Record Store Day 2014: The spin is still in
The crowds at yesterday’s International Record Store day proves that vinyl, once written off as obsolete, is cool once more, says Paul Bignell
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Sunday 20 April 2014
Standing alone in a Smiths T-shirt at the back of a long queue, Tasmin Chowdhary, an economics student, represents one of the reasons the record industry has to be cheerful in 2014: she is both female and well under the age of 35.
Here, in the heart of Soho in central London, as (mainly) middle-aged men stand in lines which stretch around the block, this 20-year-old is waiting outside the Sounds of the Universe shop on the eighth International Record Store Day. She is hoping to buy the new 7in record from the Brooklyn indie-rockers Parquet Courts. She tells me she has so far a modest collection of 15 to 20 records as she has only been collecting for a couple of years. "I just like the sound quality of vinyl," she says.
Tasmin would have just begun primary school when the death knell was sounded for vinyl and the companies which still released records at the turn of the century. When the medium was still suffering from the blow CDs had inflicted in the 1980s and 1990s, along came free downloads to kill it off.
Since vinyl's renaissance a decade ago, and the inception in 2007 of International Record Store day - when over 700 stores in the US came together to celebrate all things vinyl (Britain followed a year later) - many too young to remember Britpop have been captivated. This year, the charity War Child has become a partner of the event.
A quiet revolution: Crowds in central London mark Record Store Day Vinyl albums have got off to their best start in a decade this year according to the Official Charts Company. Last year, there were 790,000 new vinyl albums sold in the UK, but 2014 was already more than one-third of the way to meeting that target after only 15 weeks. That puts sales on course for 900,000 if they continue at the same rate. Big releases by Arctic Monkeys, Mogwai and Bruce Springsteen have helped it achieve the figure.
However, not everyone believes Record Store Day is a good thing - particularly those behind the scenes who are struggling to keep up with demand. Last month, the distribution company Kudos published a blog saying record-pressing plants were prioritising releases specifically for the event - meaning that the schedules of smaller record labels were suffering as a result.
Resident Records in Brighton has witnessed a resurgence in sales Around the corner in Reckless Records, 22-year-old Joe is thumbing through records - some which have price tags of up to £50 - by Pixies and Sonic Youth. "These bands are still relevant now," he says. "They have a great sound. I prefer to buy on vinyl because it's much cooler."
The boy band One Direction got in on the act this year, bringing out a special edition of Midnight Memories on vinyl, attracting a different, newer fan. Exclusive records were also put out by Pixies, Nirvana and Dolly Parton, who makes her Glastonbury Festival debut this year. Lucky enthusiasts could even bag a 10in glow-in-the-dark record of the Ghostbusters theme song from the 1984 movie.
In Brighton, Natasha Youngs, co-owner of Resident Records, said the event had been increasingly good for business: "The first year it was a much more casual affair. When we opened 10 years ago, we had just one box of vinyl for sale on the counter. Now it's sold in half the shop.
"There has been a massive resurgence recently; it's so much in demand and stretches right across the age groups now - we get dads coming in buying with their kids. You get a new kind of buyer who has never really experienced a record shop."
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