Needle back in the groove for vinyl as industry gets behind sales surge
We all thought '33s' and '45s' were the preserve of museums and hipster cafés. But vinyl is back with a bang.
Sales of the traditional large black discs are soaring in Ireland and across the world, with 40 million expected to be shifted this year. Industry figures predict they may soon overtake CDs to take second place behind digital streaming music and downloads
"We're seeing phenomenal sales on some vinyl albums," said Clive Branagan, a music buyer for Tower Records in Dublin.
"It's across every age group now, too. You might have said a few years ago that vinyl was largely being bought by older men, but now it's everyone."
Demand is rising so fast that Sony has announced it is to build a new vinyl factory to meet production requirements. The move signifies a remarkable return to form of a music format once thought dead, but now regarded as a premium format that will generate sales of €1bn this year.
Shops in Irish cities and towns selling vinyl records are now multiplying, with several competing in Dublin's city centre.
The news is bringing joy to music snobs who hold that the crackly sound from needle-played records adds 'warmth' and 'tone' to recorded music.
"If you take Sufjan Stevens's last album, we sold more on vinyl than on CD," said Mr Branagan. "We have similar things happening with bands such as Fleet Foxes, Tame Impala or Villagers. Rock and pop are the bread and butter of vinyl. So Rihanna has also done very well for us while LP sales of Kendrick Lamar are phenomenal."
Mr Branagan said that demand for vinyl is one reason why Tower Records recently opened a new hifi section with expanded ranges of turntables and home audio equipment.
"We opened in last July because we were seeing a real need among customers for hifi again," he said.
Vinyl turntables are also now being re-stocked in many electronics and technology stores around Ireland, as retailers scramble to meet demand for the format.
Not everyone is enthused by the return of vinyl to mainstream stores.
"Album as lovingly packaged artefact is fine," tweeted Ben Watt from the pop band 'Everything But The Girl' recently. "But vinyl as a more superior audio on the average domestic rig is a myth."
Mr Watt is also critical of the relatively high prices for vinyl records and turntables.
"£25 for vinyl," he tweeted. "And now £2k for a 'relatively cheap' deck. A £7 CD on a £300 player would get you closer to what I meant in the studio."
In Ireland, vinyl LPs typically sell for over €20. However, many are now available at a cheaper price.
"We already have sales on vinyl, like Amy Winehouse for €12.99 or Fleetwood Mac for €15," said Mr Branagan. "The more companies that re-open plants to make the records, the cheaper it will get."
Even with its new sales surge, the return of vinyl is not expected to match digital music sales anytime soon. According to estimates published by Deloitte, total vinyl sales is only expected to be 6pc of overall industry revenue this year. That means that services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer are still firmly in the driving seat when it comes to the future of music consumption.