No. 5 The Vinyl Revival

No. 5 The Vinyl Revival

Tower Records, Tokyo, Japan 2023

A nine-storey building devoted to vinyl records. Is that not excessive? 

Tower Records is one of Japan’s largest retail spaces that is dedicated to all forms of music available in vinyl/disc form. Its nine floors are worth visiting, regardless of someone’s interest in music or vinyl. The concept in itself is highly interesting and attracts people of all ages as well as backgrounds.

However, with the accessibility of songs via platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, why do young people in particular have an attachment to physical forms of music?

Engagement. Vinyl requires a certain level of engagement. You can't put a record on shuffle and forget about it. You must take time to flip it every 20 minutes and manually input what you're going to listen to next.

Forcing a conscious decision upon the listener makes them put more thought into what they will listen to. This in turn makes the listening experience more satisfying than hitting play on a phone. The mechanical noises from playing vinyl alone are enough for people to actively choose this medium of music.

Photo: Shinjuku Guide 

Collectability. People love the concept of collectability, and having what others can’t. This concept applies to anything from clothes to cars. The rarer, the better. Many modern releases in particular will often be issued in a variety of colours, designs or even shapes.

It is these sorts of multi-variant releases that make collecting your favourite music even more interesting. Do you have the standard black vinyl release, or have you managed to get your hands on the numbered, blue splatter release – for example.

Consequently, a financial incentive is born as a result of the rarity of certain releases. Intentional or not, the modern-day artists' choice to release several editions of their work creates a competitive nature between vinyl buyers to collect what others can’t get their hands on.

This became apparent when the infamous (and currently incarcerated) Martin Shkreli paid a reported $2 million for Wu-Tang Clan: Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli’s copy is the only one produced, making it the most valuable and rare vinyl album to date.

Photo: Shinjuku Guide 

The aesthetic display. Due to the plethora of designs and creative images printed onto vinyl covers, owning one has become the modern equivalent of owning a canvas.

Whilst in the past people would hang a canvas on a wall, we now often see studios/bedrooms which showcase various eye-catching vinyls. The attention to detail given by certain artists to cover art is sometimes the only reason the record sells.

Now, the important question, is the trend here to stay?

Record users are looking for a specific listening experience which an app cannot replicate. The visual/physical attachment to a vinyl cannot be matched when using a mobile app. As long as it stays affordable for the masses, the medium is here to stay.

Noted by Zafir Sadiq


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