The statistical curve of nostalgia

Vinyl sales are on an upward swing

A remarkable 2.9 million vinyl LPs have been sold in the U.S. so far this year, up 33.5 percent from 2012, according to Nielsen SoundScan (NLSN). In fact, vinyl has been steadily on the rise since bottoming out in 2006, when only 858,000 records were sold. In just seven years, the 65-year-old format has bounced back 338 percent.

But in the scheme of things, it's not really that popular. 

But here’s the thing: Even in today’s diminished music business, 2.9 million albums isn’t very much. Vinyl sales make up only 1.4 percent of all albums sold so far this year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which makes touting the “comeback” of vinyl a little bit like telling a double amputee that at least he won’t have to spend money on winter gloves.

It strikes me that this type of sales curve, a long period of decline followed by a slight upward rebound that doesn't get you anywhere close to the earlier peaks, is the shape of many things that go out of style before making a minor comeback as a novelty, a nostalgic fashion statement.