The vinyl record has almost no practical benefits over todays streaming services. Records are bigger than a Frisbee, prone to physical damage and are absolutely inferior in terms of audio quality (to the old-school audiophiles out there – debate me on this). And yet I own a collection of over 40, ranging from Taylor Swift’s 1989 to Elvis Presley’s EP Suspicious Minds. After browsing through my collection late one night, I asked myself: why do I, a 20-year-old, actually own these?
It is certainly not for nostalgic reasons. Upon my birth in 1997, vinyl was well and truly a dead medium. In fact, the first album I ever bought was a digital one (what’s a “see-dee”?). My fascination with the record is one of technological admiration and a desire to experience music in a more tangible form. To have a physical copy of the tracks I usually tap a finger to hear (well, finger-tapping is actually on its way out now too, with the arrival of voice assistants).
They are simply cool, too – to be “retro” is to be trendy.
And it’s not just me. Millennials everywhere are frantically ordering Ubers to their local record store and After-Paying for latest releases and classic tracks. They are single-handedly reviving the vinyl record industry. Sony is even set to soon press their first records since 1989.
Despite having to walk across the room to flip or change a record, playing a vinyl is a fun and exciting experience. And it is also a great talking point in my home. Friends and guests are always enamoured by my little stack of retro goodness, which waits on my TV cabinet next to my adjacent turntable. It’s a fantastic conversation starter.
Not pictured: my favourite record, Miss Piggy's Aerobique Exercise Workout Album (1982), which I found at my local for $10.
But still, my music consumption takes place almost entirely from my phone through Spotify. In my car, in the kitchen, on my walks – it’s all streamed. Nothing beats the convenience of instant access to music. Even if there was a practical way to carry around all my vinyls and listen to them out and about – why would I? The audio quality (in my opinion) would suck.
It’s really just a quirky novelty. An interesting hobby.
The vinyl revival is quite unique. Not many technologies die, only to rise once again and become idolised. It faced a century-long life, only to be kicked down by cassettes, CDs and the internet. And then it picked itself up and started kicking back.
Working at a fintech like Tic:Toc has allowed me to draw some parallels: would the same happen with the way we apply for a home loan?
The traditional home loan application process is slow, boring, and not accessible for Millennials. The Tic:Toc way is just how I like it – it can be done on mobile, in an instant, and it doesn’t require any social interaction. Just like the way I order Ubers, the way I consume almost all my entertainment, and the way I do all my banking. There is a whole generation of people just like me who will find the old process antiquated upon arrival.
If the old way of home loan applications were to die, which I believe it will with the march of time, would it come back? Would it be a trendy niche that Gen Y are fascinated by, much like the vinyl record? Would there be room in an ‘instant’ world for a long, drawn-out method of accomplishing something that should prioritise accessibility for consumers?
You won't be missed.
Will sending snail mail ever make a comeback? I believe it could if people fell in love with it again. There is something romantic and deeply personal about sending somebody a letter through the mail. It shows you care enough to make the time to do it the old-fashioned way and to create an experience for the receiver. I can see it coming back as a “retro” trend.
What about another ancient invention, the phone book, for example? Will that ever relive its glory days? Probably not. There is nothing romantic or deeply personal about it. It was just a placeholder until we got the internet up and running. Only the most hard-core hipsters, I believe, would ever consider a phone book cool or retro. It accomplishes the same thing as searching for a phone number online, except 1400 times slower.
It's not coming back.
Retro technology and processes that have been merely tolerated, and certainly not loved, will probably not begin to be loved or cherished any time soon. And the old way of applying for a home loan was never loved. Waiting days or weeks on end for an outcome. Feeling confused and left in the dark. And out of the loop. Nothing much to love at all.
Conversely, we have seen many retro styles come back into the mainstream to be loved again. You can see it in recurring fashion trends, in the rebooting of movies and TV shows, in the high demand for 80s and 90s videogames, and in the vintage cars adored by so many.
I have much enjoyed the return of the vinyl, an old and cool expression of music. I do not, however, think I will be waiting eagerly for the return of the old home loan process. It is old, but certainly not cool. If anything, I longingly await its inevitable demise.