The 'Vinyl Revival'
Back in 2007 vinyl record sales hit an unprecedented high for the first time in several decades. What followed was a media flurry where the term 'vinyl revival' got tossed around more than a set of dice at a Dungeons and Dragons convention.
But over ten years on, is the format's resurgence still ringing true?
If we look to the figures it would appear that vinyl is still very much in the public eye, dare we say on the fringes of the mainstream in fact. The affinity for the vinyl record seems to have crossed out of hipster gimmick and into the arms of the everyday listener, while igniting some old flames in the belly's of the 'back-in-the-day' collectors too.
Vinyl and Dance Music Culture
You'd expect to see some sort of correlation between vinyl's rise in popularity and the modern condition of underground dance music culture. But the data doesn't appear to support this case.
Of course, records of the electronic dance music agenda are shifting in fairly big (relatively speaking) numbers, displayed in the growing mania of each annual Record Store Day
that celebrates independent stores around the globe. Yet EDM records (and its many derivatives of house, techno, disco etc) only make up a tiny margin of the overall total.
For all its cultural prominence the vinyl record is still very much a niche in dance music culture; no doubt superseded by the swathes of digital tech pouring out from Pioneer, Rekordbox, Rane and other leading brands. So what's bumping the figures up?
Contrary to initial assumptions, the die hard vinyl DJ and the avid record collector are not the ones responsible. Neither are the new EDM selectors on the block. The key drivers of such resurgent figures are those located in the rock and pop canon - central music industry, the mainstream.
Beware the Figures
Viewed in this context the true ambiguity of the resurgent figures comes to light. This method of data collection focuses on new pressings and releases, explaining why the genres of rock and pop appear to score so highly.
The major label products of 'classic albums' and brand new band/pop star releases log the biggest sales; your 'starter kit', Christmas present and birthday gift demographic rearing up in all its might.
This is not a true, wholesome representation of overall buying habits however, as can be shown in the disproportionately low EDM figures.
Due to the fact that major labels have much greater purchasing power, they're naturally able to commission higher amounts of said goods; it's not necessarily that less dance music is being purchased, just that less new
dance music is being pressed.
The Future of Vinyl?
It seems much of vinyl's popularity - especially in dance music - is in the figures you don't see. The hard-to-trace world of second hand record sales is arguably booming
we just can't really keep track of it. Discogs however, can offer some insight towards this theory as collectors bought over 10 million records back in 2017 with that figure predicted to rise further still in 2018.
The graphs too, although somewhat unreliable, still mark a trend of sustained buying habits - one that can certainly be applied to that of second hand sales.
Limited presses, coloured wax, niche genres like horror movie soundtracks, and vinyl-only record labels have all made a tremendous comeback. Resurfaced dance floor gems have become the DJs new secret weapon; the un-IDable banger that has everybody guessing, hidden beneath a white label or unnamed vinyl-to-digital recording.
Beyond the gimmick and tangible love-affair, it's also a viable tool for obscure sampling and unique set building giving that edge over the average DJ performer.
For now, vinyl has firmly wedged its way back into to the hearts and minds of the people - but who knows what new format lies just around the corner?