Why vinyl is Top of the Pops... thanks to Daft Punk, Bowie and Led Zeppelin

Those funny round discs that went so out of fashion are a big hit again. So is it time to dig out that record player?

Oscar Williams-Grut
Friday 13 September 2013 00:03 BST

Vinyl records are storming up the charts. Amazon UK today reveals that Daft Punk's latest album has become its biggest-selling record ever on the site, adding to ever growing signs that the music format once thought of as obsolete is re-entering the mainstream.

Amazon say vinyl sales are up by more than 100 per cent compared to this time last year and Daft Punk's album Random Access Memories, released just five months ago, has already eclipsed Adele's 21 to become the best-selling vinyl ever on the site, which launched its music store in 1999.Once ghettoised as the preserve of only serious DJs, sales of the format in the UK have been growing rapidly over the past few years and the value of the vinyl album market increased from £3.4m in 2011 to £5.7m in 2012, according to the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).

The ERA also found that independent record shops, which account for 50 per cent of all vinyl sales, saw a 44 per cent increase in album sales in the first half of 2013.

Paul Firth, the head of music at Amazon.co.uk, said: "There's the obvious impact of one very big release this year – Daft Punk – but beyond that there's a general support for vinyl amongst the labels right now. Most big releases come with a vinyl edition now, which hasn't always been the case.

"If you look at our vinyl chart right now, four of the top five albums are new releases and the other is a pre-release that's just been announced - the Rolling Stones' live album from Hyde Park."

The format has come back into fashion thanks to initiatives such as Record Store Day, started in 2007, and the move by trendy retailers such as Urban Outfitters to stock records, and Mr Firth admits this has played a part.

"There is an element of it being trendy," Mr Firth says. "The very fact that in the Daft Punk videos they feature the vinyl very strongly shows that actually it can have a fashion element to it." Nigel House, who works at record shop Rough Trade West in London, says: "We've always sold a lot of vinyl but in the last couple of years it's been noticeable. The price of it is quite expensive but people don't seem to care."

Gennaro Castaldo, a spokesman for the record industry's trade body the BPI, says they see two main types of vinyl fans: "There are baby boomers who grew up with it all their lives and there's a generation of younger kids who see it as sort of an art form to be coveted and collected."

Mr Castaldo worked at HMV prior to joining the BPI and says he saw a similar up-tick interest in the mid-00s with the popularity of bands like the White Stripes, the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys – "a lot of those bands see vinyl as a badge of honour."

Mr Firth says rock music is the most popular genre of vinyl bought on Amazon, with David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Vampire Weekend and Led Zeppelin all among the top 10 bestselling vinyls of the year so far.

What's perhaps most incredible about vinyl sales is their outperformance of CDs. While sales of the format surged 15 per cent last year to reach their highest level since 2004, CD sales declined nearly 20 per cent.

It's the same in the US, where sales of the format rose 33.5 per cent in the first half of the year.

But despite the figures, vinyl is still a niche product. UK album vinyl sales last year were 389,000, compared to CD sales of 69.4 million. Amazon did not disclose specific sales numbers but Mr Firth indicates sales on the site are still in the thousands.

Mr Castaldo admits vinyl is still less than 2 per cent of all music sales, but adds: "The industry feels there could be very optimistic times."

It seems the long play may have life in it yet.

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