THERE is major ‘back to the future’ action happening in JB HiFi stores across Australia — and it’s not in the DVD department.
Positioned prominently in the biggest music chain in Australia are not only racks full of newly-pressed vinyl albums, but an array of turntables to play them on.
The vinyl resurgence has outlived being a mere recycled fad with the format on track to outsell the format that replaced it — the compact disc.
For Melbourne store Polyester Records, vinyl sales now make up 90 per cent of their business; it was less than 20 per cent a decade ago when vinyl was considered all but extinct.
Polyester co-owner Nate Nott said the resurrection of vinyl can be linked to the disposable nature of modern formats like streaming and downloading and the short-attention span generation.
“It’s the process,” Nott said.
“There are so many distractions now, we’re always doing 1001 things. Listening to vinyl is something to do without your phone, it’s something where you can stop and enjoy it and get rid of all the other distractions. It’s the way vinyl lovers like to consume music. They will stream and download as well, but people who really pay attention to music like sitting on a couch and listening to a record.”
Sales of vinyl have been on the comeback for the past decade. Last year vinyl sales worldwide were the highest they’ve been in 25 years.
In the UK last year, 3.2 million vinyl albums were sold. The Australian sales statistics will be released by ARIA later this month, but are expected to follow the upward trend after jumping 38 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
JB’s embracing of vinyl speaks volumes; it’s now easier to find a new vinyl album than a CD in the chain’s busy stores.
You can now buy an entry-level turntable for $130 at JB, or splash up to $1000 on a state of the art model favoured by DJs.
Record labels, already haemorrhaging from the rapidly declining sales of CDs, are embracing music fans falling in love with vinyl again.
In the UK last Christmas, sales of vinyl hit $3.92 million, outpacing digital sales at $3.43 million. Vinyl sales doubled in 12 months while digital sales halved.
Vinyl is seen as a more personal, tangible and meaningful present than, say, an iTunes voucher.
This April will mark the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, a day when music stores around the world are swamped by music lovers.
Major labels have jumped on the occasion, printing a slew of one-off, limited edition rarities; some independent record stores control such limited edition purchases to try and stop the products winding up selling for a small fortune on eBay.
The popularity of Record Store Day helps the remaining bricks and mortar record stores; outlets that have also suffered with the rise of the digital downloading (legally or illegally) of music.
The day has for some years now been Polyester’s most profitable day of the year.
“It’s a blessing, it’s like a second Christmas for us,” Nott said.
“It gets us through winter. We still stock CDs — I like CDs, there’s no doubt they’ll probably have a resurgence again too, but the amount of customers who want to buy them are few and far between. I’m not saying vinyl has picked up the slack of the loss of CD sales, but we’re still here because it continues to grow every year.”
Paul Rigby runs Zenith Records, Australia’s only vinyl record pressing plant, based in East Brunswick.
The resurgence in vinyl led the company to upgrade to bigger premises three years ago, lugging their mid ‘70s vintage vinyl-making machinery with them, including a cutting lathe, which transfers the music into physical form.