Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day.
Records were the source of music for most of us, beyond the radio. They were packaged in cardboard albums with great photos and illustrations, and liner notes with info on the songs and the musicians. Some of those albums have themselves become collectors' items, worth far more than the original $5.99 to $15.99 cost of albums back in the day.
Tape cassettes and then CDs seemed to spell the end of music on vinyl records. Record stores that used to be filled with row after row of vinyl record albums began to replace vinyls with CDs, relegating record albums to small areas that carried only the top sellers. That meant if you were looking for jazz, classical or anything beyond the Top 40 hits, you were probably out of luck.
And then came downloading and streaming, and record stores themselves began to disappear.
Through all the changes, however, there's always been small group of music lovers who clung to vinyl. They preferred the fuller sound that vinyl provided, as opposed to the crisp yet somewhat clipped digital sound of CDs. Some alternative and punk bands put their recordings out on vinyl, perhaps as a way to thumb their noses at the music establishment.
And then along came the millennials, always looking for something new but, in doing so, often "discovering" for themselves the things of their elders. And that included music and the format for listening to it. Vinyl record stores began cropping up in neighborhoods populated by the young generation.
Vinyl records last year hit a 25-year high mark, with more than 13 million units sold -- a 53% jump from sales of 2015. It was the first year that vinyl record sales outpaced digital downloads, in terms of dollars spent. And industry experts project vinyl sales to hit 40 million units this year, worth $1 billion.
Even as vinyl sales have been growing for the past ten years, it's still a drop in the bucket from the heyday when, in 1981, a billion vinyl albums were sold with dollar volume exceeding $5 billion.
Today vinyl represents about 6% of the $15 billion recorded music market.
Record Store Day celebrates and promotes the vinyl music format, just as it celebrates record stores themselves. Several hundred record stores have opened throughout the U.S. in the past five years, proving that vinyl is not dead.
For musicians, fans and retailers, that's music to the ears.