Back in Black: The Vinyl Revolution?

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You cannot stop the progress of time. Trends change, technology advances, life carries on regardless. Music downloads are already on the downhill leg of their short lifespan thanks to the rise of music streaming services such as Spotify providing the masses with free access to a world of music at the touch of a button. But history has a peculiar way of repeating itself. There, lurking in the shadows, the vinyl LP record. You’ve no doubt seen them a lot more in recent years, the other day I counted at least 7 different places in my local town where you could by both second hand records and new pressing and reissues. Vinyl sales have reached an 18 year high with over one million units sold.

Let’s put things in perspective a bit, a million sales isn’t really a lot. Record sales of all bands, artists and genres in the UK in the past twenty years are about a quarter of the sales of the Frozen soundtrack in the US alone. The best selling LP was Jack White’s ‘Lazaretto’ at around 40000 copies, the fastest selling was Pink Floyd’s ‘The Endless River’ at about 6000 copies in it’s first week. Not a lot. Vinyl may be the underdog and make up only a few percent of music sales, but worldwide Vinyl LPs were the only form of music to have a sale increase in the past year; and over a 50% increase at that!

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So what’s the cause? Is it the sound? Well that depends on the album. Vinyl sound isn’t as ‘polished’ as digital tracks, it shows all the little imperfections in the music which could either be a stroke of genius or a very bad move depending on the skill of the both the artist and the team that mixed and edited it. Is it the ‘Retro’ appeal? Well at around £20 each for a new pressing there are certainly cheaper ways for the older generation to relive the glory days or for the younger generation to show off how trendy and vintage they are. So, is it just a money making scheme by struggling record companies? In many cases I’d say yes. At around £30, it’s no wonder that ‘The Endless River’ got only 6000 purchases in it’s first week. But in the last couple of years the price of new vinyl pressings has been steadily decreasing towards the levels of new, charting CDs and downloads, and free download codes are becoming more of a standard which increases your value for money.

Personally I see it as something for music lovers. We live in a time of quick-fire singles. Flash in the pan radio hits made for solely money making purposes. LPs are music as an art form. A warmer sound, a physical copy to cherish and to analyse the finer details of the cover art, like those of great designers such as Roger Dean and Storm Thorgerson. If you search through all the new vinyl albums you would generally see good quality music as they are from bands and artists that are about making music and are in the pursuit of making good albums. If you love someone’s music enough then surely it’s worth the extra money to own a physical copy. There’s a local record fair at the end of the month, needless to say I’ll be there.

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