More on vinyl… a most popular format, again! December 10, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Vinyl sales hit £2.4m last week compared with the £2.1m made from digital music purchases, further proof that record shopping has gone mainstream.
The interest in buying a physical format of music on vinyl has experienced a resurgence in the past 12 months. This time last year, the sale of vinyl albums reached £1.2m while digital sales were £4.4m. Vinyl has also experienced eight consecutive years of growth, despite almost dying out around 2006.
And check this out:
Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, attributed the surge in part to the number of places now selling records across the UK. An increasing number of vinyl-only record shops have opened, while supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and even high street interiors shop Tiger, now stock records, making them easily accessible.
This is quite a turnaround. Naturally this is about a market, and that market being addressed, but I wonder is it also about a sense that music needs some sort of framing to it? That downloads aren’t enough in and of themselves. I’ve got to admit that finding albums by groups, even finding the names of those groups, is more difficult in a world of iTunes and iPods. There are many groups now where I’ve literally no physical artefact produced by them whatsoever. I love the music, and I guess if one wants to be purist that’s that. But it’s intriguing to me how I dislike CDs as a format, and yet – and yeah, I bought one of those albums last week, I still find something extremely attractive in the LP format.
I’m a bit staggered by all this. is this just a phase? I like this from Sean Forbes of Rough Trade West in London. He admits:
he had been surprised by the resurgence in people buying all types of music on record, although he welcomed it as a change from those who, in years past, bought certain heritage albums as a memento rather than to listen to.
“It makes a change from all the people visiting London who always come in just to buy The Clash London Calling on vinyl, which personally we think is a bit moronic,” said Forbes. “And people have always wanted to buy Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, which is also a bit depressing. People will still be buying fucking Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl when we’ve all been dead a hundred years.”
According to YouGov, the much talked-about record resurgence is driven not by a boom in millennials who want to embrace the novelty of a physical item, but by midlife nostalgia. Those who have recently purchased a vinyl album are most likely to be aged between 45 and 54, apparently. In fact, those in the 18-24 age group are the least likely. It is not just an act of hoarding by hobbyists, either – it has emotional significance: older vinyl buyers are slightly more likely to keep their feelings to themselves (56% of vinyl buyers versus 53% of all UK adults) and enjoy being alone (69% of vinyl buyers versus 66% all UK adults).
There’s a vox pop conducted in two of my favourite music shops in the world.
Glaswegian Stuart, 55, whom I follow from Sister Ray (data count: two young women, three middle-aged men) into Reckless Records (data count: eight middle-aged men, one woman, probably in her 20s) is in London for the afternoon for a meeting and is perusing the shops to fill a few hours. Is he a collector, I ask?
“I suppose I am,” he says. “I have about 3,000 or 4,000 records.”
But it’s not just reactionary dads. Oh no. Or maybe yes.
Wez, 25, who works at Sister Ray, also believes that many of the customers he encounters fit the YouGov profile. He has, however, noticed a new wave of people influenced by the media hype, people who heard about the comeback and felt compelled to buy back their old records.
“From conversations I’ve had, people have got rid of their collection, normally around 1998 or 1999. Customers who once sold their vinyl to buy CDs are now selling their CDs to buy their records back,” he says.
And the stat about how many albums are purchased to be listened to crops up again…
An ICM poll in April revealed that almost 50% of people who bought a vinyl album the previous month had yet to listen to it. The poll also found that 41% have a turntable they never use, while 7% of those who purchase vinyl don’t own a record player. (At this stage of the news report, I would probably be looking gravely concerned while flicking through a stack of bossa nova compilations.)
Still, somehow vinyl sales are creeping up. I wonder whether we’ll see prices fall to accommodate this sentiment:
Elanora, 27, has been walking around Fopp for a few minutes, looking at the variety of records on sale. She is window-shopping, rather than on a spending spree. She doesn’t earn a lot, she says, so collecting records isn’t really an option.
“It costs a lot. It’s easy to listen to music by a computer or another way, but the beauty of vinyl is …” she drifts off into a lovestruck sigh. “I don’t know how to explain – it’s really unique.”
In the first half of 2014, officially registered sales of vinyl in the US stood at around 4m, confirming an increase of more than 40% compared to the same period in 2013. In the UK, this year’s accredited sales will come in at around 1.2m, more than 50% up on last year. That may represent a tiny fraction of the industry’s estimated sales of recorded music, but still, a means of listening to music essentially invented in the 19th century and long since presumed to be dead is growing at speed, and the presses at Optimal – along with similar facilities smattered across the UK, mainland Europe, the US and beyond – are set to grind and pump on, into the future.
“Isn’t it strange?” Runge mused. “I’m an automation engineer. I never thought I’d be dealing with vinyl. It’s unexpected. But it’s also unexpectable.”
And there’s this.
During a break, I fell into conversation with three members of the congregation. Gareth Ragg, 29, from Norwich, recalled: “At school, all the cool kids had records. It was a badge of honour.”
“Vinyl is tangible,” said his friend Nicky Smiles, 29. “And it’s the medium the records we listen to were actually made in.” She had bought her first record at the age of 25: Gram Parsons’ first solo album GP, originally released in 1973, buffed up and given the 180g treatment in 2007.
“There’s a commitment there,” added 28-year-old Liam Hart. “You bought it,” he said, with an implied wonderment. “You own it.”
Will it last? Does anything? And as Harris notes, there’s a sort of inbuilt obsolescence…
If the demand for vinyl continues to increase, what will happen when the orders begin to outstrip capacity? And what of the inevitable prospect of old presses reaching the limits of reconditioning and simply dying of old age? As far as anyone knows, the last new machines were created in the early 1980s. Presses now change hands for around £20,000, double what they cost 10 years ago. But sooner or later, companies such as Optimal will surely have to start thinking about fresh machinery.
And yet… this resonates with me. Talking to a former East German who is involved in vinyl production…
We got in his company Audi A4 and drove to Berlin. Just behind the gear stick was his smartphone: he had one or two MP3s on it that had been taken from CDs, but he never bought music from iTunes, or streamed stuff on Spotify. The way that one’s listening habits are monitored and then turned into recommendations jangled his East German nerves.
“I don’t want someone else monitoring what I’m listening to,” he said. “Some time soon they will categorise your taste – what music you like, what movies you see – and say, ‘You’re dangerous!’”
He was not a fan of Facebook, or Twitter. “The internet would have been the wet dream of the Stasi,” he said.
Perhaps that’s part of it too, that the commodification has left delivery too streamlined, too much a creature of the corporations.