Are Vinyl Records and Cassette Tapes Useful in 2023?

Lexington, KY.– Photo of a Taylor Swift CD, a popular artist, in a local Target store.

With the recent resurgence of vinyl records and other non-digital forms of music, I wanted to know how relevant these forms of music are for listening to music in 2023.
The first vinyl records were introduced in 1948 by Columbia records and held 21 minutes of music on each side. Most were 12 inches in diameter, although 7-inch records were used for singles. As the disk rotates on the music player, it creates small sounds and vibrations, which the music player amplifies to make an audible sound. The records have small grooves that create different-pitched sounds when the player’s needle touches them. That is why whenever records are dusty, the music sounds different than when they are clean.
In the early ’60s, cassette tapes started to emerge. They first started in the form of single spools of tape, like 8-tracks but then were upgraded to the double spool that became more popular. This new form of audio storage became popularized by the SONY Walkman. Before, recording on magnetic tape was popular but was never held in an actual cartridge. The compact cassette was reversible and very small, as the name suggests, but had very low sound quality. The quality improved quickly, though, and cassettes could even play stereo tracks. Cassette tapes caught on quickly and were advertised as a portable way to listen to music.
The Compact Disc was released to the public in 1983 and was immediately a major hit. By 1988, CD sales were above vinyl and by 1991, passed cassette sales. CDs are plastic and aluminum discs with tiny bumps and grooves on them. Each bump and groove is about a millionth of a meter wide and is formed into a spiral track. If you were to straighten out the track, it would be three and a half miles long. A laser hits these bumps and reflects off the aluminum layer to read each byte. The laser samples the music at 44,000 times a second, allowing each disc to hold 74 minutes of music.
CDs and Cassette tapes started to die off after the creation of the iPod Apple invented in 2001, a digital music player that could fit in your pocket and hold thousands of songs. Today, you can stream virtually any song on your phone. So why has vinyl music made a comeback recently? After all, over 360 million records were sold over the last year. The answer is the experience that it gives.
While you can pull up almost any song on your phone in seconds, vinyl records give you the experience of taking the disc out of the jacket, placing it on the player, and adjusting the player before you can finally listen to the music. Slowing down and relaxing to the music gives you a sensation unrivaled by any other form of music we have had in this century. The sound on vinyl is closer to the live version of music we hear at a concert. Not only that, it gives everyone a sense of nostalgia that you cannot experience otherwise.
Target has recently set up a whole section related to CDs and records. When Taylor Swift released her Midnights album in October 2022, it had the highest vinyl sales of any album since the 1980s, which proves that there is indeed a comeback of records.
Now for the big question: is there still a use for these old, physical copies of music when you can easily pull up any song in seconds? Yes. Discs, records, and cassettes give you a sense of nostalgia and a calming sensation that your phone cannot achieve. It provides music lovers with items to collect and artists more ways to sell music. These musical gems can be bought brand new at Target and Amazon but could also be sold and bought used at stores such as Half Price Books. Physical music has a place in 2023 and is something that will stick around for music fans around the world.