What goes around comes around: the resurgence of vinyl


 In this fast paced, tech-mad world with its grab ‘n go culture, it is fair to say the vinyl comeback has come as something of a surprise to many.

Since before the turn of the century even, our lives have become increasingly dominated by technology and, ultimately, obtaining what we desire the most in the fastest possible time.

We are talking products here, not humans, although there are much speedier ways of doing that these days too, but we digress.

The consumption of music has changed beyond all recognition in the past twenty years, as streaming and downloading has become de rigueur.

No longer do we have to leave the comfort of our sofas or duvets to get hold of the music we love.

For some years now, it has been right there for us to enjoy that very moment, just a couple of clicks away.

Early streaming services (no names mentioned) even offered up their wares for free, whipping up a giant storm within the music industry as writers and artists, understandably, demanded such sites pay up or shut down.

Now, for the most part, we pay for the downloads we consume, but with vinyl becoming increasing popular once again, are some of us missing the physicality of owning a track?

Do we still crave the experience of going to a record store, poring over boxes of enticing labels and album artwork, maybe even giving the track a whirl in the shop, before carefully transporting our precious cargo home?

There are fewer joys greater than slipping the disc from its sleeve (go on, give it a sniff), sliding it onto your turntable and then taking a moment to gently lower the needle down onto that shiny, spinning surface.

For some, the whole vinyl experience from store to first play, is just that - an experience to be savoured.

Perhaps it is a means of unconsciously kicking back against the virtual world, where we are relentlessly bombarded with messages to digest and products to consume, yet we never get to fully engage with on a personal level and at our own pace.

Record buying has always been something of an event…something so personal, yet so wonderful to share with others.

Something to hold in your hand, to admire and to look after, because you really do have to take care of records, such is their fragility.

OK, we may be getting a little carried away here, but you get the picture.

Phonograph records, to give them their correct title, have been around since the late 19th century, although made from different materials back then.

Today the term “vinyl” is a shortening of polyvinyl chloride, the substance these flat, round discs of beauty have been cut from since the 1950s.

The popularity of buying music on vinyl lasted many decades in the mainstream and record sales even surpassed those of newer formats such as the cassette tape in the Eighties.

Later that decade, though, along came a format much sturdier and more convenient, as you could flick forwards and backwards to, or even through, your favourite tracks.

Yup, the compact disc had landed and so began the steady decline of record sales through the latter part of the 20th century, pretty much putting an end to mainstream consumption of vinyl and forcing the closure of many pressing facilities around the world.

But, of course, vinyl never really went away.

While the vast majority of us happily embraced the CD and some even gave the mini-disc a bash (remember those?!), purists in the clubs were clinging onto their 12 inches for dear life.

Thanks to club DJs, particularly in the world of dance music, vinyl was kept very much alive and kicking, albeit in a more underground manner.

That said though, thanks to further advances in technology, many DJs now prefer to leave their weighty record bags at home in favour of a laptop.

Have you ever picked up a flight case full of 12 inch singles? Seriously. Have your chiropractor on standby.

But somehow, despite all of this, vinyl has stuck its middle finger up to the modern world and is standing defiant.

Since 2007, record sales have suddenly started to noticeably grow once again.

The increase was small at first, but now there is something of a boom occurring.

By 2014, more than one million vinyl albums had been sold in the UK alone and, by last year, that figure had more than quadrupled.

Granted when it comes to market share, vinyl purchases still only make up a small percentage compared to downloads, but its comeback is unquestionable.

As far as we can tell, nostalgia seems to have played a major role in the resurgence, but what is in it for the younger generation? Are millennials buying into it too?

The reappearance of vinyl in many major high street stores, and indeed the reappearance of shops like HMV, suggests they most certainly are.

Let’s face it, nothing screams cool like your album of choice spinning gently on a turntable in the corner of the lounge, its magnificent sleeve casually leaning against the wall and that unmistakeable crackle only vinyl can deliver.


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Andrew Flett