Groove armada: The stunning rebirth of vinyl

Vinyl is shedding its image as a retro novelty as a new generation discovers cover art, liners and great sound

If you grew up with vinyl and imagined that one day it would be a piece of musical history, superseded by CDs and unknown to the youth of the future, you’d have been wrong. Last week, the BPI and Official Charts Company released their end-of-year figures showing the state of the recorded-music industry. While CD albums continue to make way for digital sales and streaming (which doubled last year), sales of vinyl were positively booming.

And it’s young people who are causing its resurgence. Sales of the 66-year-old format may have been steadily rising over the past nine years, but last year saw an explosion in which vinyl sales doubled what they were in 2012. The 780,000 LPs shifted in 2013 meant that sales were the greatest since 1997. “The LP is back in the groove,” stated BPI’s chief executive Geoff Taylor. “We’re witnessing a renaissance for records – they’re no longer retro-mania.”

A week doesn’t seem to go by without another band or pop artist releasing a special limited-edition vinyl. This week it was Jack White’s Third Man Records that announced the release of a collection of singles from The White Stripes’ fourth album, Elephant, as a vinyl box-set. In a further pointer of how fashionable the format is, in November Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke released a single on the first 3D-printed vinyl in a promotional project with rum brand Bacardi.

Vinyl is, without a doubt, trendy again. Far from being the preserve of heritage acts’ catalogue reissues, it belongs equally to a younger generation of artists. And you only have to look at the Top 10 of vinyl sold in 2013 for confirmation that a wide age range of music fans are buying it. Alongside Arctic Monkeys’ AM, the most bought LP of last year, are records from David Bowie, Daft Punk, Boards of Canada and Vampire Weekend. And if you look at the Top 40 vinyl bought last year, you’ll find a raft of hip young acts including Savages, Jake Bugg, Alt J, Foals, Kings of Leon, Bastille, Disclosure, Haim and James Blake.

Part of vinyl’s renewed success is thanks to Record Store Day, an annual event in April since 2008, which last year saw the remaining 300 UK independent record stores take £2m in one day – for vinyl sales alone. But above anything, it’s the popularity of vinyl among younger music fans.

“A new generation is discovering the magic of 12-inch artwork, liner notes and the unique sound of analogue records,” says Kim Bayley, director of the Entertainment Retail Association, pointing to a survey in April showing under-35s discovering and buying vinyl. The most responsible for the rise in sales are in fact 18- to 24-year-olds – the generation that has grown up with CDs and online downloads. In that age group, 14 per cent had bought vinyl in the last month compared to nine per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds and five per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds.

It’s a trend that’s been welcomed by the UK’s biggest independent record shop, Rough Trade, where vinyl sales are up 45 per cent, year-on-year. “It is a staggering amount when you consider we have always sold significant quantities of new vinyl,” says Stephen Godfrey, the store’s co-owner. “We’re seeing younger generations being the most format-savvy, streaming music on their phones whilst on the commute, but playing a record when they’re back at home. That’s not to say the over-25s don’t buy vinyl, they most certainly do, but the growth in sales is the younger generations adopting vinyl as a post-digital  behavioural response.”

The draws of vinyl are obvious: a fuller, more raw and warmer sound compared to the inferior compressed quality of MP3s; the tangible nature of the physical product as a collector’s piece, with its sleeve and cover art, in opposition to an impersonal click on the computer. But some may be disheartened to learn that it’s not always the musical qualities for which many young fans are buying vinyl, but vinyl’s artistic value. Fans buying the vinyl are not necessarily listening to it, since 27 per cent of them don’t even own a turntable. Since most vinyl releases also come with a code to download the album digitally, there is the option to collect and admire them as artworks, showing commitment to supporting music and connecting more closely with an artist’s work, while listening to the music digitally.

But for many more, listening to the vinyl and digital download gives the best of both worlds. Sales of turntables, in particular the USB turntable – which enables the fan to record the vinyl capturing its sound quality for digital listening – have been on the rise. Rough Trade alone sold hundreds this past year, and the surge of vinyl sales has prompted them to work towards introducing a new turntable in the near future.

That vinyl is appreciated for its artistic value is demonstrated by the existence of the Best Art Vinyl Award. White Lies’ LP Big TV – which features an oil painting by Michael Kagan on its cover – was last week announced as its winner, and is currently being showcased alongside 49 shortlisted others at Malmaison Hotels until the end of January. The award has been going for nine years – as long as our current vinyl resurgence. But with younger generations catching on, even the sales of 2013 are unlikely to be the peak.

All In a spin: 10 years of No 1 on vinyl

2004: Tiesto – Just Be

2005: Oasis –  Don’t Believe the Truth

2006: Arctic Monkeys –  Whatever People Say I Am,  That’s What I’m Not

2007: The Coral – Roots and Echoes

2008: Bon Iver –  For Emma, Forever Ago

2009: Bon Iver –  For Emma, Forever Ago

2010: Jimi Hendrix –  Valleys of Neptune

2011: Radiohead –  The King of Limbs

2012: The xx – Coexist

2013: Arctic Monkeys – AM

Courtesy of the Official Charts Company

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England