Vinyls Revitalized by Gen Z



Kiss The Sky, a record store in Batavia, has seen increased interest from young people since the COVID-19 pandemic according to its owner.

Tess Arendt, Staff Writer

In today’s age, music is accessible by the click of a button. Millions of songs spanning hundreds of genres are within reach of anyone interested in them and can even be free using music streaming apps like Spotify or Amazon Music. This hasn’t always been the case. Not even 20 years ago, people had to leave the comfort of their homes to purchase music in the form of physical records, cassette tapes or compact discs (CDs). But like many things, the world developed easier, more attainable options for music enjoyers everywhere. While many may have expected records and CDs to become a thing of the past, recently they’ve spiked in popularity among younger generations. 

Gen-Z and the youth of the world never quite got the experience of having to wait in lines for album releases, breaking the seal on a favorite artist’s new CD or flipping a vinyl record over to side B as their only options for music enjoyment. For a majority of their lifetimes, music was available by the mere lift of a finger. This format of music listening is suitable and convenient for many, and yet, the pursuit and interest in vinyl records among young people has increased in the past few years. 

Steve Warrenfeltz, owner of Kiss The Sky record store in Batavia, is a firsthand witness of young music listeners beginning to show interest in vinyl records. 

“It was great when young people started to embrace the notion of owning physical copies of albums,” said Warrenfeltz. “During 2021, we sold more turntables to young people than we did in the previous five years. It was unbelievable.”

Kiss The Sky initially observed the increase in young record buyers following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The coolest thing about the pandemic was that young people discovered music in a big way, and I don’t know if that had to do with the fact that [they] were staying home and being with mom and dad and discovering their stereo systems, their music collections and going ‘oh, this is cool,’” said Warrenfeltz. “[They] didn’t grow up with compact discs or vinyl records.”

But why is it that physical music, or the more “inconvenient” option for music listening, has spiked in younger generations? 

One likely cause for the piquing interest in vinyl records is large, mainstream artists producing their albums in physical music forms. 

The top selling vinyl record in 2022 was Taylor Swift’s “Midnights,” with 945,000 copies distributed and sold worldwide. “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles with 480,000 copies sold and “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo with 263,000 followed as 2022’s most sold vinyl records. 

These popular mainstream artists with primarily young fan bases are dominating record sales. 

There’s a lot of 12- to 14-year-old kids getting into Harry Styles, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift [and] Phoebe Bridgers. It’s great,” said Warrenfeltz. 

A significant example of Gen-Z buyers going out of their way to purchase vinyls by their favorite .artists is on Record Store Day, an international celebration established in 2007 devoted exclusively to the culture surrounding independent record stores worldwide. Every year, hundreds of popular artists release a limited edition vinyl record to be sold at independent record stores only, meaning these releases cannot be accessed online via streaming services. For many record stores, this is the biggest day for sales all year. 

Among many,Swift participated in Record Store Day this year, with 115,000 copies of her limited edition “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions” record hitting the shelves on April 22. Many fans lined up outside their local record stores, waiting to get their hands on this release. 

Kiss The Sky is one of many record stores that participates in Record Store Day annually, and Swift’s record was one of this year’s most popular items. 

“At Record Store Day, Taylor Swift was 20% of our business that day, I loved that.” said Warrenfeltz. 

While mainstream music and big artists may contribute significantly to young people’s fondness of vinyl records, part of this resurgence could also be thanks to the influence of social media. 

Apps like TikTok give users the platform to aestheticize the ownership of vinyl records, reaching thousands with their content featuring record-related topics. It’s certainly possible that the influence of trends spread through social media has caused younger people’s intrigue with vinyl records. 

Or maybe, the increase in popularity could be credited to fascination with “vintage” items. Bell-bottoms, Y2K fashion, scrunchies and Polaroid pictures are all trends that have resurfaced years past their initial craze. Maybe younger people’s infatuation with the past has aided vinyl records in becoming prevalent again.

No matter the exact reason for younger people’s interest in vinyl records, Warrenfeltz is glad to see that vinyl records withstood the test of time. Even as digital music and the ability to stream picked up speed, he had always hoped physical music would have a place in the music industry and that it’d remain popular for years to come. 

“There’s something to the physicality of music, and especially records. You know, there’s something to be said about taking a record, putting it in your hand, putting it on the turntable, going down to listen, sitting down to listen to it, taking the record jacket [and] reading about it,” said Warrenfeltz. “There’s something to be said about all of that versus looking at it on your phone.”

 Being a record store owner, Warrenfeltz gets to spread his knowledge and wisdom to customers looking to learn and collect more, which makes this sudden piquing interest in younger people so great to him. 

“I think there’s an education that has been taking place, and I embrace it, and I love it, to be honest with you. I like talking to young people about turntables, stereo systems, and how to take care of records and how to clean your records, how to store them properly. It’s fun to me,” said Warrenfeltz. “We’re becoming a little bit of an educator, not so much just selling things, but we’re teaching as well, and I like that part of it.”