In an age when what’s ‘cool’ in terms of technology keeps getting smaller and smaller, one old-school innovation is bucking the trend. In 2014, for the first time since the ‘90s Britpop era, annual UK sales of vinyl albums exceeded the one million mark – a resurgence in popularity that has been dubbed the ‘vinyl revival’.
To mark Record Store Day on 16th April (and because we’re vinyl fans ourselves), we’re taking a look at the music industry’s biggest comeback.
Following the milestone of one million annual record sales in 2014, the popularity of vinyl has continued to rise faster than any other musical format.
In the first half of 2015, UK record sales climbed over 56%. And it’s a similar story over the pond in the US, where vinyl has also been experiencing a resurgence, with sales up 38% for the same period.
At first, ‘hipster’ high-street stores jumped on the trend (indeed, Urban Outfitters recently announced that they’ll be curating and pressing their own line of vinyl). But now even retail giants are getting in on the action, with Tesco selling LPs for the first time in its history.
Between 2009 and 2014, the value of the vinyl market rose by £23 million, which culminated in the launch of an official vinyl chart last year. Record player sales have also followed suit, with retailers including John Lewis and HMV reporting dramatically increased sales (HMV sold one vinyl player a minute in the week running up to Christmas 2015).
So, who says non-digital music is dead?
What’s driving the vinyl revival?
There’s something unmistakably nostalgic about watching your favourite track spin on a record player. It takes you back to a time when everything was a little more authentic, and you had to wait more than 20 seconds to get your hands on the latest single – which, of course, made the experience of listening to it that much sweeter.
And it is this nostalgia that is arguably driving the vinyl revival. Plus, the fact that a record, with its accompanying artwork, and the need to treat it carefully, is so much more tangible than a song on your iPod – and looks much cooler on your shelf.
There’s also the argument that vinyl records sound better, mainly in relation to the warmth and richness that many people associate with them. This is because vinyl is a ‘lossless’ format as, unlike most modern music, it doesn’t have to be compressed to fit onto a phone or iPod.
So what is Record Store Day?
First held in San Francisco in 2008, but now popular across the globe, in the UK Record Store Day brings 200 independent record shops together to celebrate the vinyl format. Now in its ninth year, the day has become a major event in the music calendar, with thousands of vinyl fans expected to head to their local record store, many of which will be hosting performances.
Special vinyl releases are also exclusively made for the day. This year’s offering will include records by Patti Smith, The Flaming Lips, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, T. Rex and Outkast. There will also be a special tribute to David Bowie, with picture disks of ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ and ‘TVC 15’ reissued, as well as a 50th anniversary release of I Dig Everything: The Pye Years 1966.
You can view the full list of exclusive releases for this years’ Record Store Day on 16th April here.
As this years’ event is in partnership with BBC Music, there will also be special programming across the BBC’s radio stations, particularly on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Record shops are making a comeback
In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, you’d find a record store on every street, filled with enthusiastic punters in search of their latest music fix. Fast forward to the 2000s, however, and new technologies such as CDs were causing thousands of record stores to close their doors.
Perhaps the saddest part of this demise was the fact that record stores were more than just retail outlets – they were part of their local communities. They were where people gathered to chat, boast about a band no one else had heard of, and swap record recommendations, helping new artists to get known in the process.
Luckily, record shops have benefitted from the renewed interest in vinyl. In 2015, record shop openings hit a five year high, meaning that a store might be springing up near you any day (if there isn’t one already!). Some of the most interesting openings include:
- The Record Deck – a floating record store on a narrow boat, which could soon be docking in your town. It stocks a varied selection of second-hand records.
- Earworm Records – a tiny independent store hidden in the heart of York, which opened its doors in October 2013. Just watch your head on the ceiling!
- Rough Trade East – an achingly cool record store that opened in 2007. It predominantly sells new stock of vinyl, as well as CDs.
What’s popular in the vinyl album and singles charts?
As we mentioned above, the resurgence in vinyl’s popularity has resulted in an official vinyl chart being launched last year. At the time of writing, the top 10 vinyl albums are:
Although the current prominence of David Bowie is due, in part, to his recent death, what’s interesting is that the top 10 is a mixture of current mainstream artists (such as Adele’s 25), current alternative artists (such as Unloved’s Guilty of Love), and vintage albums by music legends (such as Stone Roses’ The Stone Roses).
This suggests that vinyl buyers are a bunch with mixed musical tastes. They’re not just, as often imagined, aged rockers reminiscing, but a varied audience of real music fans. In fact, research has shown that it’s the under-35s audience driving the vinyl trend.
The current vinyl singles chart, even more so, hints at a younger audience of serious music fans.
The most valuable records
You can pick up second-hand records for just a couple of pounds. But some vintage vinyl records have achieved collector’s item status, making them seriously coveted. Some of the most valuable records of all time are:
1. The original pressing of The Quarrymen – That’ll Be the Day/In spite of All the Danger is worth an incredible £200,00 and is the most valuable records of all time. There is only one in the world, which is owned by one of the founders and Beatle, Paul McCartney.
2. An untitled mid-60’s recording David A.Stewart – Test is worth £30,000
3. The 78rpm release of The Quarrymen’s That’ll Be the Day/In Spite of All the Danger – there are only 25 in existence and are worth £10,000 each.
4. Another record from The Quarrymen worth £10,000 is the 1958 re-release of the single from 1981, That’ll Be the Day/In spite of All the Danger.
5. A version of God Save the Queen/No Feelings from The Sex Pistols released by the band’s manager Malcolm McClaren. It has no record label or category number and is also worth £10,000.
6. Another version of single God Save the Queen/No Feelings – The Sex Pistols 1977, was pressed accompanied with a brown envelope and a press release and is now valued at £8,000.
7. The first pressing of The Beatles album, also known as The White Album is worth £7,000.
8. A 7-inch version of the single God Save the Queen/No Feelings – The Sex Pistols was available briefly around the time the band broke up, still in it’s brown envelope and is worth £7,500.
9. Another Sex Pistols acetate disk with the tag EMI 401 of Anarchy in the UK/No Fun is said to be worth £7,000 – there are only 3 known to exist.
10. A rare version of The Beatles – Please Please Me, that credits the Dick James Music Company instead of Northern Songs. This is worth £6,000.
*stats cited are from April 2015
Invest this Record Store Day
An obvious side effect of the vinyl revival is that records have become more coveted. And as a result, people are willing to pay more for rarer copies, such as those above, making them a great investment.
Whilst most of us won’t be offering to buy the original pressing of The Quarrymen’s ‘That’ll Be the Day/In Spite of All the Danger’ from Sir Paul McCartney for £200,000, you can pick up records for less than £100 that are likely to quickly increase in value.
The best advice is to pick a niche, such as early rock, blues or jazz, and then do your homework. However, things to look out for include:
- Rarity – limited editions or releases, unlikely collaborations and anything else unusual
- First presses – particularly of albums or singles from the ‘60s and ‘70s
- Vinyl no one else is looking for – by bands who are yet to make a name for themselves (but you think will!)
- Great condition – as poor condition has a massive impact on value
The vinyl revival doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon, and a record store might soon be popping up on a street near you.
At Woodhouse, we have many resident record experts in our team – including two of our brand ambassadors: Terry Farley, house DJ and record collector, and Justin Robson, head of business affairs for Defected Records. Head to our ambassadors page to find out more.
Will you be celebrating Record Store Day 2016? And if you’re a vinyl fan, what do you love about the format? Let us know at @WoodhouseTweets.