By Nathan Stephenson, Contributor
By the ’90s, CDs had all but kicked vinyl records out of the mainstream.
Now, in the 21st century, digital music retail outlets such as iTunes and streaming services like Pandora and Spotify reign supreme. In 2014, Americans streamed 164 billion songs, amounting to almost half a billion per day, according to Forbes’ website.
In the digital age, consumers are less likely to purchase or listen to albums in their entirety, electing instead to cherry-pick their favorite singles. That’s why it’s somewhat surprising that the antiquated underdog, the vinyl record, is making something of a comeback fueled by Record Store Day.
Record Store Day is an annual event that was founded seven years ago by a team of record store employees. It now celebrates independent music shops every third Saturday of April.
Various artists support the event with special performances and appearances, and by holding meet and greets with fans. Some artists, like Jack White, print records specifically for Record Store Day, and these records are exclusively sold at participating outlets.
Almost 600 exclusive vinyl records were released on Record Store Day 2015. Artists that contributed these releases included the Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Vampire Weekend and David Bowie. AMC also pitched in, releasing “The Walking Dead Soundtrack vol. 2” on vinyl.
In 2014, for the seventh straight year, more vinyl records were sold than in any other year since Nielsen began tracking musical sales in 1991, ac-cording to Billboard’s website. Jack White’s album, “Lazaretto,” was the top-selling vinyl album of 2014, moving 87,000 units. The record debuted on Billboard’s Vinyl Albums chart, moving 40,000 copies in its first week.
Daft Punk’s album, “Random Access Memories,” was the top-selling vinyl album of 2013, selling 49,000 units. Other artists that have found success in the vinyl format include Beck, the Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. In addition, Modest Mouse, Sufjan Stevens and All Time Low released albums that debuted at no. 1 on Bill-board’s Vinyl Albums chart in recent weeks.
Large retail outlets, like Barnes and Noble, have recently started selling vinyl records in-store. The selection of vinyl albums at the bookstore on 72nd and Dodge streets is mere feet away from a display of e-readers, products of the digital age. Also available in the store is a USB turntable that converts records into digital audio files.
The bins at the bookstore contain classic albums, such as the Clash’s “London Calling” and the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Newcomers, like Taylor Swift’s “1989,” have also made their way into the store’s bins.
Artists that are pushing vinyl records are not attempting to usurp the digital age. Rather, they develop ways for old and new formats to coexist.
Many modern vinyl albums, like those released by popular artists such as Cold War Kids, Phoenix and Arcade Fire, come with complimentary digital downloads. However, some vinyl records come with CDs, which has been met with some disappointment.
“I hate when they come with CDs,” said Sarah Taylor, a Barnes and Noble bookseller. “I have nothing to play CDs on.”
Vinyl records offer a satisfying aesthetic experience and digital files are more convenient, but CDs exist in a disappointing middle ground, Taylor said.