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Vinyls vs. Streaming sites in the 21st Century

The project will be discussing the impact vinyl records is having in the 21st century and how they are becoming more popular in the 21st century. I will be discussing how streaming sites are almost putting record and music stores out of business because everything can be bought or downloaded on the internet. Transitions of the way people buy music will be brought to light from vinyls to CDs to streaming, buying and downloading music through the internet and the possible reasons, through observational research, as to why people are starting to buy vinyls again.

The observational research took place through two different online forums: one about vinyls in the 21st century and the other about streaming sites and the impact they are having on music stores. I was able to understand from what people were saying how old they were, the type of music they made reference and listened to gives an idea as to what generation they grew up in and their opinions expressing on how the way people listen to music has changed over the years.  

Source: MIDIA 2015, Research Consumer Survey. 

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Vinyl Records

Vinyl records became the “thing to get” from the 1950s onwards but since technology has emerged CDs were made and then came the internet where everything is available. But, whoever thought that vinyl records and record players would make such a comeback in the 21st century, especially with the younger generations. These days, almost everyone either knows someone who collects records or owns some themselves.

Finding that vinyl records were making a comeback sparked my interest. Researching through online forums I tried to understand people’s main reasons for collecting records. Finding that majority of the comments were by men – possibly inferring that record collecting could be more of a man’s hobby. However, searching through the many comments of the forum it was repeated that vinyl records are becoming popular in the 21st century simply because the music on these records was better.

When listening to songs of the past on vinyl people get the feeling of nostalgia, bringing back memories – good or bad – of when they were younger. Older generations, especially, are resonating back to the music they grew up with and that are familiar to them. One person who describes nostalgia well is Svetlana Boym, who was a professor at Harvard University, a media artist, playwright and novelist. She has explained there are three ways that nostalgia can be described:

1. Boym has diagnosed it as not antimodern but a new way to understand space and time and the progress through this time. Such as listening to old vinyls and then having the same music streamed straight through your phone can have a nostalgic effect. Older people could tell stories of how listening to music has changed from putting a record on a record player to pressing a button on your phone for the same experience.

2. The yearning for a different time. Possibly a time of when people were younger and happier or it can bring back a certain memory, in the aspect of listening to vinyls people could reminisce of a concert they went to when listening to a certain vinyl record.

3. It is not only retrospective but also prospective. Items and things we wish we had in the past and using the tools we have now in the present to create what we want in the future. Boym explains that nostalgia is about personal biographies mixed with collective memories of groups. Vinyl record stores would bring mass groups of people together for the latest record or if they were doing live concerts, showing the connection between personal and public lives of people through music.

Most of what Boym has said does link up with what I have discovered in my findings of the online forums that people are collecting vinyl records in the 21st century because it takes them back to the their childhood. However, for the younger generations I have discovered it might be more about the rarity and certain genres that are deemed collectable keeping them as a part of history.

People within the forums also agreed that having a physical copy of something made it real and a classic to have. Studies suggest it as an authentic format for listening as many major bands debuted their biggest hits on vinyls and expected to be head this way in future years. However, this has changed as you can type almost any title into the internet and have the song at your fingertips.

Vinyl albums are becoming known as the main focus for record collecting, even though majority of record stores have closed there are still many music stores, though only limited, that have vinyls. CDs are also on their way to becoming collectable items. Consumers upgraded their technology both hardware and record collections and replaced vinyl albums with CDs in the late ‘80s to early 90s.


As technology advanced music was able to be bought more compact; introducing the compact disc or CD. Although, these haven’t gone out of fashion as much as records, people are still buying them from music stores and other big retail outlets. However, CD sales have declined over the last few years while vinyl sales increased in 2008 and increased more in 2014. 

CDs were the next big technology invention, and once interior car stereos were invented you could listen to the music you loved while driving instead of just the radio or a cassette tape. CDs, these days, are now being named as collectable items now that they are more of an old way of listening to music and physical media is going out fashion because we are always finding new ways to use the internet.

Researchers have discovered that CDs and Vinyls, and people within these forums have also discussed that they create a sense of self and can show the type of person someone is by the CDs or vinyl they collect. Although, most people still buy CDs but predominantly download songs from online services such as Spotify and Pandora. However, going back to Svetlana Boym’s point on nostalgia people reminisce about the days they had CDs and vinyls because it is something you can have in your hands and there are things on CDs that you can’t always download from the internet.

Music Streaming Sites

Coming into the 21st century with the internet in full use and being used for streaming, downloading and buying albums and individual songs, it is easy to see why this would be the main way of accessing music today. However, pirating music has become easier as vinyls and CDs couldn’t be illegally copied as easy as downloading a song from YouTube.

The popular streaming sites and services such as Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music and iTunes have millions of users who pay and stream music straight from their phone wherever they may be. These sites create access to libraries on demand from anywhere at any time. In 2014, these streaming sales grew by 39% while digital downloads and Physical copies of products declined 8% each (Sinclair & Tinson 2016).


Through the forums, many people agreed there was no point in buying songs because you could just stream any song for a certain amount each month through streaming services. Comments on this particular forum explain that artists don’t put out many good albums and people only tend to like the ones they put out as singles which are usually streamed and heard on the radio.

Streaming services today tend to group songs by genres and let people create their own mix of music they like. Because these days artists may put out an album but a person may only like 2-3 songs on that album and would rather buy or stream those particular songs than have the entire album. However, access to songs through streaming sites is not a substitute for buying a song as it has been surveyed that customers would rather own the music rather than have it downloaded on a playlist. Several other researches and studies that have been completed and came to similar conclusions that music streaming services are the way people are more likely to listen to music.

This goes back to the idea of nostalgia that Svetlana Boym explains of a new understanding of space and time. How moving through time has seen listening to music change from buying physical copies to buying online copies of songs and albums. Although, the physicality of owning music isn’t there it is showing a progress through time of listening to music.

What used to be accessed in public with so many other people around to talk with about the latest vinyl is now something that people do in their own personal space by themselves at home. They can just buy a song from online and not even have to leave the house. This is what I have realised is causing trouble for music stores as more people stream online music stores are slowly going out of business.

Overall, my research through the forums and other researchers came to the conclusion that vinyl records are in the minority of how people are listening to music in this day and age. However, I have concluded that people are buying and continue buy vinyls because the music sounded better. A Vinyls rarity is something people can hold onto and have as a piece of history. With online streaming sites taking the lead in being the way most people listen to music, mainly because it’s easier to access any genre of song at our fingertips. 

From my research into how people are listening and getting their music I believe people will continue to collect vinyls but also stream and buy songs through online streaming services building the millions of users that already use them, but it would depend on the type of genre of music people are into. However, looking into the future it will be interesting to see if vinyl records will continue to make more of a comeback.

Bibliography and Resources

Harvey, Eric 2015. ‘Siding with vinyl: Record Store Day and the branding of independent music’, International journal of Cultural Studies, Sage Journals, vol. 20, no. 6, pg. 585-602.

Shuker, R Scott, Professor D Hawkins, Professor S 2010. ‘Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures: Record Collecting As a Social Practice’, Routledge, New Zealand.

Bartmanski, D & Woodward, I 2015. ‘Vinyl Record: a cultural icon’, Consumption Markets & Culture, Taylor & Francis Online, vol. 21, no. 21, pg. 171-177.

Maaso, A 2016. ‘Music Streaming, Festivals and the Eventization of Music’, Popular Music and Society, Taylor and Francis Online, Vol. 41, no. 2, pg. 154-175.

Sinclair, G & Tinson, J 2016. ‘Psychological ownership and music streaming consumption’, Journal of Business Research, ScienceDirect, vol. 71, no. 10, pg. 1-9.

Regner, T & Barria, J 2009. ‘Do consumers pay voluntarily? The case of online music’, Journals of Economic Behaviour & Organization, ScienceDirect, vol. 71, no. 2, pg. 395-406.


MIDIA 2015, Free Streaming Audiences and music buyers are still largely distinct audiences, Research Consumer, USA.

Anders Printz 2015, Vinyls, Flickr.

Mlang_b 2014, CDs, Flickr.

Blue Coat Photos 2015, Music Streaming, Flickr.

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