Hang the Dj- is vinyl back in fashion?

After 5 years of steady decline new figures reveal that the independent record store is on the rise again and could soon be as prominent in the music industry as it once was in the late 80’s. Despite there now being fewer than 300 stores in existence profits are the highest they’ve been since the decline began in the early 2000’s. Experts call it “The Vinyl Revolution”.

“Vinyl is not dead- it just needs a new turntable.”- John Peel

Until recently, Vinyl was the floppy disk of the music industry: out dated, unwanted, dirt cheap and something your Granny reminisced about. So why now, in the age of iPod’s holding up to 40,000 songs is everyone going mad for some shiny 12inch black plastic disks? Vinyl sales have taken a massive 40% leap in the last year alone, so what is causing this new found appeal in Vinyl?

Kevin Buckle, owner of Avalanche record shop in Edinburgh shares his theory: “Vinyl has a certain warmth to it, MP3’s have an overall sound but with vinyl you can hear every individual instrument. You can hear the effort, the compassion, and the way it’s been delicately put together. Listeners are beginning to appreciate the way music used to be, you could hear the subtle ring of a guitar, the moment the drumstick hits a cymbal. We all knew it’d come back eventually.”

It seems that perhaps in this case, MP3 was merely a fad, a promise that didn’t deliver. We were promised the best in technology, but the sound quality is nothing akin to an actual tangible record. Records are that reliable friend you can always trust to swoop in to the rescue. Thanks to this “vinyl revolution” record stores have realised they have to offer more to customers than just the latest in underground music in order to survive. Stores are now offering exclusive gigs, album artwork, posters and even some, including Rough Trade London and Glasgow’s Monorail Records, are now doubling as coffee shops and as figures have shown, achieving great results. Customers are buying records from these shops in the knowledge that not only will they receive a great cup of coffee and the best in new music but that the old guy sporting an ’83 Sonic Youth t-shirt can tell them a lot more about the music they’re buying than the spotty teenage lad in HMV who knows little more than the words to the bonus track on the newest One Direction album.

The staff and customers in these record stores have come together like a community, shopping for vinyl in the hope of keeping the industry alive. Not only this but with bands such as Radiohead offering their latest albums on vinyl release and artists like Billy Bragg really pushing the independent record store, owners have high hopes for their industry. Their efforts seem to be paying off.

“I think it started with a few bands you know? A lot of little indie bands started releasing on vinyl because that’s what they felt was the best output for their music. Downloads got big and they didn’t like it- it was undoing everything that punk music tried to save.” States Tracyanne Campbell of Glasgow twee band Camera Obscura after an acoustic performance in Glasgow’s most popular independent record store Monorail. “So indie tried to save it instead. When one band finds something works for them the rest quickly follow. If it reaches the intended audience it must be working, people enjoy the act of buying a record, flicking through the stacks, finding that one record missing from your collection. People are even buying vinyl purely for the artwork. You just don’t get the same tangibility from a download.”

The introduction of World Record Store day has also helped revolutionise the music industry, reviving not only vinyl but cassettes, with Rough Trade records stocking compilation tapes put together by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. Music giants such as Radiohead, Springsteen and Tom Waits even contributed with special records being released specifically for the now massive worldwide event. Organiser Spencer Hickman describes the event as “a way for us to spread the message. Vinyl and the whole independent music vibe are both coming back, stronger than ever and it’s shops like ours [Rough Trade Records] that are going to help it along the way.”

Experts are also now claiming the internet has helped with the massive 70,000 unit increase in vinyl sales in the past year. After years of being dubbed “music’s worst enemy” the role has now been reversed. With the help of places like eBay and more specialised sites it has become easier than ever to find that special edition first pressing of the Clash’s iconic London Calling to add to your collection.

Even politicians are getting involved in the vinyl revolution. The campaign led, by Chancellor George Obsourne, to introduce a new law stopping overseas record labels from avoiding VAT on CD releases has also contributed to the massive increase in sales across independent music stores. As a result of this campaign these stores are being offered better deals by independent labels such as Beggars Group (home to artists such as Thom Yorke and Jarvis Cocker) making it more appealing for the music fan who is dedicated to the album rather than pop music sales which are completely driven by the single available from their local supermarket. Labels like these are also even offering digital downloads with your vinyl purchase to ensure that not only can you listen to your records at home but those who cannot bring themselves to part with their iPods have the choice to enjoy both methods of distribution.

Not only is buying records now cool but as long as figures continue in their current trend it looks like vinyl is set to become not only the future but the saviour of the music industry. Image

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