A look inside the rise of 'Vinyl TikTok,' where Gen Z is making record collecting cool again
When Frank Camarda first found out about “Vinyl TikTok,” he was a little surprised.
The 22-year-old, who lives in Perth, Australia, has been collecting records for eight years, since he was barely a teenager. That’s an impressively long commitment for someone whose generation listens to nearly 80 percent of their music on a phone.
On TikTok, Camarda found so many people like him — young, vinyl-obsessed music fans who just wanted to talk about records.
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“It’s so amazing to see so many collectors post about their collections and come together and chat about different variants, artists and all things vinyl,” he told In The Know.
On TikTok, those collectors number in the thousands. Videos using the #vinyl tag have been viewed almost 900 million times on the app, and some users, like record collector @tomcsawyer, have six-digit follower counts.
The rise of Vinyl TikTok has also coincided with a broader, more striking phenomenon. Throughout the pandemic, record sales have been surging. For the first time in decades, vinyl is actually more popular than CDs, and the format has reached its highest sales since the early ’90s, before Camarda and most of his peers were born.
It’s hard to say what influence, if any, Vinyl TikTok has had on record sales. But it’s clear the community is growing — and inspiring new, young music fans to start their collections.
“I think the coolest thing for me on this app is I’ve had hundreds of kids message me telling me I inspired them to collect records,” Josh, an 18-year-old record collector and TikToker, told In The Know.
Josh started posting videos of his records last fall, and since then he’s managed to gain nearly 20,000 followers on the app. His clips are well-edited and easy to digest. Sometimes, they feature satisfying bits of record-turning ASMR.
Videos like Josh’s are common on Vinyl TikTok. The most popular clips are quick, approachable and aesthetic-building. In short, they have a lot in common with most other viral TikToks.
Vinyl records aren’t cheap. A new album — let alone one for sale at a major retailer like Urban Outfitters — can easily go for $40. That’s a lot of money for someone Josh’s age, especially when Spotify’s near-endless library is just a finger tap away.
Records aren’t just about the music though. They’re also keepsakes, memorabilia, decorations and much, much more. For collectors, Vinyl TikTok is a chance to show that aspect, often in new and creative ways.
Vinyl TikTok isn’t just changing how collectors share their records, it’s also changing what they feel like sharing. When it comes to TikTok, “classic” albums — like those from Patti Smith, Van Morrison, Otis Redding and more — are in the minority.
Instead, it’s much easier to find something from Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Tame Impala or even Juice Wrld. Josh, for his part, listed records from Frank Ocean and rapper Ski Mask the Slump God among his most prized possessions.
Camarda, meanwhile, named-dropped two albums — Hayley Williams’ Petals for Armor and Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher — that came out less than a year ago.
Collecting vinyl is, at least in some part, about preserving the past. But for TikTokers like Camarda and Josh, the present is just as interesting. Vinyl TikTok has given them an outlet to share the new music they feel a deep, tangible connection to.
It’s a shift with ramifications way beyond social media. In 2020, the best-selling vinyl record was Harry Styles’ 2019 album, The Fine Line. Styles, who’s just a few years older than Camarda, beat out record sale mainstays like Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson and The Beatles.
Ultimately, though, collectors like Josh are a lot more concerned about the experience of Vinyl TikTok — and the community it’s created — than any effect it might have.
“It means a lot, knowing I’ve inspired kids to get into something I’m [also] passionate about,” he said.
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