Many new-generation fans of vinyl view LPs as branded merchandise, like band T-shirts or posters, as much as a practical means of acquiring recorded music, said Matt Wishnow, the founder of Insound, an online music and merchandise company. In the last two years vinyl sales have expanded to about 50 percent from less than 20 percent of the company’s business, he said. (The median age of its customers, he added, is 25.)
In an era when “everybody’s music collection is the same” thanks to file swapping, collecting expensive, unwieldy LPs is a conspicuous way for the superfans to advertise their cognoscenti status, he said.
“It’s a customer who wants to have vinyl in their home the same way they want books in their home,” Mr. Wishnow said. For such a customer, he added, the message is, “ ‘When I can have all the music in the world in the palm of my hand, what does it say about me that I spend $15 to $20 for this format that is a pain to store and move and is easily damaged?’ ”
Young vinyl collectors said digital technology had made it easy for anyone — even parents — to acquire vast, esoteric music collections. In that context, nothing seems hipper than old-fashioned inconvenience.
“The process of taking the record off the shelf, pulling it out of the sleeve, putting the needle on the record, makes for a much more intense and personal connection with the music because it’s more effort,” said R. J. Crowder-Schaefer, 21, a senior at New York University who said he became a serious vinyl disciple a few years ago.
Along the way, devotees often cross paths with their parents, who are still upgrading their audio technology. Meghan Galewski, another student at New York University, bought her father, now 56, an iPod for a recent birthday. He bought her a turntable for hers.
“He thought it was stupid that I wanted this old technology,” Ms. Galewski, 21, said. She had to tutor him on how to use his iPod, then rifled through his stacks of records from the ’60s and ’70s to appropriate gems like his original “Woodstock” LP set.
But for Corinne Monaco, 17, who lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, her interest in vinyl provides a way to bond with her parents. Afternoons on the sofa listening to Jethro Tull and Jimi Hendrix albums with her father, she said, give her “a chance to see where he was coming from, with the music of his youth.”
INDEED, records force children of the digital age to listen to music in the rigid manner of previous generations, said Scott Karoly, 21, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a recent vinyl convert.
No longer can they use a click wheel to sample songs from Miley Cyrus, Nas, Black Sabbath, John Coltrane and the Scissor Sisters within minutes. With vinyl, listeners cede control to the artist. They let the music wash over them, in the original order of songs, at the original pace. “I have a ton of music on iTunes,” Mr. Karoly said, “but with that music I get A.D.D. really quick. With my LPs, it’s like reading a book as opposed to clicking through articles on Yahoo.”
“When you put on a record,” he added, “it’s an event.”