Vinyl sales have reached their highest point in 25 years, following a year of record-breaking sales and interest for the analogue format. The first half of 2017 has already seen sales rise an impressive 37.6% to total £37.3m, and the music industry’s trade body predict more than a million vinyl records will be sold during the run-up to Christmas.
It’s believed that vinyl will reach over four million sales for 2017 alone, and while many will attribute this to older generations of music fans, the evidence shows that it’s millennials who are bucking the trend. According to research, a quarter of vinyl buyers are now under 35. So, why do we see such a resurgence of vinyl releases old and new?
Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike is an author, esteemed pop culture historian and BIMM London’s Journalism course leader. She has written extensively about fandom in music, including Joy Devotion: The Importance of Ian Curtis and Fan Culture, but her latest book, Why Vinyl Matters, explores our love of records and the format’s enduring appeal.
The author recently sat down with BIMM London College Principal and Future of the Left bassist, Julia Ruzicka, and The Specials’ Terry Hall at Rough Trade East to promote her new book, and to shed some light on why vinyl is taking the industry by storm… again. She spoke of how vinyl sleeves portray identity and the nostalgic element.
Jennifer, who interviewed a host of big-name musicians for the book – including Norman Cook, Lars Ulrich and Tim Burgess, said: “I have made almost every decision based on music and identity, and I don’t think you can have that identity from a hard-drive. That idea only comes from looking at a record cover and that relationship you have with putting the actual vinyl record onto a record player.”
Julia added: “It’s about having this tangible thing as well. We were talking about when we were kids we would work these little jobs to save money, and you go down to the store to buy the record, and you read every credit, every lyric, you really scrutinise what you’ve got… there’s a sense that a lot of people have missed that.”
The rising popularity of vinyl across the UK has seen Rough Trade open its fourth UK store (December 11) in the revered music city of Bristol on Nelson Street – just a stone’s throw from BIMM. Asked by Music Week whether vinyl has been key to the chain’s expansion, Rough Trade’s Nigel House said:
“Yes, that has certainly helped. Particularly in America, it’s something like 75% vinyl by value. Regarding units, it’s about half and half. It’s really important. We’ve got a nice range of turntables and speakers. We’re expecting to sell lots of those over Christmas.”
But interestingly, it’s the UK’s appetite for vinyl that has led US e-tailer and premium subscription service, Vinyl Me, Please, to launch in the UK in spring 2017. Also speaking to Music Week, the company’s Head of Marketing Matt Hessler, said: “We continue to look at the appetite for vinyl in the UK and, on a per capita consumption basis, it’s much stronger than the US and growing.”
As Jennifer’s book highlights, our love affair with vinyl shows no sign of ending. Our desire to own music in its physical form is on the increase and continues to challenge the status quo set by digital streaming services. With sales due to hit record figures in 2018 and vinyl on nearly every music fan’s Christmas list, this is surely just the beginning of a revolution for fans, artists and labels.
Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike’s Why Vinyl Matters is out now, check out our recent news story for more information.