MONEY online shopping

Amazon Prime Membership Should Come With a Warning

Amazon Prime packages
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

And the warning is: After paying $99 for your subscription, you're going to spend a ton of money at Amazon.com.

Amazon rarely releases sales data to the media. Nonetheless, the idea that customers who subscribe to Amazon Prime wind up shopping and spending a lot more at Amazon is considered fact. After all, once customers are paying $99 for the service and know that express two-day shipping is available for free on nearly all purchases, it makes sense that they’ll stop shopping elsewhere and do most if not all of their online shopping at the site. It helps, of course, that Amazon has a reputation not only for selling a huge variety of merchandise, but for having low prices as well.

But what impact, exactly, does signing up an Amazon Prime membership have on the individual’s online purchasing habits? Again, it’s hard to say because Amazon is reticent to release data. What’s more, things are complicated because the people who find it most worthwhile to join Amazon Prime are those who shop often at Amazon in the first place. (When you’re a member, the more you spend, the more you “save,” at least in terms of shipping.) So it’s not simply a matter of figuring out how much Prime members versus non-Prime members spend at the site.

Still, it’s undeniable that Prime members spend a bunch more at Amazon than non-Prime members. In a recent story by a couple of my MONEY colleagues about Apple, Amazon, and Google in terms of investing opportunities, a ComScore report is mentioned revealing that “Prime members make twice as many purchases as nonmembers, and they spend 40% more per transaction.”

Read more: Why You Should Never Buy Stuff When You’re Sad

This week, a new survey was released by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (hat tip: Huffington Post) with some precise dollar figures regarding the topic. According to a survey of consumers who made purchases at Amazon from October to December 2014, Prime members say they spend an average of about $1,500 at the site annually, versus $625 for non-members.

Owning an Amazon Kindle is also correlated with increased Amazon.com spending. Kindle owners (who may or may not also be Prime members) spend $1,450 per year at Amazon, compared to $725 per year for customers who don’t own Kindles, according to the survey. “Similar to Amazon Prime members, Amazon Kindle owners are better customers,” Mike Levin, partner and co-founder of CIRP, said in a press release about the new report. “They also shop more frequently, and also buy more expensive items on average.”

All in all, the spending data spells out plainly why Amazon pushes sales of Prime and Kindles so hard. In particular, the world’s largest retailer has been relentless in upping the Prime value pitch by adding streaming services, producing original movies, and such. Just last weekend, for instance, Amazon dropped the price of Prime to $72 and allowed everyone to stream its Golden Globe Award-winning online show “Transparent” as a way to show off one of the perks of being a Prime member.

Read more: Amazon Is Making It Easier to Publish Your Own Kindle Textbooks

It’s no mystery that Prime membership, Kindle ownership, or both are essentially gateways that welcome online shoppers into the Amazon consumershere and result in sharply increased spending at the site.

On the other hand, there’s good reason to believe that people who aren’t Prime members are more likely to shop around and make purchases at Amazon only when it’s clearly the most convenient or cheapest option. They don’t automatically defer to making purchases at Amazon, like Prime members appear to do. And based on some recent studies indicating that Amazon doesn’t have the cheapest prices across the board, it seems wise to browse a range of retailers rather than immediately head to Amazon for a one-click purchase of your latest need.

Read next: Amazon Outbid Netflix For Its Most Successful Show

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

Why TV Is the Perfect Place for Indie Filmmakers

The Duplass brothers, on the set of Togetherness. PRASHANT GUPTA/HBO

It's not just business. Sometimes bigger (as in running time and audience) really is better for the subjects of little films.

If you’ve been following the news out of the Sundance Film Festival, you may have been noticing that a lot of the news there is about something other than film. Namely, TV names, deals and projects appear to be everywhere at the festival this winter.

The festival lineup this year includes two series: The Jinx, a documentary series beginning in February on HBO, and Animals, an animated series from independent filmmaker brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, which is looking for a distributor. The Sundance Institute has setup a “laboratory” for TV creators, and Sundance founder Robert Redford has been quoted as saying that “television is offering more opportunities … and is advancing farther than major filmmaking.”

As Redford alludes to, part of the dynamic is an issue of business opportunities. There is, arguably, richer potential in landing a TV deal than making an independent movie, shopping it around, and trying to get it attention in theaters. Last fall when her show Transparent premiered on Amazon, Jill Soloway–who got the deal for the show after her movie Afternoon Delight won acclaim at Sundance–told me that indie filmmakers already realize that much if not most of their audience will see their movies on streaming or VOD; why not take the next step?

“It’s a rare, rare movie that’s about humans or about families or about people that can really make it theatrically,” Soloway said. “Independent filmmakers already have their heads around people on their couches watching their movies. For me coming out of Sundance and having Amazon offer this opportunity it felt like I was going to get to make a movie and I already had distribution.”

But I’d also argue that TV is a good match for indie filmmakers for other than economic and practical reasons. TV isn’t just an alternative venue for the kind of storytelling these filmmakers want to do. In many cases, it’s a superior one. As Soloway says, a lot of independent film is about slices of life and the evolution of relationships. You can treat that in a 90-minute movie, but, as in the case of Transparent and its interwoven family stories about sex and identity, you can do a lot more in a five-hour season. It might have made a fine movie, but it was the best TV show of 2014, and it now has a Golden Globe to show for it.

Turn on HBO right now, meanwhile, and you’re essentially watching an indie-film triple feature: Girls, from Tiny Furniture director Lena Dunham; Looking, produced and directed by Andrew Haigh (Weekend); and Togetherness, from the abovementioned Duplass brothers. Each show falls into the genre of the not-always-funny-comedy or drama-with-laughs, a category that sometimes irks TV traditionalists accustomed to clearer drama and comedy boundaries–but which is the stock-in-trade of indie film.

Arguably, that entire genre is really the indie aesthetic being transferred over to TV. And the talent has as well: a number of series have employed indie directors like Nicole Holofcener (whose credits include Enlightened and Looking) and Lisa Cholodenko (Olive Kitteridge and NBC’s upcoming The Slap). I’d love to see someone like Holofcener make a series; I love her films, like Friends with Money, but they often deal with precisely the kinds of intertwined relationships and class and status concerns that are perfect for series TV.

I’m not trying to write another triumphalist, TV-is-better-than-movies piece here. The two genres each have their strengths, and each does things better than the other. But I’m glad to see that TV now has both the status and the institutional support to lure in more artists whose stories might be better told in a longer format. Maybe the best hope for independent cinema is to recognize that, sometimes, it’s better off being independent from cinema.

 

MONEY deals

Free ‘Transparent’ Streaming, Cheap Amazon Prime on Saturday

Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent Beth Dubber—© Amazon/Courtesy Everett Colle

Amazon already has tens of millions of subscribers to Amazon Prime. But Amazon wants more, and it's using a Transparent-Golden Globes-themed promotion on Saturday to win them over.

A report surfaced last autumn estimating that as many as 50 million people were members of Amazon Prime, the $99-per-year subscription service that includes two-day shipping on most purchases and unlimited streaming of video and music content. Mind you, that was before the 2014 holiday shopping season, during which Amazon reported some 10 million new members had signed up for Prime.

Previous studies have indicated that Amazon actually loses money on Prime due to all the shipping costs incurred by frequent shoppers. Yet Prime is undeniably a powerful revenue driver for the world’s largest retailer, because of the tendency of subscribers to make nearly all of their online purchases at Amazon once they’ve paid for a membership. Hence Amazon’s relentless push to boost Prime subscriptions at any and every opportunity.

And hence the latest Amazon promotion, which on Saturday grants everyone with an Internet connection free streaming of Transparent, the ground-breaking Golden Globe-winning comedy normally only available to Prime subscribers. Besides celebrating the success of Transparent and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor at the Golden Globes, the idea of airing the show for all to see is surely also a pitch to snag more Prime members. The implicit sales pitch being: Just look at the kinds of things you’d get to watch regularly if you were a Prime member!

What’s more, Amazon is giving Prime extra appeal by knocking the usual $99 price of a subscription down to $72 on Saturday, January 24. Why 72? Again, it has to do with the Golden Globes—the most recent awards were the 72nd in history.

TIME China

Agent Carter, Empire Gone From Chinese Streaming Sites

Atwell as Peggy Carter in Agent Carter. Kelsey McNeal/ABC

A crackdown on foreign media appears to have taken its toll

More U.S. television shows were removed from Chinese streaming services in what appears to be the latest consequences of the state censor’s crackdown on foreign series.

Shows like Agent Carter, Empire, and Shameless disappeared from multiple streaming portals this week, the L.A. Times reports.

Amid a campaign by the government of President Xi Jinping to sanitize the Internet in China, the country’s state censor, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said last year that foreign shows — which have soared in popularity in China — would require government approval for the entire series before episodes aired online. Foreign series, the regulator also said, could only account for one third of programming on the online streaming sites, according to the Times.

Since then, shows like The Big Bang Theory have been pulled from streaming sites, typically without explanation.

Despite the rancor on social media after the latest purge, it remained unclear why the specific shows were removed, according to the Times.

[LA Times]

TIME Video Games

You’ll Soon Be Able to Play Xbox One Games on Your Computer

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A control of a Microsoft's Xbox One game console is pictured in a shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014. JOHANNES EISELE—AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft announced Wednesday that Windows 10 users will be able to play Xbox One games via their computer, tablet or phone

Want to play Xbox One games anywhere within range of your wireless network, but without dragging your Xbox One along? You’ll be able too soon, Microsoft promised at a Windows 10 press event Wednesday. All you’ll need is a device powered by Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 operating system, slated for release sometime this year.

Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash. event was mostly geared towards showing off new features of Windows 10, which will run on PCs, tablets and mobile phones. But after the company spent an hour touting Windows 10’s new multi-platform focus and universal app-driven DNA, Microsoft Xbox honcho Phil Spencer took the stage to talk Xbox One-related Windows 10 integration.

Where the company intends to bring Windows 10 to all sorts of devices from PCs to tablets to phones, it’s holding the Xbox One off in a kind of walled garden. Microsoft noted that Windows 10 is “coming to Xbox 10,” but not in what fashion, or when. Instead, the company announced an Xbox One app for Windows 10 devices.

Think next-gen SmartGlass — in other words, an app designed to bridge the Xbox One / Windows 10 platform firewall, one that’ll allow you to share gaming highlights and activities across all of your Windows 10 devices. Those activities will include, among other things: cross-platform chatting with friends, browsing activity feeds and sharing (to Xbox Live or any other social network) recorded video clips–including ones captured in Steam, automatically saved at 30-second intervals.

What’s more, Microsoft appears to be reintroducing cross-platform support for Windows and Xbox One (last seen circa 2007), demonstrating two players—one on Xbox One, the other on Windows 10—cooperatively playing Lionhead’s forthcoming Fable Legends action-roleplaying game.

Spencer took a few moments to tout DirectX 12 as well, the company’s new game programming API, showing a complex scene rendered in realtime on two separate computers configured with the same hardware (one running DX11, the other DX12) to illustrate the performance advantages of DX12’s ability to more directly access your computer’s graphics processor.

Spencer claims DX12 will “increase performance of games by up to 50%,” adding that it’ll also “cut power consumption in half” when employed on mobile devices. And in a significant coup, Spencer confirmed that DX12 is coming to Unity, the popular cross-platform development platform behind many critically-acclaimed indie games.

But the most significant announcement was the revelation that Windows 10 will support wireless streaming of games from an Xbox One to any Windows 10 PC or tablet. When? Spencer said to look for the new streaming technology to arrive “later this year.”

TIME Media

2015 Will Be the Year Netflix Goes ‘Full HBO’

The streaming service is putting an increasing emphasis on original shows

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos famously told GQ in 2013. Back then, no one, including Sarandos himself, knew whether anyone was actually interested in watching original shows made by the company that used to mail them DVDs.

Today, Netflix’s bet looks doubly smart—other tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft and AT&T are making similar investments in original programming, while television stalwarts like CBS, ESPN and, yes, HBO are planning to offer their popular shows to viewers who don’t want to buy a pricey television bundle. The once-separate worlds of “television” and “online video” are going to collide this year, so it’s no surprise Netflix is battening down the hatches with a big rollout of exclusive original shows.

In his quarterly letter to shareholders released Tuesday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote that the company is planning 320 hours of original programming this year, triple the amount Netflix released in 2014. In addition to third seasons of early standouts like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, Netflix will also debut new shows like Marvel’s Daredevil action series and the new Tina Fey-backed comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

This will be the year when Netflix-original shows transform from a novelty to an expectation among subscribers.

This rapid shift in focus isn’t just coming because Netflix execs suddenly crave becoming creative auteurs—it’s a shift necessary to sustain the company’s business model. Licensing costs have soared as content makers realized the value of streaming rights and deep-pocketed competitors like Amazon entered the market. At the same time, HBO and others offering stand-alone versions of their channels to cord-cutters will change what viewers expect of cheap subscription services.

Great premium, original content is more necessary than ever — but it’s harder than ever to get a hold of. No wonder Netflix is trying to bankroll the content itself.

Indeed, Netflix noted in its shareholder letter that its original shows have been some of the most cost-efficient in the company’s stable. “Our originals cost us less money, relative to our viewing metrics, than most of our licensed content, much of which is well known and created by the top studios,” the company wrote.

The only trouble with Netflix’s plan is ensuring all this content they’re rolling out is stuff people will actually enjoy watching. The company has cast House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black as hits without divulging how many people actually watched them. It’s trying to do the same with Marco Polo, even though many critics have panned the show (Netflix has shot back at critics by pointing out that the audience rating for Marco Polo on Rotten Tomatoes is nearly as high as that of Game of Thrones).

As the company’s older shows grow long in the tooth, Netflix will have to keep infusing its lineup with new, buzzy shows. That’s a challenge traditional cable networks have faced for decades, and one HBO in particular has been skilled at navigating. Can Netflix do the same? This is the year we find out.

TIME

Here Are the Movies and TV Shows Leaving Netflix in February

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'Batman Returns' is one of the movies leaving Netflix in Feb. 2015. Warner Brothers

You've still got ten days to watch all those Bond movies

Netflix has announced its list of movies and TV due to disappear from its streaming service in February, and some of them will be badly missed.

A slew of Batman and James Bond movies won’t be renewed, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and a number of BBC television classics like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder are out, too.

But every end is a new beginning, and Netflix will be adding titles next month as well. The company never rules out movies returning to its streaming services either.

Leaving Feb. 1

Blackadder: Seasons 1-­4
A View to a Kill
Airheads
Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now Redux
Babes in Toyland
Batman & Robin
Batman Forever
Batman Returns
Cocoon: The Return
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Down Periscope
Fawlty Towers: Seasons 1­-2
For Your Eyes Only
From Russia with Love
Goldfinger
Hotel Babylon: Seasons 1-­4
Jane Eyre
Live and Let Die
Mad Max
MASH
MI­5: Seasons 1­-10
Nacho Libre
Never Say Never Again
Red Dwarf: Seasons 1­-9

Revenge
School Daze
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
The Juror
Wishmaster
Zodiac

Leaving Feb. 2

Jem and the Holograms: S1-­3
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: S1­-4
Pound Puppies: S1-­3
Transformers Prime: S1-­3
Transformers: Rescue Bots

Leaving Feb. 5

Arbitrage

Leaving Feb. 23

Dredd

Leaving Feb. 28

Ali
Monkey Trouble
Panic Room

[THR]

Read next: Here’s What’s Coming to Netflix in February

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

Review: The Best and Worst of the New Amazon Pilot Season

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Amazon Prime Video's The Man in the High Castle David Berg / Amazon

No Transparent here, but could I interest you in a Nazi-occupied 1962 America?

Following up its Golden Globes coup with Transparent–and whatever exactly it’s going to be doing with Woody Allen–on Thursday Amazon Video released its latest crop of pilots for viewers to watch and rate: 13 adult and kids’ shows in all.

This doesn’t entirely kill the old system of network (or in this case e-commerce) executives ordering a bunch of pilots and choosing which will live or die. The viewer vote isn’t binding–and good thing it isn’t, since voters last year gave Transparent the lowest rating of any show in its group. But it does mean that you now have a voice in the process just like idiot critics like me.

That said, you may not to want to spend several hours of your day helping pick new product for Jeff Bezos, so I watched the pilots for you. (Or rather, everything except the kids’ shows–I do this for a living and even I don’t have that much time on my hands.) In alphabetical order:

* Cocked. This family drama, about brothers reuniting to save a troubled family gun business, plays very, very broad. (One sibling is played by Jason Lee, with only a little more subtlety than he gave his character in My Name Is Earl.) But I’m intrigued by the exploration of the gun subculture and the dynamic of the liberal black sheep (Sam Trammell) being drawn back into a family and life he rejected. Done right, it could be a kind of .44-caliber Big Love.

* Down Dog. My love for Paget Brewster is vocal and enduring, but she’s only a supporting player in this comedy about a handsome dimwit yoga instructor (Josh Casaubon), who, after breaking up with his partner/girlfriend (Brewster), must learn to run the business himself. It feels a little like HBO’s Hung with pigeon poses instead of prostitution, and the pilot didn’t do much to make me care what happens to the protagonist.

* Mad Dogs. Based on a successful British series and produced by The Shield‘s Shawn Ryan–with a cast including Ben Chaplin, Michael Imperioli, Romany Malco, Steve Zahn, and Billy Zane–this dark-comic hour about a group of middle-aged friends running into underworld trouble in Belize looked great. But its midlife-crisis themes are tired, uninvolving and depressing. It’s tense and well-executed, though; the pilot did everything right except make me watch more.

* The Man in the High Castle. This alternate-history drama from The X-Files‘ Frank Spotnitz (based on a Philip K. Dick novel) imagines a year 1962 in which the Axis won WWII, and the U.S. is partitioned between Germany and Japan. The dialogue and war-movie-villain types run to cliché, and the production looks less like premium cable than a Syfy show. But the idea is gripping, there’s already the sense that the creators have thoroughly imagined a dystopian world, and scenes in the pilot are genuinely chilling. With improved execution, this could become a must-watch.

* The New Yorker Presents. This mostly-nonfiction series anthologizes short films based on the work of the storied magazine, and, it’s well, anthological. A Shouts-and-Murmurs-y short written by Simon Rich works better than most of the fantasies in Rich’s Man Seeking Woman. An interview with artist Marina Abramovic by Ariel Levy is thoought provoking (but could use a little more Abramovic and a little less Levy). There’s a smart, playful Jonathan Demme documentary on biologist Tyrone Hayes. And there are cartoons, which are–they’re cartoons, and don’t gain much from translation to a new medium. A poem is read. Cool jazz plays over the credits. A little precious but nicely made, and it will probably make you feel smarter.

* Point of Honor. This Civil War drama, from Lost‘s Carlton Cuse and Randall Wallace, was originally developed for ABC. And you can see why it didn’t get any farther: it has ambitions of subtlety and historical sweep–a wealthy Virginia family frees its slaves, yet vows to defend the Confederacy–but the clumsy pilot mainly offers cotton-pickin’ melodrama.

* Salem Rogers. I wanted to like this one, if only because it’s the only pilot of this class that aims at being flat-out, in-your-face, ha-ha funny. (Not to mention the only one built around a female star.) But Salem–starring Leslie Bibb as a former supermodel fresh out of rehab but totally unrepentant (and unrehabbed)–chased me off. Full of insult humor and acting out, it plays a little like a Ryan Murphy comedy, except–I can’t believe I’m saying this–Ryan Murphy would have made this more sophisticated.

In part, the question here is not how much you like these shows, but what are they worth to you? The decision on a streaming series is a different one than for a broadcast or basic-cable show. There, you’re just deciding whether to flip the dial to a channel you already have and spend a few minutes of your time. As with Netflix, watching Amazon’s shows requires paying up for a subscription ($99 a year for Prime, though the pilots are free), so cold economics suggest a higher bar. (It’s also comparable to premium cable, as is the content–in particular, there are nude female bodies splayed all over these pilots. Again, not the kids’ pilots.)

Transparent was a pilot that I would have bought a subscription to watch off the bat. None of these are yet, though The Man in the High Castle, and maybe Cocked, could become one. But you can watch the current pilot season for yourself. As Amazon has proven, it’s a big market, and no two customers are alike.

TIME Television

Here’s How You Can Help Choose Amazon’s Next Shows

Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Home Screen Amazon

Amazon launched 13 new television pilots

Amazon launched 13 new television pilots via the company’s website Thursday, and which ones will get full runs may be partially up to you. The company offers free viewing of the programs and encouraging customers to tell the company which shows they think should receive a full season run.

“We are working with great storytellers on some fascinating ideas for the year’s first pilot season,” said Amazon Studios vice-president Roy Price in a press release. “We look forward to seeing our customers’ response to these new projects.”

This year’s set of pilots includes a diverse group of comedies, dramas, shows for children and a documentary series. The talent for the shows includes marquee names such as Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott, The X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. A full season of Woody Allen’s Untitled Woody Allen Project received the green light without a pilot.

Amazon made its first foray into original content in 2013 with shows like Alpha House. Just days ago, the studio won a best television series Golden Globe for the show Transparent.

TIME Music

Here’s Why Music Lovers Are Turning to Vinyl and Dropping Digital

Sales Rise On Vinyl Records
A worker listens through headphones and checks the sound quality of 12" inch vinyl records before they are dispatched, after being manufactured by GZ Media a.s. at their plant in Lodenice, Czech Republic, on Nov. 25, 2014. Martin Divisek—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Consumers want good-quality sound and like the feel of vinyl records

Music purists and nostalgists alike have reason to rejoice: sales of vinyl records are on the rise.

According to data released last week by Nielsen Soundscan, more than 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in the U.S. last year, marking a 52% increase over the year before. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the vinyl sales are the highest numbers recorded by SoundScan since the music industry monitor started tracking them back in 1991. Meanwhile, data from the British Phonographic Industry revealed that for the first time in nearly 20 years, more than one million vinyl records were sold in the U.K. in 2014. (The last time the milestone had been achieved in Britain was in 1996.)

Even more startlingly are the figures on digital sales. While Nielsen revealed that streaming was also up, purchases of digital downloads dropped 9% for albums and 12% for songs in 2014.

Some are rejoicing at the new figures and anticipating a new trend. German-based company Optimal recently told the Guardian that they’re expecting to press 18 million records in 2015, while a new vinyl pressing plant called Canada Boy Vinyl (CBV) is scheduled to open in Calgary, AB, later this year.

But what’s behind this resurgence of vinyl? And why does the digital download industry seem to be floundering?

According to music industry experts in vinyl and digital, the answer is two-fold. Vinyl remains popular because the high-quality sound it delivers. While everyone from DJs to your grandfather has been saying for years that the sound on vinyl is richer, warmer and clearer than what’s being released online, it might not just be music snobbery talking. Most industry experts agree with them to an extent.

Jon Lloyd, a music genre specialist at Juno Records, an international online shop that sells both vinyl and digital music, tells TIME that in many ways digital music has been its own worst advertisement over the last decade. “You can set up a digital music label for a [relatively] very low cost meaning the market is flooded with record labels that aren’t particularly high on quality control,” he explains. That glut of low-quality, sloppily produced music has likely put off many music listeners who have turned away from downloading music online. Contrast that “throwaway culture of music,” as Lloyd describes it, to the labels that are putting out vinyl — which is expensive to produce — and sinking money into the product. “If there’s a serious investment, you have to have serious quality control because you have to know your vinyl is going to sell,” says Lloyd.

Simon Cole, the CEO of 7digital, a U.K.-based platform for creating digital music and radio services, agrees that digital music has had a quality problem in the past, which he says are reflected in sales figures. But “let’s be clear about what is in decline. What is in decline is the download of low-quality MP3 files,” he says. “I don’t think many of us will regret its passing.”

Cole also believes that along with the decline of low-quality downloads, digital music is now starting — or perhaps being forced — to become a lot more sophisticated. He says that future of music will be “higher-quality [music] files” and people are starting to look for in digital music what they once looked for in analogue: sound quality.

Yet sound isn’t the only part of vinyl’s renewed appeal. Many agree that the tangible aspect of vinyl, its physicality, is a draw for most people. “There’s a physical thing about putting a record on a record table and dropping the needle,” Cole says. “I think that physical thing is great. I think there is a new generation that is discovering the physicality of playing a piece of music like that.”

Lloyd confirms that the physically owning a record offers a connection in a way that a digital file doesn’t, comparing the digital/physical divide in music to that in the book world. “People will buy a Kindle for convenience, but people will still want to have a bookshelf [on their home],” he points out. (Interestingly, U.K. book chains have recently reported an increase in sales of paper books and a decline in e-Readers such as the Kindle or the Nook.)

Part of that appeal could come down to good old fashioned consumerism — we allow our possessions to define us. Nik Pollinger, a digital anthropologist who advises companies on the factors that motivate consumer behavior, told TIME in an email, “What we display in public is used to send social signals about our identities. Making our taste in music visible has historically played an important role in such signalling for many people.” Owning a vinyl collection, of course, “restores this ability.”

Yet while the boost to vinyl sales has been welcomed by many, there are potential problems if the market continues to grow. Josh Lachkovic, the co-founder of Wax & Stamp, a vinyl subscription club launching this year in Europe, tells TIME that if vinyl sales continue to increase, the demand on the few pressing plants out there — not to mention on those plants’ aging presses — might surpass supply.

But while vinyl sales are seeing something of a renaissance, it’s still too soon to worry about excess demand. Yes, vinyl sales are surging, but their sales still only made up six percent of album sales last year. Even so, for the beleaguered music industry, it’s nice to see a bright spot — and important to understand what’s inspiring it.

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