WEEKENDER: Rising sales put vinyl fans back in the groove
2:02pm Saturday 19th October 2013 in News
SWA ST 18/06/2013 Diverse Music on Charles Street in Newport, a large section of vinyl records on sale (1676412)
I WILL never forget the first time my children saw a vinyl record.
The look of wonderment on their faces as they watched me take it out of the sleeve, put it on the turntable, and saw the needle arm touchdown on the run-in groove.
At the time they were, as I recall, eight and five respectively, and already familiar with the compact disc and its player as a means of listening to music. Downloading music was established too, but they were too young to let loose on download sites.
Now, almost a decade later, they wander around with iPods welded to their heads, and the CD to them is an impossibly outdated concept.
And a record? It never enters their heads that this might be a pleasurable way of listening to music. Fully paid up members of the music-on-the-go generation, the idea of putting a record on the record player and having to interrupt what you are doing halfway through to turn it over - well, it just does not make sense.
But vinyl is the format that refuses to die.
Figures issued by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) this week reveal that sales of vinyls LPs have doubled this year, to 550,000.
Before we get too carried away, it is worth pointing out that this half million represents just 0.8 per cent of all LP sales in the UK. On the other hand, in 2007, vinyl LPs accounted for just 0.1 per cent of all such sales.
While a significant amount of this year's vinyl sales are down to 'marquee' acts like Daft Punk, Arctic Monkeys and David Bowie, increasing numbers of artists are putting out vinyl versions of new music, a phenomenon that, along with a well established market for vinyl reissues, is driving up the retail figures.
I'll come clean now, and say that I primarily listen to music through the medium of the CD these days, but in my indie-driven netherworld, if there is a vinyl-only release by an artist I like, I'll try my best to snap up a copy.
And on the annual and increasingly high profile Record Store Day, I always try to go to a record store and buy and piece of vinyl or two.
There is nothing better than spending a half hour or more flicking through the racks of vinyl in a record store, stopping only to enable the numbed ends of one's fingers and thumbs to recover before the next bout.
I still have several hundred vinyl LPs, and a similar number of vinyl singles, and I've only felt the need to buy CD versions of a handful of them.
Because there remains something inexplicably special about the ritual involved in playing - and in preparing to play - a vinyl record. And yes, the sound is richer, more detailed.
Also, the artwork looks better and the inner sleeve is a trove of information that can be pored over in a far more fulfilling way than that of the accompanying booklet to a CD.
I have an iPod too, and will happily listen to music on-the-go. it is merely a case, for me, of different formats for different situations.
Geoff Taylor, BPI chief executive, declared this week that records are no longer items for retromaniacs but are becoming the format of choice for increasing numbers of music fans.
I have talked about vinyl records with my kids in the years since they first encountered them, tried to explain their attraction. I have been met with the uncomprehending, slightly freaked out stare that is a sure sign of the opening of the generation gap.
But I am buoyed by the BPI's figures. It is nice to know that a fundamentally good idea does not necessarily have to have had its day purely because the onward march of technology demands it.
I have vinyl, I love vinyl, I still buy vinyl - and in the light of this week's sales figures, I think that makes me cooler than my kids.
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