Scratch, crackle and pop records as vinyl sales soar

As new figures show a rise in sales of music on traditional vinyl, David Burrows pays homage to the rebirth of a much-loved format.

John Kertland and Johnty DelMonte of All Vinyl Revival
John Kertland and Johnty DelMonte of All Vinyl Revival

Music has come a long way. Now, when a new song or album is released it, all it takes is the push of a few buttons before you are listening to it in the comfort of your own home.

Music sales in the UK grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013, fuelled by a rise in digital and streaming revenues.

So why then did vinyl sales also increase - by a massive  49 per cent?

Record shops were once at the heart of every town
Record shops were once at the heart of every town

Recorded music sales in the UK totalled £730 million last year, up from just under £716 million in 2012. At the heart of the growth was an 11.9 per cent rise in digital revenues, with digital for the first time accounting for 50 per cent of total UK record industry trade revenue.

At the same time, CD sales fell by 6.4 per cent, but  vinyl album sales grew hugely from around £8 million to £12 million, the highest level of annual income for the format since 1995.

In terms of actual sales, levels are now at their highest level for 15 years.

Just over 780,000 vinyl albums were sold in 2013 – the largest number since 817,000 were sold in 1997.

British rock group Arctic Monkeys’ AM was the biggest selling vinyl album of the year, ahead of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and David Bowie’s The Next Day.

Record Store Day, the one-day celebration of independent record shops which took place last April, generated £2 million worth of vinyl sales itself alone.

There are around 15,000 LPs being bought every week.

Dave Lamont from White Rabbit in Shrewsbury
Dave Lamont from White Rabbit in Shrewsbury

Dave Lamont, who runs White Rabbit Records in Shrewsbury Market Hall, said he believed the increase in sales was a reaction to the disposable nature of digital downloads.

He said: “I think it is partly that everyone is getting fed up of this instant, throw away society. They like to have something tactile, something with artwork that they can consider and something mechanical - they actually have to put the needle on the record to get the sound out rather than it just floating around in the air.

“There is also an interest in music from the 70s, 80s and to some extent the 90s and I think that is starting people out in buying records again.

“More modern bands are showing an interest in vinyl. We have got several new albums and some also come with a CD, but most have digital download codes so people can have the best of both worlds.

“I think it’s great that a lot of bands are taking an interest in giving people what they want. A lot of bands have found they can now have more control over their output and are being more careful about what they release.”

Mr Lamont said that despite the increase in vinyl sales, record shops were still “closing rather than opening”.

He said: “A lot of people are hawking their stuff online rather than in shops. Having said that, we get new customers all the time who have just bought a record player or had one bought for them and enjoy coming and browsing, so things are improving.

“When I was young, it was mostly young people buying records, but now we get a good cross-section. We have people in their 50s, 60s and 70s buying things that they have either lost or wanted to own first time around to young people of 14 and 15 listening to the likes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, who were around before they were even born.”

DJ Johnty DelMonte, from Shrewsbury’s All Vinyl Revival night which holds events at the Dolphin pub in St Michael’s Street is also of the opinion that the spike in vinyl sales is a reaction to digital downloads.

He said: “My personal opinion is that it’s in contrast to the throwaway culture of downloading music in a matter of seconds.

“When you buy a record - and an LP especially - you sit down and actually listen to it. You take time to appreciate the artwork, take in the music and give it your undivided attention.

“There is something magical about dropping the stylus onto the groove and hearing that crackle.”

BPI spokeswoman Lynne McDowell said: “Whilst vinyl accounts for a relatively small percentage of overall music sales, it is very much a fast-growing niche.

“Vinyl seems to cast a spell over music fans who want to experience the fullness of an artist’s creation in the artwork and liner notes in a way that CDs possibly do not – there is a definite vinyl culture that generates a unique affiliation between fans and the format.”

BPI and Brit Awards chief executive Geoff Taylor said: “The LP is back in the groove. We’re witnessing a renaissance for records – they’re no longer retromania and are becoming the format of choice for more and more music fans, which is obviously good news.

“Whilst sales only account for a small percentage of the overall market, vinyl sales are growing fast as a new generation discovers the magic of 12 inch artwork, liner notes and the unique sound of analogue records, often accompanied by a download code for mp3s.”

An online poll, carried out by the BPI among 1,700 vinyl buyers throughout September, found that seven out of 10 bought vinyl records at least once a month, with one in five making a vinyl purchase at least once a week.  Almost nine in 10 said it was their favourite format and for almost half vinyl accounted for over half of their music spend.

Not owning a record player is no object either, it appears. A total of 3.7 per cent of respondents said that they bought vinyl despite not owning one.

Five record sleeves which broke the mould:

The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) - The often imitated album cover features celebrities and other images. Among the faces are Mae West, Edgar Allan Poe, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe and Bob Dylan.This cover was created by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake, who won a Grammy for their work.
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Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (1973) - Widely regarded as one the greatest album covers of all time, the iconic artwork was the work of Storm Thorgerson, who also designed covers for Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and Muse. The idea for the sleeve came after Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright issued a challenge for something “smarter, neater – more classy”.
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Queen - News of the World (1977) - The haunting cover is a reworking of a piece by science fiction artist Frank Kelly Freas. The original image was designed for a comic book story “The Gulf Between”. Queen drummer Roger Taylor, a big fan of science fiction, had the comic book and, in 1977 and brought the idea to the table.
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Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA (1984) - The cover is a photograph by celebrated portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz and was inspired by the album’s title track. Springsteen denied there was any hidden message in the image and said simply that after taking a series of shots, the pictures of his backside looked better than the pictures of his face.
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Nirvana - Nevermind (1991) - Arguably among the most eye-catching album covers ever produced, the artwork for the grunge rockers’ second album was created by aquatic photographer and certified rescue diver Kirk Weddle who dunked a friend’s baby in the water. The label’s art department added the fish hook and dollar bill after the shoot.

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