It's black and back: the vinyl single spins back into favour

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The Independent Culture

You may have thought the seven-inch single was a relic of a bygone age, a heavy slice of black plastic to give voice to the cute Dansette record player or the pub jukebox you salvaged from a vintage furniture shop.

You may have thought the seven-inch single was a relic of a bygone age, a heavy slice of black plastic to give voice to the cute Dansette record player or the pub jukebox you salvaged from a vintage furniture shop.

But an extraordinary set of figures from the British Phonographic Industry show the vinyl single is staging a comeback. Sales of seven-inch platters have shot up by more than 57 per cent in the past year and record companies are repackaging the format to a new generation of rock fans.

At the vanguard of the revival are bands such as Franz Ferdinand, the Strokes and Snow Patrol. Graham Coxon, guitarist with Blur, released his single "Freakin' Out" solely on vinyl.

Seven-inch single sales rose by 48 per cent last quarter to a value of £204,000, their highest level for five years. Music industry experts attributed the trend to clever marketing by record companies and vinyl's credibility among fans of bands heavily influenced by the music of the Sixties and Seventies.

Gennaro Castaldo, spokes-man for HMV Stores, said: "The White Stripes and the Strokes make it plain they are highly influenced by the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones. It conveys legitimacy not only on the bands that went before but on the older formats." He said there were two groups of vinyl record buyers. "They appeal to the older '50-quid blokes' who have an emotional attachment to vinyl. Younger rock fans regard it as cool and slightly counter culture."

Because of the drop in demand for vinyl, EMI closed its east London pressing plant. It has since reopened. The Beggars Banquet record label has set up a subsidiary label called Rex, which releases only vinyl.

Other independent labels, including Rough Trade records, have been quick to see the new appeal of seven-inch vinyl and have released singles by the Strokes, the Delays and Belle and Sebastian. Sean Forbes, of roughtrade.com, said: "There's definitely a cool factor with the seven-inch although the more the major labels use it the more that will ebb away."

Reggae singles are still largely sold as seven-inch vinyl, although many of the UK sales through specialist shops do not appear in official BPI figures.

Under chart rules, singles can be released in three formats. Record companies once chose to release a CD, a vinyl record and a cassette. The vinyl was dropped in favour of a second CD with added mixes.

The return of vinyl has been driven by the demise of the cassette single, which last quarter failed for the first time to register sales in official BPI figures. The format peaked with the sale of 22 million units in 1995, 32 per cent of single sales. The singles market is still in trouble, with CD singles sales down 29 per cent year on year.

Total music sales in the UK were down 4.3 per cent on the previous quarter, but 3 per cent up on the 12-month period, largely due to music DVDs.

TOP 10 SEVEN-INCH SINGLES

1 Take Me Out, Franz Ferdinand

2 Love is Only a Feeling, The Darkness

3 Freakin' Out, Graham Coxon

4 Reptilia, Strokes

5 Run, Snow Patrol

6 I Miss You, Blink 182

7 Somewhere Only We Know, Keane

8 Pressure Point, Zutons

9 The Funeral of Hearts, Him

10 Megalomaniac, Incubus

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