In today’s world convenience is paramount. From handheld computers down to travel chess on a long train journey, people are constantly looking for handier and more portable ways of doing things.
Compare today’s pocket-friendly TV screens to those of even ten to fifteen years ago, and you’ll have an idea of how everything around us has been rigorously streamlined to match our modern on-the-go culture.
Music hasn’t been left out in this obsessive race for convenience either, undergoing huge changes in how we release and consume our favourite sounds over the past couple of decades.
From vinyl to the cassette, compact discs all the way up to today’s revolutionary and tech-savvy mp3 files, music formats have increasingly became more sophisticated and compact reflecting technological advancements and social demands over the years. People want music wherever they go: walking to work, in the gym, studying in the library, everywhere. People want convenience – and they want it pocket-sized.
Despite this, an annual sales report by Neilsen Company and Billboard showed that in 2014 vinyl record sales in the US reached over 9 million sales for the first time in 20 years – a 53% increase from the 6.06 million sales in 2013.
US vinyl album sales between January and March of 2015 were 53% higher than the same period last year. The stats indicate a trend that is going from strength to strength with overall sales having increased by 220% since the start of the decade.
So with the endless possibilities that digital music bring us, we need to ask the question, why are people reverting to vinyl?
“It gives music value. Someone felt strongly enough about that music to put it onto vinyl, and between that music being made and going to vinyl, many other people were involved in the processing and manufacturing of that vinyl, and therefore the music better be worth the work put in,” explains Earwiggle Records founder, Sunil Sharpe.
He argues that vinyl’s production boundaries are a form of quality control when compared to the internet with its virtually endless avenues for self-publishing that can lend itself to mediocrity.
Sunil’s format of choice when releasing music is vinyl as he believes there is a “greater statement of intent than releasing on mp3/CD” due to the long production process. This has a strong influence, generally speaking, on the standard of music released.
Digital and analogue mediums of music can exist simultaneously for different purposes, however the accessibility of internet piracy poses the biggest challenge to vinyl as a music format. Looking for the easiest and most cost efficient option is a condition of our modern society, but not everyone thinks this way.
“I think vinyl is still relevant because not everyone needs or wants convenience when it comes to music,” explained Dave Hargadon. Dave is one half of Dublin based electronic outfit, Slowburn, and a long-time record collector.
“Some people like the whole art form that goes with making/playing/collecting vinyl and they want to keep it alive,” he said.
Having released music through record labels like Berlin’s Uzuri and Dublin’s Lunar Disko, vinyl is Hargadon’s preferred music format. He established his own label, Lime Street Music, which will see its first release this year from Marvis Dee. He says he prefers “having a physical copy and not something that exists [only] on a hard drive”.
So it seems the writing is still not on the wall for the future of vinyl as a music medium. It is proving itself once again as a viable format for our favourite sounds, a means to support the music industry directly and to own something physical for ourselves.
It may not be for everyone but it is there for those who want it.
Dublin has plenty of good spots to pick up vinyls: Spindizzy records in Georges Street Arcade, All City Records, the Temple Bar graffiti and record store, and The Record Spot (pictured) situated in the basement of Fade Street’s second hand video game store The Rage.
Words and pictures by Sean Whitty.