Q&A: David Hayes, pop-culture pro, on the roots of the modern record renaissance

David Hayes is a pop culture expert who specializes in vinyl. We talked to him about the origin of the new record boom

David Hayes
(Image: courtesy David Hayes)

You wrote a chapter of your dissertation on the resurgence of vinyl. When did that start? The movement really took off in the early 2000s, when the industry began to move toward digitized music. Now CDs have all but disappeared, which creates a binary: you can access an infinite amount of music digitally, but if you want something physical, vinyl is just about the only game in town.

Why do people crave that physical product? There’s a sense of authenticity and legitimacy around vinyl that other mediums don’t have. For fans, flipping through records at yard sales and flea markets is like an archaeological dig.

So there’s a certain prestige associated with it. Right. The kids I interviewed for my thesis thought that finding old records and working a turntable marked them as connoisseurs. Vinyl demands a level of attention that we lost when we moved into the era of infinite playlists on our phones.

But does it really sound better than digital music? It depends on the hardware. If you have the right turntable, speakers and amp, there’s a better, more sophisticated sound. I got a new turntable a couple of years ago and I heard things I’d never heard before.

How many records do you own? I used to have 3,000, but five years ago, at my wife’s insistence, I begrudgingly winnowed my collection down to 1,200. I rented tables at record shows to sell them. It was incredible: hundreds upon hundreds of people were lining up and paying $25 to get first crack at the crates.

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