In recent years, we have a seen a movement that has annoyed a lot a people, amused a lot of people and has also been embraced by (some) people: The Hipster. Along with their infamous and unashamed wearing of plaid, they also seem to enjoy the high-class sound quality of vinyl records.
Well, what can we say? Is it really because of Hipsters that vinyl has come back into the public eye? Or has there always been a slightly overlooked, niche market for this old-fashioned, but much loved, method of enjoying music? The advantages of modern sound systems aside, records hold a sense of novelty now – I guess it sort of demands your attention. You can’t just set it to shuffle and go eat a banana – you have to be attentive, flip the record, make sure it’s not scratched.
Who would have thought that in this day and age, where we have Spotify, there’d even be an industry for records? The UK sales for vinyl stood at a mere 0.1% in 2007; however, this figure has increased to 1.5% in just a few years. I know, it’s not a great change, but it’s progress, nonetheless. In previous years, we have seen the record collection hobby as a ‘man’s world’, with the LP charts dominated by the likes of Led Zep, Pink Floyd and Arctic Monkeys. Female-fronted acts have been in the back row.
Certainly, there’s always a sort of prestige that people have with collecting vinyl; some comment in that sufferable, pretentious voice: “I collect vinyl you know, I know things about music”. Just…shut up! I couldn’t care less if you collected records because you thought they looked pretty, to be honest!
I still think the key consumers of this trend are 50-year-old men who like to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ while listing their collection in chronological order. However, the rise in young buyers gives me hope. With more than a few friends who – in the simplest way – are music snobs, I don’t see any problem in a 15-year-old buying a Clash record from Urban Outfitters. Sure, it’s definitely not as ‘indie’ as buying from a rugged secondhand store in the depths of Shoreditch, rather than a chain store, but surely if it’s the way teens will get introduced to these sounds, then why not? I doubt anybody who claims to be a vinyl expert today was not as naïve when buying their first record.
And anyone who is ever-so-slightly inclined to listen to the music of an indie-rock persuasion will know that Jack White – occasionally in bands and perpetually crushing on Jimmy Page – is a real vinyl lover. I mean, the guy is a huge record nerd. He’s also well known for his intense promoting of Record Store Day, which initially began in 2007 and aimed to celebrate the independent record stores in the US. In the last eight years, it has gained a large following of both old cronies and younger fans, having recently moved over to the UK. This new resurgence in sales is heart-warming. Record shops are opening all over the place, when once they were closing down – a teenager is no longer baffled by looking at an LP player and instead looks rather awed when faced with it.
We cannot say that vinyl is about to overtake digital records any time soon – not with how easily I can download a song off of YouTube – but it’s definitely staying within mainstream media. So why not indulge and buy yourself a nice Beatles record? Hell, you can even buy a Kanye, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Words: Radia Mustafa
Image: Rita Gomes