Putting the record straight on the rise of vinyl music sales - Kevin Buckle

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​The news that vinyl sales are now at their highest level since 1990 was one of the most popular news stories this week normally accompanied by a picture of Taylor Swift.

While the media loses no opportunity to appeal to Swifties, Taylor’s influence should not be underestimated. However, there has been no mention at all that the sales in 2023 are very different to the sales in 1990 and as somebody who was selling vinyl all that time the difference is startling.

First, while there were big artists in the nineties, there was nobody dominating the charts the way Taylor Swift has this year. Second and more importantly, the motives behind buying a record back then were very different to today.

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Quite simply in 1990 somebody bought a record to listen to the music having for one reason or another chosen not to buy a compact disc or tape.

There was a certain amount of needing to own an album given it was then possible to tape a friend’s copy but these days the thinking behind many a purchase may well involve owning a record that may never be played with the music only ever streamed.

I don’t think anybody then ever bought an album for the sole reason of displaying it on their wall, which is certainly a consideration these days. Many record shops then kept the records behind the counter so a customer would need to bring an empty sleeve to the counter to make a purchase, so occasionally sleeves would be stolen by small boys wanting an Iron Maiden sleeve on their wall but it was not a huge problem.

In the nineties the “cool kids” were split into those who wanted to like an artist very few others liked and those who just wanted to be first to discover an artist before they became popular. Nowadays there are no real cool kids in that way and having exactly the same taste in music as all your friends appears to be the goal.

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One factor that is very much in vinyl’s favour is that parents approve of their children spending their money on vinyl as it reminds them of their own youth and nobody would begrudge the fact that both parents and children go away happy.

We do, of course, have a great range of posters too and the kids coming in to buy them after finding out about the shop from their friends reminds me of our time in the Grassmarket when students would come in after seeing a poster on a friend’s wall.

Streaming is by far the most popular way for people to listen to music these days but there will always be a place for physical product and with cassettes also on the rise and the decline of CDs now halted, those who were predicting ten years ago that there would come a time when there would be no need for record shops are looking pretty foolish.

I had a cool looking middle-aged guy who it transpired was from Seattle buy a Black Flag T-shirt this week and he gave me £25 cash for a £20 T-shirt.

I handed back the fiver explaining the shirt was only £20. “No” he said “you keep it. That was for the experience.”

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