It’s finally happened. As well as my ever-expanding waistline and retreating hairline, there’s been an important development in my life. In the last few weeks, a sizeable chunk of wall space in my living room has been taken up by a collection of 12-inch LPs, and a rather weighty hi-fidelity music system complete with a turntable.
Friends have already denounced this as my “mid-life crisis,” to go alongside my changing appearance. But I know otherwise. I know that I’m part of a craze sweeping the UK, if not the whole world. I couldn’t be more cutting edge.
The warm, “warts and all” sound of analogue is back. Or rather, it never died. Vinyl sales have crept higher in the last five years and now major retailers have taken note.
Earlier this year, department store John Lewis announced a 240 per cent jump in turntable sales in the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2014. We now have a successful Record Store Day in the UK and an official chart for the retro music format. Last year witnessed vinyl LP sales reaching a 20-year high in the UK at 1.29m, according to OfficialCharts.com. This followed seven years of unbroken growth.
In the US, the total value of vinyl shipments was up 52 per cent for the first half of the year, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade organisation that represents the recording industry in the United States. Vinyl accounted for 30 per cent of total physical music shipments by value for that period.
This week, meanwhile, Tesco has announced it will be stocking a range of vinyl albums after seeing a “huge success” with a summer trial of selling the new Iron Maiden LP.
“Vinyl is definitely coming back, with demand growing stronger year by year, and we think there will be a big demand in the UK this Christmas as music fans look for trendy gifting options,” Tesco music buyer Michael Mulligan said in a statement yesterday.
It’s not even just new music artists that the supermarket is stocking. Included in the 20 disc range will be the new Coldplay album, but also Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA; Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits; The Beatles – Sgt Pepper; and The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers.
Online auction site eBay is awash with second-hand vinyl and it’s being priced with a scarcity premium. Not many albums sell for under £5 this year. I was recently easily out-bidded for a copy of Misplaced Childhood, the third studio album from 1980s British neo-progressive rock band Marillion. The shame.
Second hand stores are also grasping onto the situation. You’ll need sharp elbows to find the best bargains at the local stores in my corner of London, or you’ll be left with a copy of Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves for £20 – way above its original 1974 price.
Ten or 15 years ago it was a very different story, with little demand and prices perhaps a fifth of what they are now on an anecdotal basis. Charity shops in London were a hive of cut-price gems. These days, you’ll be lucky to find the Greatest Hits of Perry Como.