Vinyl revival. Are the Brits ahead of the curve?
It’s no coincidence that Arctic Monkeys’ new album is the fastest selling vinyl-album in 25 years. The British band still clearly command a large fan base, ready to spend their cash on music cast into polyvinyl chloride just like in the good old days. The noughties generation (or "millenials" in North America) caught the tail-end of compact discs, with digital downloads and torrenting sourcing their tunes. But, now they’ve got a taste for the physical. Like with the rise and fall of digital book sales, consumers have retreated to what can be touched, smelled and cherished. With vinyl sales growing year on year in the Western world, are the Brits leading the way?
Now, for some numbers (engage skim reading). Recent market research shows that 2017 vinyl LP sales in Canada were up 21.8 percent over the previous year, making it the seventh straight year of growth for the format. Similarly, over in the UK, vinyl sales are at a 25 year high. However, it’s British artists like Ed Sheeran and Amy Whitehouse well as the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys who are driving sales. *Record scratches to a halt*
The Canadian vinyl charts for 2017 include a lot of classic albums, such as Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon and The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Perhaps all those blokes who ditched their vinyl collections in the nineties are slowly piecing their collections back together? Sobbing quietly as they think about their priceless copies of Miles Davis Kind of Blue they so carelessly replaced with a CD version. Sacrilege! Who knows? All I know is that the concept of an album as a standalone piece of work is still a thing to behold and people are willing to invest in it. Collating playlists on Spotify, whilst serving a purpose (and can be a fun way to find new artists), is a whole different experience from buying a record in the physical.
But, I digress. The Brits yeah, they’re ahead of the times when it comes to this stuff? Right? They live for this stuff. The Brits even discovered that their new £5 plastic notes could be used as a stylus to play records. Record Store Day has now become a national institution, with the UK being one of ten international organisers. The Brits were there at the start in 2008, with Canada joining the ranks in 2009. But, it’s ok, we love our Canadian cousins. Find me a Brit who hasn’t got family in Canada (Hi Bridget) and I’ll show you a liar! We wouldn’t mind swapping your recipe for poutine for our chicken parmo.
Mick Jagger was one of the famous names behind the TV-show VINYL. Set in the music scene in 1970s New York, it follows the life of Century Records founder and President Richie Finestra. Commissioned by HBO, the show only lasted for one season. Shown on Sky Atlantic in the UK, it only lasted for one season, being axed in time for a second. The show failed to become a hit with the Richard Hawley-loving, vinyl-soaked public. Perhaps it was too crass for the famed chillaxed temperament of the vinyl lover. The behaviour displayed on screen was akin to techno-loving MP3 downloaders, only set in the brown-lens-tinted seventies with guitars and a boat load of class-A drugs.
The Brits have been bringing vinyl back into their lives with aplomb recently. Rarely can I go to the party of a middle-aged man without finding vinyl bunting accompanying vinyl cake stands. Rarely can I attend the wedding of music-loving-friends without receiving an invitation in the shape of classic records. My YouTube home page keeps touting chip bowl tutorials, where one is told to place a vinyl record onto a gas hob, turn up the heat and let it curl up like a frightened oyster. Again, sacrilege! Pick’n’mix flooded with a liquorice Catherine wheel… Just like in Amelie where that women likes to think of them being made like crepes, we’ve all gone vinyl mad.
Just like those lovely people who camp out over night outside their favourite independent record store to catch those rare record-store-day releases. Just recently, the Swedish behemoth that is IKEA has been touting its latest shelving line as being perfect for vinyl storage. Even more recently, my father had to re-arrange his collection in order to stop his study floor from collapsing into his bedroom. This is life and death people! Basically, we’re an eccentric bunch.
So, whilst the Brits have embraced vinyl like an over-enthusiastic aunt at a children’s party, embarrassing herself all over the place, making bad jokes and wearing funny hats… the Canadians seem to have had their vinyl revival just right. Piecing together old collections with classic albums, peppered with hits from today. Unlike the gimmicky paraphernalia embraced by the majority of Brits, Canadians have quietly gotten on with their adoption of vinyl back into their lives. And that’s the kind of thing which sounds good on the dance floor.