A few weeks ago a headline in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye: “Vinyl Outsells CDs for the First Time Since 1987.” The article reported, “revenue from vinyl records rose 17% to over $1.2 billion last year, the 16th straight year of growth for the format.”
This curious turn of events (sorry) calls for some explanation. The Journal reports that it’s mainly “indie-rock fans convinced of LP’s superior sound quality and young people attracted to the nostalgia of playing records.”
Fair enough, but as a purveyor of other products many people also consider obsolete (paper notebooks and ink pens you don’t throw away) I´d like to suggest another reason customers are bringing vinyl back, which has nothing to do with how they sound, but with their physicality. LP covers, with their big, takes-two-hands-hold-them album covers have the power to move us.
With all our excitement over today’s digital wonders it’s easy to forget that we are still physical beings, and we respond well to products that fit our physical selves.
Let’s consider some other relevant data.
Those LP albums measure 12.375 inches on all sides producing a square canvas, a blank slate of 153 square inches. That space, bigger than a standard floor tile, turned out to be irresistible to artists, photographers and graphic designers, and the musical acts who engaged them. The result: a veritable Cambrian Explosion of album art that arrested our attention, shocked, inspired, offended and otherwise became a genre of its own. If you’re over a certain age, I’ll wager you can close your eyes and remember some of the covers that grabbed you and haven’t let go.…
Today you can search “books on album cover art” and find dozens. But when I searched for CD cover art, I couldn’t find one. Why not? Because LP covers are five times larger than CD covers. CD covers have no power to stir our souls.
The comeback of LPs has not only spurred a renaissance in turn tables, but also in products that showcase their visual power (search “racks for displaying LPs”).
Koss Record Wall Rack (I serve on their board.)
Our team at Levenger holds a special affection for supposed obsolete technology because we have been advancing such out-of-favor tech since our founding in 1987. We know that paper notebooks, pens that write with ink, and the leather goods that keep these heritage technologies, have a long way to go.
When technologies are no longer needed, they become like those older adults we often admire, people who no longer much care how others see them but, in a kind yet deliberate way, pursue what they themselves find fulfilling.
Look around and you’ll see we are surrounded by old-soul technologies. Just look for things we don’t really need. We don’t need bicycles anymore. We don’t need sailboats anymore. We don’t need candlelit dinners anymore. Each of those technologies have continued to evolve and delight us, despite, or maybe because, they are unnecessary.
We don’t need LP albums anymore, so that means we can enjoy them freely for what they bring out in us.
At Levenger, we pay tribute to LPs with a new Circa notebook and a groovy pen, produced through our collaboration with another like-minded company, Retro 51. These are old-soul technologies paying tribute to another old-soul technology. All completely unnecessary, of course.
The Circa Vinyl Foldover Notebook
The matching Retro 51 Vintage Vinyl Rollerball
I invite you to put on some music you love, open your paper journal and write with ink about what inspires you. Our designers are doing likewise, dreaming up late-of-the-art technology that we hope you will soon savor.
–Steve Leveen, Co-Founder