Vinyl revival is even more tangible now

It’s no surprise to me that other music lovers want to continue this beautiful relationship with the vinyl record, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Vinyl revival is even more tangible now

We are so lucky in Cork to have a wide variety of independent record stores, like Plug’d Records, that are keeping independent vinyl record sales alive and well.

I don't know what I’ve written about more here over the years, the “impending” Cork Event Centre or the so-called vinyl revival?

Well let’s park the talk of the Event Centre for now, as there’s no concrete updates, if you pardon the pun. While we continue to see other projects proceed almost overnight in our ever changing city landscape, the Event Centre doesn’t seem any closer to reality, but the vinyl revival seems like it’s gathering even more pace at the moment.

Let’s get it straight. Vinyl never went away. The big record companies almost killed it when they fooled the masses into thinking that CDs were better quality and more likely to last longer than that pesky vinyl, which was deemed yesterdays thing by the mid 80s.

CDs (remember them?) are now selling less than vinyl, which has seen its sales rise for well over 10 years now, and which has finally usurped the format which was meant to kill it first day.

CDs, which were always a lot cheaper to manufacture, and which bizarrely remained more expensive than vinyl for many years, are still selling, and there’s bargains to be had, but it remains a bit of a niche market now. Ironically the CD buying market is occupying the same sort of niche vibe that once helped keep vinyl alive.

But it was more than record collectors who kept vinyl relevant. Small labels, underground music genres, passionate DJs, and many others, refused to budge from their beloved records, and many of those who did turn digital kept up their record buying too.

As someone who still plays lots of new music, going digital was a no-brainer, especially with genres such as hip-hop, drill, afro-beats and soul, where new releases often don’t come out on record for months, if they do at all.

This is one of the biggest problems with the demand for vinyl, as there have been supply line issues and delays long before the current global financial crisis and indeed Brexit, which is causing lots of difficulty with the traditionally popular UK market. All of these difficulties mean it’s a tricky task for the small independent operators keeping the vinyl public happy from a retail point of view.

In Cork, we are blessed to have so many shops, and so many passionate people involved in supporting what can often be niche music. The big powerful labels have the big names and enjoy big influence over the pressing plants, so I don’t envy the shops trying to order that specialist record. I worked in an independent record shop for four years in the glory days when vinyl was still the main DJ format, but it’s a lot harder to get records quickly now that the major labels are flexing so heavily again. Newer releases from the big names, and retro classics, dominate the mainstream sales of vinyl, so it’s hard for the indie(s) to survive. Many do, and they should be commended.

Even the bigger shops, like Golden Discs, who are themselves an independent chain, are well stocked up when it comes to these kinds of records, and sales seem to be steady too. Music Zone continues to be a huge success story, while Plug’d and Bunker Vinyl are two more crucial cornerstones of not only the vinyl market, but of the music scene in a wider context. We also now have 33RPM.

Many of these shops remain supporters of the music scene when it comes to putting on gigs, acting as a meeting place, or even acting as a refuge where a young musician or DJ can get some free advice from someone who knows the scene. We are blessed in Cork to have great people behind the counters, and this goes for our secondhand shops too.

The cost of living has gone crazy, so it’s amazing that so many people still buy records, which are now much more expensive than when I was a teenager. My own purchasing habits are far more limited these days, though I still try to buy my favourite new records every month or two, and I still grab the odd secondhand bargain.

I can measure my whole life through my record collection, and nearly every record holds memories, so it’s no surprise to me that other music lovers want to continue this beautiful relationship with something more tangible than an MP3. We’ll see where it goes, but for now, vinyl remains a popular, but very expensive format. It certainly outlasted CDs, that’s for sure!

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