By Lynda-Louise Tomlinson
“Kids today don’t know that much about Vinyl” states Martin Gore of Depeche Mode. But the joke is on the older folk as it’s the kids that are bringing back the Vinyl and losing interest in the remastered, high quality MP3s or CDs of today. A cassette isn’t vintage enough, it’s the 78’s that are being found scattered across the living room floors of the younger, hip generation. Record shops are in increasing business and charity shops are in high demand for any vinyl you can donate. In the late 1980’s, the compact disc (CD) caused a gradual decline in the sale of vinyl records, so why, in 2014 was it reported that over a million Vinyl records had been sold in the UK, a level not reached for nearly ten years? What is it about the old scratchy 78’s that everyone strives to possess? Record Store Day takes place globally on the third Saturday of April each year. Conceived by record store employee Chris Brown, Record Store Day was founded to celebrate the art of music, with special record releases and celebrity signings however, as I have to leave my desk to turn over my copy of George Harrison’s Thirty Three & 1/3 half way through the album, I wonder if Vinyl records are really convenient in this modern, busy world? I enjoy the nostalgia that it brings, taking you back to the days of Elvis and The Beatles but if you really want to build a record collection of your own you must be prepared to delve through many discount bins, charity shops, record stores and online auction sites. Dig Vinyl, the little basement record store of Bold Street believe that “The iconic LPs will sell all day long in any shop, but we have seen that teenagers are getting into these classics too. Seeing that younger people have made good use of the accessibility of music is encouraging. Putting albums like ‘Hunky Dory’ in the same bag as ‘AM’ represents the direction record shops are now heading towards!”
For me, the artists most suited to the warmth of the needle and the novelty of the scratchy sound, unique to each and every record, are the likes of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald. Do true vinyl audiophiles really want to hear modern artists such as Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk coming from their turntable? “It’s cool that current artists are releasing their music on the vinyl format. At the end of the day, records are modern and shouldn’t be seen as retrospective either. The vinyl culture has always updated itself and will continue to do so (we hope!).” With a 23% surge in record sales, the UK’s first Vinyl Singles chart has been launched this year by the Official Charts company, presenting a weekly rundown that excludes any contemporary formats such as CD or download and concentrates on the sales of 7″ and 12″ singles. In the first official vinyl singles chart, Underworld vs Heller & Farley’s track Baby Wants to Ride takes the number one slot with Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds being the biggest selling vinyl album of 2015 so far. But can we call it a revolution?
Professor Mike Brocken of Liverpool Hope University doesn’t believe it to be a revolution, “Rather than suggesting that a revolution has occurred whereby new things will happen as a consequence – a kind of avant garde – it is more to do with purchasing a format which was previously regarded as detritus by the business and claiming authenticity from it – a kind of avant garde – which is very de-revolutionary and to be applauded!” and believes “in practical terms it also has something to do with interior design rather than music; people like to dress their rooms with vinyl, therefore it has little or nothing to do with the sound as such.” Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company, speaking to Manchester Evening News, admits “I’m sure it will hit a ceiling eventually, though. Vinyl remains a niche format, accounting for between 1% and 2% of the total albums market. I don’t see it becoming a mass market format again, as it once was.”
But what do the record stores think? Dig Vinyl say “Things come in waves and bursts but vinyl as a ‘culture’ has been consistent.
“Music has changed so much over the years, technology changed and accessibility became infinite, which saw worrying drops in vinyl chart sales. The music industry had to adapt and now we are beginning to see that different music formats can co-exist.” So maybe it’s not a revolution, maybe it’s a phase or a fashion item that, like everything else will be forgotten about in a year or so, only to come back in another twenty years time and continue the vicious circle of life.