Vinyl record sales up, popular with a new generation
Tower records report 36% increase in LP sales, with popular artists including Dylan, the Beatles and Jeff Buckley
IT really is the 1980s all over again. Even though album sales are continuing to decline, vinyl is making a comeback. Irish sales of records increased by 20% in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year, while 11% fewer compact discs were shifted.
Retailers say there is increased demand for vinyl versions of both old classics and new releases by mainstream and alternative artists. In an age when it is possible to store an entire music collection on a sleek portable device the size of a credit card, renewed interest in cumbersome long players (LPs) seems an anomaly.
Music enthusiasts claim the surge of interest can be attributed to the “warmer” sound of LPs and their often lavish packaging. These qualities are attracting a new legion of fans in what is seen as a backlash against the sterility of digital technology.
“Our vinyl sales are up 36%,” said Clive Branagan, store manager of Tower Records on Wicklow Street in Dublin. “It takes more of an effort to listen to a record — you have to sit down and play the thing properly from start to finish whereas a lot of people growing up now with mp3s listen to one track more than the album itself.”
Classic artists like The Beatles and Bob Dylan remain popular vinyl choices, but the spread of artists is widening. “One of our best selling LPs is Jeff Buckley’s Grace which Sony reissued this year,” said Branagan. “It actually outsold the CD for a couple of months. A lot of people whose parents would have bought records are now getting into the habit themselves.”
Danny Duggan is a DJ and promoter of Sleepless Nights, a club night billed as “old-fashioned Motown & Northern Soul the way it was supposed to be played — on vinyl”. He said: “It’s a richer sound, there’s more resonance to it. Digital tends to be slightly clipped at the edges with a cleaned-up sound. There’s more to hold and love than an mp3 player too.”
While most customers are in their 30s, a new generation is discovering the pleasure of vinyl. Dave Kennedy, owner of Road Records in Fade Street in Dublin, said: “We’ve got newer, much younger customers, teenagers and those in their early 20s buying mostly new bands on 7-inch singles. We will get a lot of people in who will have iPods in their pockets and they are still buying records. A few people I’ve spoken to have taken to the whole iPod culture and now realise they’ve no physical product at home because everything is in this little white box.
“We were getting people saying: ‘All I want to do is go home in the evening, listen to a record and relax but I’ve got to turn on my computer and find the files.’ Whereas you put on a record, sit down and read the paper.”
Some smaller record companies are including a coupon with vinyl releases with a unique code allowing the customer to download an mp3 version of the same album for free.
Kennedy said that even though Radiohead’s album In Rainbows was available to download from the band’s website for whatever price fans wanted to pay, a double vinyl version sold well. “We had people who came in and said they had paid five cents to download it and they handed over ¤20 for a copy on vinyl.”
Peter Collins of the Sony Centre in Dundrum Town Centre said record turntables have become more popular in the last year or two. “It’s usually kids or wives buying them for dads or husbands. We sold a fair few around Christmas.” Turntables cost between ¤100 and ¤150.
Dick Doyle, director general of the Irish Recorded Music Association (Irma), said the album market was still depressed. “We are talking about 40% of the market wiped out in the past four years. We have gone from about ¤145m in Ireland to ¤104m last year. It’s all down to illegal uploading and downloading.”
Irma is taking a case on behalf of record companies EMI, Warner, Universal, and Sony BMG in the High Court against internet service provider, Eircom over illegal downloading.