AOTM: The Beatles Snag Best-selling Vinyl for 2017

Artists have been recording on vinyl the past few years.

Vinyl was one of the primary formats for recording music, but during the mid-eighties CDs became the latest format, and eventually pushed out the need for cassettes and vinyl.  Then, in the mid to late nineties, the MP3 emerged as a new generation of files capable of providing hundreds of songs on a small device. The Beatles have been a part of this recording evolution, and have proven they are top sellers no matter what format their music is recorded on. It is no surprise, then, that The Beatles are the top selling vinyl of 2017.

Yes. The Beatles were the best-selling vinyl of 2017. In the era of MP3, online music libraries, and all things digital, The Beatles on vinyl seems funny. Wasn’t vinyl a thing of the past? Many have thought that very thing; however, artists in the past few years are returning to vinyl. To understand the desire to return to vinyl and the success of The Beatles’ 2017 vinyl sales, the history of compressed music files needs to be explored.

In short, the progression of digital music files began with science. Scientists discovered that the human ear can only recognize certain sounds, and after years of study, they began compressing files to fit onto computers (compressed files equals quicker download time). This resulted in the invention of MP3 in the mid to late nineties, but there is a difference between digital and analog recordings. The difference is in the compression of the file, which results in two types of audio files: lossy and lossless. Vinyl and CD fit into the lossless category (analog). Digital MP3 and AAC (the format on iTunes) are lossy files (macworld.com). Vinyl and CD formats are not compressed files; therefore, if a vinyl record is recorded onto CD the quality remains the same. Nothing is lost between the two.  However, an MP3 compresses the music file by removing insignificant sounds. Thus, the file is easier to download and store. The positive of MP3 formats is its ability to save the files smaller. The negative of digital files: they do not sound the same as uncompressed files.

25th November 1963: Liverpudlian beat combo The Beatles, from left to right Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon (1940 – 1980), and George Harrison (1943 – 2001), performing in front of a camera-shaped drum kit on Granada TV’s Late Scene Extra television show filmed in Manchester, England on November 25, 1963. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There is much debate between scientists and the faithful audiophile as to which format type sounds better; yet, many artists have returned to vinyl as a listening option; The Beatles being one of them. Perhaps, it is a business decision. Perhaps, it’s a desire to return to the full sound that uncompressed analog provides. Either way, vinyl has made a comeback in the digital age.

Within this age of digital evolution, The Beatles were able to snag the top two positions in vinyl sales in 2017. The band re-released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road last year selling 72,000 and 66,000 respectively (billboard.com). The success of vinyl sales not only shows the longevity of The Beatles music, but it also shows the desire to experience music in an uncompressed format. And, the Beatles were not alone in vinyl sales last year: Ed Sheeran, Pink Floyd, the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Soundtrack, Amy Winehouse, and the La La Land Soundtrack all placed in the top ten.

While vinyl has been viewed as a thing of the past, many artists have been recording on the medium again. The Beatles have been a part of this audio evolution throughout their career, and in 2017, they solidified their status as top-selling artists by taking the top two positions in vinyl sales. The success of The Fab Four on vinyl in 2017 also confirms that vinyl has a place in this age of digital.

~Jenna Jakes, WOGB

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