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How vinyl is saving the humble record store

The format has been going through a renaissance with music fans.

Image: acidpix

THREE DECADES SINCE its heyday, the vinyl record has been making a big comeback.

And ironically it has been the same technology – cheap music downloads and on-demand streaming services – responsible for the demise of many music stores that has driven the renaissance of the old format.

In the UK, vinyl sales last year rose 65% on the previous 12 months to reach almost 1.3 million for the first time since the 1990s.

That compared with a near-8% fall in CD sales, although they still made up over 97% of all physical albums bought.

The interest in vinyl was coming mainly from baby boomers, who grew up with the format, but also a growing number of younger fans, according to industry body the British Phonographic Industry.

Meanwhile, US sales of albums on vinyl hit 9.2 million last year – up over 50% on the 2013 total. This chart, based on numbers from Nielsen Soundscan, shows how those figures have exploded:

Statista2 Source: Statista

The days of vinyl

Vinyl was the dominant music format from the 1950s until the 1980s when first the cassette and then the CD overtook it as listeners’ medium of choice.

But while it never lost its charm among some audiophiles, who favoured the warmth of the analogue format, and music subcultures like hip-hop, it has only been in recent years that it has gone mainstream again.

Vinyl Source: [Duncan]

And the trend has come as a welcome development for the remaining record stores, whose ranks have been decimated since the iPod revolution began in the early 2000s.

Brian Foley, from Dublin’s 37-year-old Freebird Records, said vinyl sales now made up about 75% of the store’s business – compared with a decade ago when the figure was closer to 10%.

Now youngsters have so much music on their little devices, when they find something they really love they want to get it on a record,” he said.


Many new releases now combine the tangible in the record with the convenience of portability from a digital download coupon.

Foley said the return of vinyl was making up for the general fall in physical music sales among the small number of independent music stores that had survived.

It’s helping a lot … because there are so few record shops left, it has made a big difference to us.”

The Irish recording-industry body, IRMA, doesn’t release record industry-wide sales figures publicly, but earlier this year HMV Ireland reported it sold 50,000 records in 2014 - five times the number offloaded the previous year.

The company said its global sales of vinyl in the lead-up to Christmas were also the highest they had been since the mid-1990s.

Something tangible

Albert Twomey, from Plugd Records in Cork, agreed there had been a long-term rise in demand for vinyl although Irish stores sometimes struggled to get hold of the releases they wanted to meet customer demand.

If there were only CDs (to sell), we would be in a lot of trouble for sure – that’s a fact,” he said.

Barry Lennon, formerly from the Richter Collective record label, has been running club night Seven Quarters at Whelan’s in Dublin since last year with the lure that the first 150 punters through the door get a one-off vinyl recording from the live session.

I think a lot of people want to have something a bit more tangible and a bit less disposable … you even have massive, mainstream bands like Coldplay pressing vinyl now,” he said.

This month, as part of TheJournal.ie’s ongoing startup and small and medium enterprise (SME) focus, we are looking at the music industry.

To view other stories from our collection, click here.

First published 8.30am

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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