Saturday 16th April 2016: Record Store Day. A day of exclusive releases and events for independent vinyl record shops in the UK. In its 9th year now, over 230 stores took part, and it is believed that over 10,000 members of the public visited their local stores and joined the celebrations.
Hundreds of limited edition records were sold, from up-and-coming indie artists, to reissues of David Bowie classics. As a musical format which was facing its end less than a decade ago, where has this resurgence of appreciation come from? The revival of records is unusual when we consider other trends in how music is bought and enjoyed. It is a digital age. Streaming music is now part of how the UK Charts are judged, and services such as Spotify are increasing in membership.
Music remains easy to download legally and illegally online, although declining in popularity due to the growth in streaming. CD sales are decreasing at a slow rate. Yet, there are a number of reasons which may have caused this trend. Due to its higher sound quality, an appreciation for this musical format is being driven. It has been known for a long time that, despite the introduction of tape, CD and digital formats in its lifetime, the vinyl record still allows a song to be heard in its cleanest, sharpest form.
With the growing public persona of promoting the format, particularly through the work of RSD and such like, there seems to have been an upsurge in a culture of collecting too. There is a greater prevalence of exclusive issues on vinyl, and many famous acts choosing to reissue their work in the older format. Music fanatics are being encouraged to collect a wider range of products from their favourite artists. The vinyl record might be getting its boom in sales from its popularity among a new generation too: young adults. As newer artists are taking the opportunity to charge the higher amount for a quality vinyl copy of their albums, the younger generation is gravitating towards the uniqueness and perceived ‘coolness’ of being a record owner.
In consequence, the access to music on the vinyl format is growing. Christmas 2015 for HMV saw a turntable being sold “every minute”. The Official UK Charts now have a separate list for the top selling records each week. Since the start of 2016, even supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have started to stock records again.
Events such as Record Store Day are growing each year, and it will be interesting to see what the celebrations for its 10th anniversary will entail. The record has had a tumultuous history. It is unclear what the future holds for the vinyl record as a musical format, but its current success means it will not be lost in the near future.
Leah Bradford-Thom will be the Deputy Culture Editor for 2016/17, and is a fond owner of over 200 vinyl records.