Gen Z urged to come clean about its vinyl fetish

Woman holding vinyl record with wood paneling in background
(Image credit: Shutterstock / AboutLife)

Okay, Gen Z, you’ve discovered vinyl records, find them cool, and maybe even bought one of the best turntables to play them on. But how much do you know about the proper handling and cleaning of your precious vinyl stash?

If the answer to that question is “I didn’t know I had to clean it,” here’s some news that will help set the record straight. 

Spin-Clean, manufacturer of the long-running Spin-Clean record cleaning system, has announced a consumer outreach program to teach vinyl newbies about proper vinyl LP maintenance. According to the company, the program’s launch coincides with the first major upgrade to the Spin-Clean system in 50 years, and will include “digital and print ads; pop-up banners on vinyl user forums and record collector sites; and social media that specifically targets young vinyl enthusiasts.” There is also a white paper with info on vinyl care and playback basics.

The inspiration for the consumer outreach program apparently stems from recent research conducted by US-based MusicWatch, with a press release issued by Spin-Clean to announce its updated system citing the following statistics:

  • 18 million consumers purchased vinyl in 2021, a 27% boost over the previous year
  • 46% of these were between 18 and 34 years of age
  • 43% of respondents to the MusicWatch survey said “they want to preserve or keep [records] in pristine condition for their collections”

This is all obviously music to the ears of a record cleaning system manufacturer, which may have been at one time worried about its primary market – boomers – aging out, and a lack of new customers for its products as the best music streaming services started to overtake physical media.

But a vinyl revival has been a real and ongoing thing over the past few years, with record sales experiencing record-breaking year-over-year increases in 2020 and 2021 – the height of the pandemic. That meteoric rise stalled out in 2022, however, when sales rose a mere 4.2% according to the U.S. 2022 Luminate Year-End Music Report, with a good chunk of it driven by the release of Taylor Swift’s Midnights.

So, what’s new about this upgraded Spin-Clean system that the company is targeting at the next generation of LP collectors?

Along with simple snap-in rollers for 7-, 10-, and 12-inch records, it has a new streamlined basin design that’s easier to clean, a higher-precision brush alignment, and improved stability from new self-adhesive rubber feet. The company says these changes should make the record cleaning process more approachable for newbies, and they apparently won’t come at an increased cost since the new Spin-Clean will sell at the same $79 / £79 / approximately AU$120 price as its predecessor.

Yellow Spin-Clean record cleaning system with acccessories on white background

(Image credit: Spin-Clean)

Analysis: The vinyl revival keeps on spinning 

If the growing number of record stores in my hometown is any indication, vinyl continues to be very much a viable medium. There are regular events like Record Store Day that drive consumer demand and interest, and major artists like Taylor Swift continue to max out the capacity of existing record-pressing plants in the US with their new releases.

For many newcomers to collecting, playback apparently isn’t an issue – that same Luminate 2022 year-end report cited that 50% of consumers who had bought vinyl over the previous 12 months don’t even own a record player. Reading into that data, some people are buying vinyl LPs simply to own a physical token that gets them closer to their favorite artists. Streaming may be convenient, but it’s clearly not enough of an experience for serious music fans.

As someone who owns a record cleaning machine and uses it to scrub the LPs that I pick up from garage sales, record fairs, and on occasion those local record stores, I can vouch for the sound quality improvements proper record cleaning brings. At $79, the Spin-Clean system counts among the more affordable options on the market, and with a 50-year history, it’s obviously one that has plenty of satisfied users.

New vinyl records can be expensive (and sometimes not exactly what you expect in the case of reissues of older titles). Gen Z, Millennial, Boomer, whomever, if you are actually playing LPs on a turntable, you will benefit from giving them a semi-regular cleaning. Spin-Clean is on the right track with its outreach program, so let's hope it locks in groove with its target market.

Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.