting on the collection.
“It [vinyl] is important to get people more in touch with the artists themselves and to really know what an album is,” says Tickner, a senior at American University and the host of “Vinyl Richie,” an exclusively vinyl music show on the No. 1 student-run, internet-only station in the nation, WVAU. “We live in an era where music is released online and you don’t even have to go to a record store. People take music for granted in a way because it’s so easily accessible,”
Like Tickner, a lot of young people are starting to collect vinyl music. Trends show an influx in vinyl sales, especially with people between the ages of 13-24, who represent 24 percent of vinyl listeners, according to surveys conducted by MusicWatch Inc.
Suah Cheong, a sophomore at American, decided to buy her turntable after finding a new Foster the People record at T.J. Maxx for $9.
“I was already planning on getting a record player,” says Cheong. “Then I saw that cheap record and was like, it’s time now.”
Nationally, vinyl sales are on the rise. BuzzAngle Music’s industry numbers show that vinyl sales increased by 22.5 percent from 2016 to 2017, reaching a 25-year high.
Cheong says she first became interested in vinyl because of “peer pressure.”
“All my friends in high school had record players,” says Cheong. “It was a social activity to go to my friends’ houses and sit around listening to records.”
Though it’s a growing trend, not all vinyl fans are new to the scene.
“For some people they [records] never left,” says Ambrose Nzams, a manager at the Washington-based vintage clothing and record store Joint Custody.
Nzams has been collecting records since he was 14 years old.
“I started listening because when you get into punk and hardcore, it’s a medium that never went out of style,” says Nzams. “If you want something, it’s only available on a seven-inch, so you have to buy it on a seven-inch.”
Listening to music on vinyl isn’t just a new fad for Tickner either. She thinks that records help people connect with the artist more than digital streaming.
“I grew up listening to records, so when I switched to digital music it didn’t sound as genuine and realistic,” says Tickner. “I put on The Supremes records in the morning, and they’re like they’re performing in my room.”
James Gianello, another manager at Joint Custody, says his main way of listening to music is on vinyl.
“You can have really high quality digital, but it hasn’t quite caught up yet,” Gianello says. “With the stuff you’re streaming, you lose a lot.”
Although the warm audio quality is a popular reason for people to say they like listening to vinyl, not everyone can tell the difference.
“Not gonna lie, I’m not enough of an audiophile to be able to say the sound quality is better,” says Cheong. “It’s all the same to me, but there’s something more personal or intimate about putting a piece of plastic on the record player and sound coming from the plastic. It’s like a toy.”
And there are more components to records than the sounds they produce.
“With vinyl you get the full package,” says Gianello. “You get the art. You know you can really sit down and you’re kind of forced to focus on it more than you are with digital, where you can skip a track very easily.”
Nana Gongadze, a freshman at American, shares the sentiment.
“When I have my records it’s about the tactile experience,” says Gongadze. “Holding it, putting it on the player, just enjoying it and looking at the artwork – it’s much more about the physical experience of putting it on to listen to it.”
However, not everyone is sold on the Vinyl trend. Brianna Ryan, a sophomore at American, prefers to listen to her music with Apple Music, a digital streaming application.
“I wouldn’t even know where to buy that stuff and it’s expensive,” Ryan says, when talking about why she doesn’t listen to vinyl records.
Her style of listening to music differs from Tickner’s, who believes that albums should play in their entirety in order to best respect the artists’ layouts of their music.
“I choose songs,” says Ryan. “I only listen to full albums if it’s an artist I really love. Otherwise, I only listen to the popular songs.”
While it’s undeniable that record players aren’t as convenient as other formats for quick listening to music, there’s still a loyal base of people who shop at record stores regularly.
“I really value physical space and I think physical space is really valuable for communities,” says Nzams. “I like having the store as a place where people can be comfortable and come in and talk about music.”
Joint Custody, which is located on Washington’s U Street, is a store that prides itself on being a place where people from all walks of life can come together to appreciate music. The staff keeps the bins stocked with a variety of records in all genres to make sure they have something that appeals to everyone who comes in. Across the speakers, the music pauses momentarily, as the turntable stops and record flips to the B-side.
As the vinyl trend continues to grow, stores like Joint Custody help develop a community of people who listen to records by connecting the new fans with those who have been collecting for years.
“Some people buy it for the art, some people buy it because they prefer the sound quality and other people like collecting,” says Nzams. “I think it’s all about having the physical, and that’s what it comes down to.”
Aubrey Gelpieryn is a journalist currently in San Diego. She enjoys writing about music, politics and current events.