It crackles, it crackles, it scratches – and suddenly music plays: Records are no longer relics from the past. While bands like the Beatles used to adorn the shelves of record stores, today pop stars like Taylor Swift and Harry Styles frolic among the new releases.

And that seems to be working: both the retro record and the new release continue to sell well. This is also reflected in increasing vinyl sales figures. According to the Federal Association of the Music Industry (BVMI), sales in 2022 increased by 5.1 percent compared to the previous year with 4.3 million records sold. So what is the charm of analogue sound carriers?

haptic experience

There are many reasons for the renaissance of black panes. “For many people, the record has a special sound, at the same time it is something to touch, to consciously put on and listen to,” says the association. However, the sound is technically not superior to the CD. Rather, “the perception of the quality of different media is often quite subjective”. The record also fulfills the need for haptic experience, which stands for an additional form of artist proximity, for authenticity and deceleration. “The coolness and lifestyle factor” is also crucial.

The researcher Steffen Lepa from the Society for Music Economics and Music Culture Research says that the soft spot for records is also related to the fact that people are creatures of habit when it comes to listening to music. Not only is the taste in music shaped at an early age, but listening habits also develop primarily during adolescence. “The taste in music stays with you for a long time. After 30, many people don’t change their taste in music anymore. Exactly the same thing happens with the technologies, because we associate a lot of important experiences with them,” says Lepa.

Unlike the CD, the record is also anchored in music culture, but particularly in DJ culture. “Especially electronic music and hip-hop or reggae – this music is based on DJs mixing records. This is the artistic practice of reusing existing music,” emphasizes Lepa.

Between nostalgia and “para-nostalgia”

So while records can evoke a nostalgic feeling, especially among older generations, younger music enthusiasts experience a kind of “para-nostalgia”. “Millennials in particular feel this longing for a time when the sound carrier was still a special experience. We currently have limitless possibilities, everything is in abundance and excess is always a devaluation,” emphasizes the musicologist.

So to experience a certain amount of nostalgia, a visit to a record store is a good way to go. “We have all age groups here. There are boys and girls who are 13 or 14. And that goes well into the 80s,” says Malte Uder, owner of the record store Vinyls From Berlin. According to Uder, the record business is heavily influenced by the music industry. “They have a very big responsibility. A lot of young and new bands in particular can’t press because there are so many new releases by big stars.”

Strong growth in recent years

Pressing plants such as Intakt from Berlin have been registering an increase in orders for years. “There has been pretty strong growth in recent years,” says operator Max Gössler. In addition to smaller artists, it is above all large labels that provide orders for larger pressing plants. “From 2020 onwards, the American market also saw a lot of pressure on the European market,” explains Gössler.

However, the corona pandemic in particular would have led to delivery bottlenecks. “We sometimes had a delivery time of twelve months because everyone booked everything for the rest of the year in January. The press shops were quickly full.” At the same time, in addition to delivery bottlenecks, inflation also led to price increases, so that production and, ultimately, the records also became more expensive.

The price for a record has risen to around 30 euros. “Everything has calmed down again in the meantime and we have a delivery time of two to three months,” explains Gössler. However, the high prices remained. “We have to see how the economy is developing, but so far it’s not foreseeable that vinyl will decrease as a result.”

So the record business seems to be holding up. So well that it is the third strongest sales segment after audio streaming and CDs. A look at the international music market also shows that the music from the grooves is well received. For example, last year more vinyls than CDs were sold in the USA for the first time since 1987. “In any case, it’s an impressive comeback that started in early 2007 and has continued to this day, in other words long-term growth, not a short-term boom,” emphasizes the music industry association.