This feature was originally published in 2016. For a list of stores within 50 miles of Hereford taking part in Record Store Day 2017, head to recordstoreday.co.uk/participating-stores.
Saturday is World Record Store Day. To some that may seem like a non-entity along the lines of Jelly Bean Day (next Friday) or Be Kind to Lawyers Day (last Tuesday), but with the revival in vinyl sales it is well worth taking note of.
In this world of online streaming, the wax is hitting back.
Vinyl sales are up 64% in 12 months – with annual LP sales going north of 2.1m for the first time since the birth of the mp3 back in the early 90s. In Hereford, HiFi Gear sell ten record players for every CD player.
No longer the preserve of crate-diving DJs and your dad, this vinyl renaissance is being driven by Millenials with 25 to 34-year-olds the biggest area of growth in 2015. Three years earlier, it was 18 to 24-year-olds.
If you're envisioning 30-year-olds bluetacking obscure Lou Reed records to their walls while stroking their beard and, possibly, vaping – you are not a million miles from the truth. An ICM poll found that around half the people who bought vinyl in the last month were yet to listen to it. Nine percent didn’t even own a turntable.
As always, that's not the whole picture. Along with the almost indefinable sonic ‘warmth’ any record fan will wax lyrical about, the two main reasons people buy vinyl, according to the poll, is to collect it, and for the artwork.
Our generation has seen artwork shrink from LP masterpieces to CD covers to a postage stamp-sized icon on their iPhones. It is only natural that, for all the benefits that come with all those Spotify playlists, people feel like they’ve lost something.
And - at the risk of going all misty-eyed while lamenting the rising price of Freddos - having spent an afternoon poring over LPs in Hereford’s two independent stores, you do forget how good it is to be able to pick up an album.
Independent record stores play a huge part of this revival. In the States, they account for 45 percent of all vinyl sold - huge in the Amazon era – with studies showing that for music lovers, a visit to an independent is worth paying a little extra for.
Is the renaissance in vinyl something you’re seeing in Hereford? Why do think more people are going back to vinyl?
Guy Davies, Temple Records: The resurgence of vinyl has been something we have noticed over the last two years, this has been confirmed with the inclusion of a vinyl chart.
Vinyl will always be around. It could be an enthusiast reliving their youth, or more commonly the younger generation, not only DJs, that want to see what all the fuss is about. Living in the digital age, there is something tangible in playing a record on a turntable that you simply can’t get in a click on a computer screen, and this is attractive to all ages.
Steve Goode, HiFi Gear: We estimate that we probably sell around 10 turntable decks for every CD player we sell and you can usually find more likes on any vinyl-related posts on our Instagram. We started selling vinyl records in addition to turntables last year and the sales of both just keep increasing.
Are there certain genres that are more popular as vinyl records?
SG: Rock classics seem to be the best sellers for us, with new-release pop/rock albums coming in close second. The sales reflect a lot of the conversations we have regarding the trend, most of our customers are either youngsters getting into it for the first time or older generations reviving their collection and their love for vinyl records.
Guy: We have our regular customers, their musical preferences vary considerably from hip-hop, techno and drum and bass to 80s classic rock and pop. That is the beauty of an independent store, we aren’t limited to what the labels are willing to re-press.
The ‘warmth’ people talk about when they describe the difference in sound - is that real, or just nostalgia?
Guy: Of course! LP production introduces distortion, this ‘warmth’ can usually be described as a bass sound that isn’t as accurate as digital/CD format. Reproducing bass on vinyl is a serious engineering skill. The benefit is that a lot of filtering and signal processing occurs to make the bass work, this creates a very unique and enjoyable sound.
SG: It’s a real thing! The warmth is often credited to a harmonic distortion and it’s this that gives you the nostalgia. Some people really don’t like it though and much prefer the clean, crystal-clear sound of a CD/WAV file. We did a vinyl vs digital post on our blog in 2015 that goes into a bit more detail about what actually makes the two formats so different. (Check it out here)
What’s your favourite album cover that you’ve got in stock?
Steve: I really like the artwork for Linkin Park - The Hunting Party, and most of the metal section has some really creative visuals. Jamie loves the cover for ‘Absolution’ by Muse, and Alex is a big fan of the artwork on ‘Mezzanine’ by Massive Attack.
Guy: We often stock limited edition vinyl, often coloured or shaped in unique ways. One of our favourite has to be the N.W.A Straight Outta Compton cover, we love its American Hip Hop street style.
Supermarkets like Sainsbury’s are stocking vinyl now. Is that good news for independents like you, or bad news because it could see a price squeeze on smaller record shops?
Guy: Let’s be honest, picking up a vinyl while getting your dinner does seem a little strange. The large supermarkets involved in this are going to be limited to what LPs the labels are willing to re-press. Most record store goers aren’t interested in picking up anything other than a great deal on a record they can listen to in store and walk away with in anticipation of playing it at home.
Steve: People often say that flicking through the albums at your local record shop is as part of the experience as actually playing the vinyl, with a lot of our customers, particularly people getting back into it, shopping with us specifically because we’re an independent.
Amazon have been selling records for a little while now and we’re very rarely asked to compete with them nor do we see them as a major threat to our vinyl sales. We’re not so sure that people would go to Sainsbury’s specifically to buy vinyl over going to their local record shop for the price of a few extra pound. Alternatively though, it’s really convenient to pick up an album while you do your weekly shop and this may see the market saturated a bit with people less likely to make the effort to pop into their local record shop. It could go either way.
What's your advice to someone who’s never owned a turntable but wants to get into vinyl?
Steve: There are options for every budget and style, so your best bet is to come in and have a chat with us! Build a little vinyl collection beforehand, as they’re cool to look at and having a turntable with no vinyl is far more frustrating than the alternative. Definitely avoid all-in-one boxes, they won’t do your records justice and always try to go separates if you can.
Guy: Do your research, buy secondhand and play what you enjoy listening to, if you want to learn to DJ. If you are looking for a turntable to play vinyl on, then most are extremely easy to use. You've got to always make sure the customer is 100% happy with their purchase and we explain how everything works before they leave, leaving the customer with nothing but excitement of playing their newly bought vinyl goodness.
For more on Temple Records, Bastion Mews, Hereford, head to www.templeofbass.co.uk.
For more on HiFi gear head to www.hifigear.co.uk or call into the store in King Street, Hereford.