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Vinyl records: timeless format or just a fad?

vinyl record

Last week, the amount of money spent on vinyl music in the UK overtook digital downloads for the first time. Records are now firmly in the mainstream, but are they back for good, or is this just a stay of execution?

Ten years ago, the only people buying LPs were a few musty record collectors and the occasional aspiring DJ, but the £2.4m spent on vinyl in the UK last week proves that things have changed.

In a turn of events few, if anyone, would have predicted back then, that figure outstripped the £2.1m spent on digital downloads in the same period.

In an industry that often obsesses over the ‘next big thing’, it seems almost absurd that 15 years after the launch of the iTunes store, we find ourselves returning to a format that’s been around since just after the Second World War.

So why has this happened? Is there something about the LP that makes it truly immortal?

New ways to consume

The latest sales figures do make a good story, but don’t be fooled – vinyl is still nowhere near the most widespread way of listening to music.

According to the British Phonographic Industry, in early 2016, LPs represented less than 2% of overall music consumption.

So if people aren’t really listening to vinyl much, and they’re not downloading music either, what are they doing?

The answer is streaming of course – the UK streamed 26.6 billion songs on services such as Spotify and Google Play in 2015, and the figures from 2016 will no doubt be even higher.

If you include the numbers from free video streaming on sites such as YouTube, it’s over 50 billion plays.

Why vinyl?

In my opinion, this is the real reason that vinyl sales have overtaken digital downloads.

Through streaming, we’re spending more time listening to music we don’t own and can be pickier with what we spend our money on. If we really like a song, we’ll buy it. However, we like owning physical objects such as vinyl – we feel more attached to them, more emotionally invested than we do with something we can’t see.

Why would I buy an MP3 when I can have something lovely and tangible like a record?

We’re also willing to spend more on each individual record because it’s a more occasional and sentimental purchase.

Do you own vinyl? Have you rekindled your passion for it after its recent resurgence, or has your love for the LP never wavered? Maybe you went digital and never looked back, and now you’re waiting for this fad to blow over?

Comments
Member

We have a huge vinyl collection, although mostly music prior to the 20th C. I’ve digitised it all, a very long drawn out process, and managed to get most of it approaching the quality of an AAC copy. But now it all sits in a cupboard – or two – and we listen to music on our server or iPods.

Member
Vynor Hill says:
12 December 2016

I think I’ve written this before, so, very briefly, I like CDs to have and to hold and put on. Streaming leaves nothing in the hand and everything at the mercy of clouds and computers which will eventually fail. Back ups then have to be found and that’s hard work. Besides, I have a good music system which is not connected to any other media and doesn’t need replacing. Vinyl? I thought the silent background and good (if not quite the best) sound reproduction meant that Vinyl had had its day. I can still remember records getting thinner and warping, off centre pressings with real vibrato on every note and a constant battle with dust, static and blunt needles. Perhaps the new vinyl has improved, but for me? No thank you.

Member

I pensioned off my turntable and fairly modest collection of LPs when I moved home, mainly because the turntable and record cabinet would have to be in front of one of the radiators in my lounge, which did not seem like a good idea.

After listening to LPs many times I sometimes get up at the right time to turn over the record – and then realise I’m listening to a CD.

Member

I know, I’ve listened to some albums so much (Sgt Pepper’s one of them) I still think, “this is where I would turn the record over” when I listen to a CD, but I’ve stopped short of getting up… so far.

I prefer vinyls because there aren’t any pointless, so-called “bonus” tracks added at the end of the record where I would expect silence after musical bliss. A record is like a painting or a scupture or a film, when it’s finished, it’s finished. I hate having to rush to the hi-fi after the cathartic Day In The Life to that I don’t hear the utterly inappropriate piece of nonsense added after it by some musical vandal somewhere. You can tell I feel strongly about this :0). See another convo on how they are vandalising Buffy.

Member

Not only have I pensioned off my turntable but I still have not set up my HiFi separates since moving home earlier this year. I’m using a micro-‘Hi-Fi’ bought as an alternative to a soundbar for the flat-screen TV. My old Philips CD player, which must be nearly 30 years old , has a ‘favourite track selection’ that can be used to omit selected tracks. I don’t know if this is now a common feature but it is a very effective way of dealing with unwanted tracks.

Member

You certainly knew your CD players Wavechange buying a Philips 30 years ago , it was good in its day , some of those old models are now prized by aficionados and command “big bucks ” .

Member

Sophie you have all the attributes of a “top end ” hi-fi enthsusiast.

Member

Its taken a long time for Which to bring this up probably because it hadnt reached a set business level at which bigger entities get interested and want to profiteer from the demand . This started long ago and anybody.like myself who inhabits hi-fi mags that comment and display top-end equipment will have known this at least a decade ago. Decks can cost from several £100,s up to and exceeding £100,000 , arms in the 10,s of £1000,s , power amps ,particularly- valve (tube ) amps using early 30,s enormous triodes costing mind boggling sums . I have spent a lifetime evolved in this hobby from buying old mechanical 30,s 40,s decks with heavy bakelite arms one of which I am holding right now as I type – G.Marconi moving coil -with MADE in ENGLAND , remember that name ? (NOT -made in the land of Built to a Price)– with a steel needle . I progressed up to designing power amps from original designs in Wireless World/Electronic World , making my own versions . I have an extensive collection of 50,s ORIGINAL Rock,n, Roll LP,s and going onto the 70,s . Vynor is quite right , to save money BB reduced the thickness of LP,s causing warping and other audio problems . Now I have in addition a very expensive British made designed-manufactured CD tray only player ( no DAC) with separate power supply + the latest BRITISH -made- manufactured-designed DAC convertor costing “silly money ” + own build mono/dual small signal amplifier-mono/ dual power supply- ( stop’s overhearing via the power supply ) and Japanese Stax electrostatic ear speakers with electrostatic power amp also costing “a lot ” BUT I have now made all my CD,s into files on my PC which has a £200 audio card with 0.001% thd using very high quality audio chips and a good LInux audio programme that converted them into WAV -yes I know it takes up nearly 11Gbits . outputted to an original BRITISH ARCAM power amp but Sony APM speakers . Anybody needing help with hi-fi I can help you. PS Daniel- any relation to the owners of LINN (Scotland ) or know them ? or Alvin Gold ?