BACK IN BLACK 

And every other colour under the sun now. Vinyl is back and it could well be here to stay. With Record Store Day just around the corner thousands of eager vinyl collectors will be waiting outside record shops all across U.K in the hope of bagging themselves one of the prized, rare, limited edition pressings, released exclusively for Record Store Day.

The point of the event is to get people to visit their local, independent record store, and to promote the comeback of vinyl records. With 2017 being the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, there could well be some very special and sought after releases indeed.

Some of the records rumored to be released for the event include;

Alice In Chains – What The Hell Have I/Get Born Again [2×7”] (gatefold, limited to 4000, indie-retail exclusive) 7″,

Buddy Guy – Sick With Love / She Got It Together [10”] (two brand new songs, limited to 1500, indie-retail exclusive) 10″,

Motorhead – Clean Your Clock [2LP] (Picture Disc, limited to 1500, indie-retail exclusive) LP, and Toto – Africa [12”] (Picture Disc, die cut, limited to 2500, indie-retail exclusive) 12″.

Not only does the event draw crowds of genuine collectors who want the release for themselves, but it also draws in people who want to buy the rare pressing because they know they can quickly turn a profit by selling them online.

Vinyl Records are becoming increasingly popular with sales overtaking downloads in December 2016.

2016 saw vinyl sales at their highest in 25 years. According to the Entertainment Retailers Association, in one week alone in December vinyl sales actually made £2.4m and overtook downloads which made £2.1m.

Many people think the reason download sales are declining could be due to the increase in popularity of streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora. With these services, you don’t actually own the music, rather you pay your subscription to the service and the music is then ‘rented’ to you.

Spotify offers a family package for £14.99 per month which allows up to six different user accounts. This means that between six people, you can have the service for £2.50 per month so it’s easy to see why people are moving towards services such as this. However, a lot of people still want to own their music and a hard copy of it too. This is one of the reasons that vinyl records have seen a revival over the past decade.

This isn’t the first time vinyl has made a comeback however. The first vinyl revival was largely due to teenage bedroom DJs in the 90s, who wanted to play in the top night clubs in Ibiza. They would buy their turntables and mixers and then all the latest records to use in their own mixes. This came to an end however, with the popularity of digital music on the rise. DJs were able to take their whole record collection with them without having to carry boxes of heavy vinyl around with them. Go to any night club today and you’ll most likely see a DJ using little more than a laptop and a mixer. Vinyl sets are more of a gimmick these days, played in more ‘alternative’ clubs or on ‘Old School’ nights.

What is the appeal of vinyl? 

Whether it’s a trendy youngster who is following the latest craze, a housewife who wants something to spin while she does the cleaning, or a middle aged man trying to rebuild his collection that the wife made him get rid of when we all thought vinyl was dead and buried, it seems that vinyl could be here be stay this time.

Just what is it everybody seems to love about vinyl though? Maybe it’s the ritual of browsing through the pile of records, taking it out of its sleeve and placing it on the turntable. Maybe it’s the initial sound of the needle dropping or the smell of old records. It could be the perfect imperfections in an old record that give it a sense of character.  Maybe it’s just about nostalgia for many people.

To find out more, I spoke to Connor Booth, an avid vinyl collector who has been adding to his collection for the past 7 or 8 years. He has traveled all over the country buying, selling and swapping records and audio equipment.

I then wanted to get some more opinions, so I took to social media to see just what it is about vinyl that means it won’t go away.

I asked the question, “Vinyl Collectors:- What is it about vinyl that you like so much compared to other formats?”

Some responses from Facebook included;

I then asked the same question on the ‘Metal Amino’ app. This is an app where you can interact with other users and talk about music.

A user by the name of Steven said, “To me vinyl has a raw sound to it compared to CD’s, the artwork is much bigger, the boxsets are usually filled with more goodies than most CD boxsets and you usually get a poster with the vinyl too.”

Another user by the name ‘Br00tal’ replied to this comment saying, “Don’t forget that almost all vinyl records now come with a free code for digital download too, so now you can have two formats!”

“Nostalgia, better packaging, good investment and the sound quality is superior to digital formats” said user, ‘GreyMatterSplatter’.

‘Lony’ agrees with the previous comments but adds, “I also enjoy the crackling sound my record player makes sometimes.”

‘Derek Wayne Buckner’ says, “It’s more collectable. It’s bigger. It sounds different. It can’t be pirated easily or copied. I feel like you get more of a product for the money. The artwork and stuff included is bigger and seems nicer.”

‘GreyMatterSplatter’ mentioned that vinyl is a good investment. This is actually a very good point. If you buy your music digitally, then it’s yours, but you can’t sell it. (Not legally anyway.) However if you buy vinyl records, you can usually sell them on for close to what you paid for it if it’s a new release. Of course some records also go up in value if they are limited edition. This also means that if you buy a record and you decide you don’t really like it, you can simply sell it on or swap it for a different one.

Independent Shops 

Track Records is an independent record store in Ballymena

There are quite a few independent record shops opening up across the country now. This is almost hard to believe as just a few years ago, big chain stores were closing down. In February 2013, HMV announced that they would be closing 66 stores throughout the UK. 9 of these stores were in Northern Ireland including one in Ballymena where a small independent shop is now open. This was a time where it was thought to be the death of physical media. Everything was being downloaded; not just music but also films, games and even books and magazines.

Track Records started out life when Joe Rocks was working for free in a café which also sold vintage clothes.  Some vinyl was then brought in to sell alongside the clothes and there seemed to be quite a demand for it. Joe, along with a 5-a-side friend then opened a small stall at a market on Saturdays selling vinyl. This led to the birth of Track Records which has changed location 3 times but has been in business for the past 5 years – quite an achievement for a small independent shop in a town where so many other businesses are having to close their doors.

 

I went along to Track Records, to speak with the owner, Joe Rocks about the vinyl revival and the impact Record Store Day has on small, independent record shops.

 

Owner, Joe Rocks is also a singer/songwriter

So whether it’s the big artwork and inserts, the little crackles you get from the needle, or just simply the collectability of it, it would seem that vinyl certainly has a place in our hearts and it may be here for the long run this time.

 

World Record Store day is happening on 22nd April and participating stores in Northern Ireland are; Head – Belfast, Sick Records – Belfast, Armagh Music – Armagh, Cool Discs Music – Londonderry.
But don’t forget to look in other independent stores too- you may find a great bargain or hidden gem!

For a full list of official releases check out RSD’s website here.

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