BY Peter Vryonis & Zina Chouaibi

“It started off as a hobby, just collecting old records that I had no desire to listen to,” says Melina Montzenigos, a 24-year-old who’s hobby turned into a passion. “I bought a tiny record player, and now have dozens of records.”

Montzenigos isn’t the only person from Gen Z buying albums. Vinyl records are now outselling CDs for the first time since 1987. And much of those sales are for artists with a younger fan base. Taylor Swift’s album ‘Midnights’ sold 1.14 million copies in 2022, making it the number one album of the year.

Ed Sheeran’s Divide (left) is another record that has sold well amongst the younger demographic. Photo by Peter Vryonis.

“Luckily my uncle had many second-hand records of artists I enjoy, but the retail market is expensive for a recent grad like myself,” she says.

At Cheap Thrills record store in downtown Montreal, there is a flock of young customers scouring the used record section.

“Our records range from $5 all the way to full price for the new releases,” says store manager Jamie Fisher. “The uptick in young customers has been ongoing for several years now.”

Fisher’s best guess as to why there has been an uptick in younger customers is due to the fact that vinyl records and record players are things that can be passed down.

“Parents are passing down their record players and that’s what must be getting them into it,” Fisher says. “At least half of the demographic within the store is under 25 and a lot of young women as well.”

This is a vintage record player that Montzenigos purchased a couple of years ago alongside a record. Photo by Peter Vryonis.

The affordability of vinyl records varies tremendously, with a number of factors affecting the price. These include the rarity, the condition and where you’re purchasing from. Some believe the novelty of the record, the overall look, is what sparked its comeback onto the music scene.

“You can find cheap records, the new stuff is expensive, and it can add up, but the passion can be something affordable for everyone,” says Fisher.

However, if you want to keep up to date with the new releases, you will need to be ready to dish out a hefty amount. Collecting vinyl has become expensive over the last decade with most new releases selling for between $30 and $75.

Collectors aren’t the only ones struggling with the gaudy prices of records. Between recording and pressing, it can easily cost $10,000 to put out 1,000 copies of an album. That’s a lot of money for small-time artists who have yet to make a profit.

Small artists spin their way back to the top with the resurgence of vinyl records. Video by Zina Chouaibi.

Jimmy Kwan, owner of the Beatnick Records store, says that the rise in popularity has helped his business, especially over the course of a couple years.

“Young people are interested for the first time in a long time,” says Kwan. “Like any business, there are ups and downs, but the younger demographic in the store is something that is surprising.”

Vinyl may not be the primary source of music consumption amongst the younger demographic due to the practicality of digital streaming platforms. But Professor Charles Ellison from the music department of Concordia University believes if young people are exposed to more vinyl albums, their appreciation will increase.

The aesthetic of the record cover is something to behold. Photo by Peter Vryonis.

“Young people don’t listen to music, they hear it,” says Ellison, noting that many find the sound quality on vinyl albums superior to digital versions. “Just like FM radio is superior to AM radio, the vinyl record is the same way in comparison to the CD.”

The convenience of streaming music is why that is the medium of choice. But vinyl has also found its niche with a new generation. Streaming is readily available, and depending on what you listen with (quality speaker, phone, computer, etc.) the quality will vary.

“I see this technology being replaced with something superior in the future, but for now, it’s here to stay,” Ellison adds.

Fisher believes that vinyl is something that will continue to get passed down from generation to generation despite any new technology that bursts onto the scene.

“As long as music is around, vinyl is something that can remain a staple in the community,” she says.

Main image by Peter Vryonis.
Published June 2, 2023.