The Vinyl Revival

by Rachael Morris

Saturday 18th April marked the eighth annual Record Store Day across the world. A number of records were pressed exclusively and distributed to stores participating in the event in order to celebrate independent music retailers and recording artists.

The event coincided with the launch of the Official Vinyl Charts as vinyl only albums and singles charts were reintroduced to Britain on April 13th. Olivia Moss, a spokesperson for the Official Charts Company said: “The interesting thing about the Official Vinyl Charts is that the Top 10s are often wildly different to the Top 10s on the Official Singles Chart and Official Albums Chart, so it’s great to see a different cross section of popular music, as well as some of the smaller indie acts and labels making their mark.”

But who is buying vinyl in 2015? The two main groups which appear to be behind the surge in vinyl sales are older generations, driven by nostalgia, and a new generation, filling an emptiness created by digital music.

Megan Page, a spokeswoman from Record Store Day, said: “People tend to prefer the vinyl format because they enjoy the warm sound and the tangibility of something collectible with artwork and lyrics – something that digital services simply cannot offer.”

What aficionados often describe as the “warmth” of vinyl records is often actually the predominance of middle range frequencies. In vinyl’s heyday, records strived to maintain dynamics. Now, however, tracks are increasingly compressed to prevent quiet sections becoming drowned out in loud environments. Unfortunately new vinyl releases, and re-mastered reissues, undergo the same modern mastering techniques; so unless you seek out the originals you will forego this benefit.

Vinyl is associated with a period of time when music was like an exclusive club. Some people consider vinyl a way of showing they are serious about music and a method of pricing out casual fans, resenting the accessibility of music in the modern age. However, many younger generations are favouring vinyl as a way to fill the void of virtual music libraries. Elements such as album covers, sleeve art and the sizable physicality of vinyl not only give the consumer value for money but also a sense of ownership.

In 2007, vinyl album sales amounted to 205,000, a mere 0.1% of all UK album sales. It appeared that vinyl would soon be rendered obsolete by more modern music formats. Yet in 2014 sales hit their highest in eighteen years at 1.29 million. Although some people argue that this only represents a fraction of the album sales market, a spokesperson for RSD said: “In 2015 in Q1 alone, sales of vinyl are already up 74% on the previous year. As the format is becoming more and more popular it really does not show any signs of abating.”

While other formats have become outdated almost instantly as a new format supersedes it, the cover art, sleeve notes and physical size of LP and EPs seems to have prevented vinyl from falling in to a forgotten box in the attic with hundreds of cassettes… just yet.