Vinyl comeback seen on Dublin streets

Dublin’s city centre has found itself inundated with the oddest of entrepreneurial ventures over the past few months. Apparently, Dubliners just can’t get enough craft beer, poké, expensive coffee and €3 doughnuts that are packed with enough sugar to induce Type 2 diabetes. However, while these have quickly flooded our shelves and (somehow) emptied our bank accounts, something which has been on the rise within our city, and globally, has been the purchasing of lovely slabs of analogue music. By that, I mean vinyl records.

Vinyl has made a bold comeback, to such a point that it even nearly put itself out of business. However, that hasn’t stopped the fine people of Dublin from partaking in the age old tradition, an expensive one at that, of vinyl collecting. Although the pros tend to shop online for the best deals, there are still some digging die-hards who still opt to take a trip to their local record store. However, depending on your location that might be difficult.

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Image: Conor Shields

Blackwax Records is a new venture by seasoned Dublin DJ and collector, Willo, in the form of a single unit record store, buried within the heart of Windsor Arcade on Meath Street in Dublin. After being open for only three weeks, Willo has seen a rake of customers come and go, looking to peruse and purchase what he has to offer. Speaking to TheCity.ie, Willo explained how he got started with his store and why Meath Street?

“It was the cheapest place! I was meant to open in Temple Bar but that fell through and this was the cheapest place going. I’ve been collecting records for years and I’ve always wanted to open a record shop. I used to tell people back at sessions that I would and one night, I just decided to go forward with it,” said Willo.

After looking over his wares, it was interesting to see what kind of records he had for sale, considering the current size of his business. When it comes to selling vinyls, you really have to deliver to your customers. You have to know what they want, before they even enter the shop. I was curious to know what Willo’s selection process was.

“I’m only learning but I’m quickly learning what’s selling now. At the minute it’s just hit and miss. I have nothing direct at the moment. I’m still trying to figure out the market. Some of them are my own records but I’ve also been buying other people’s collections. It’s all about finding the right collections,” continued Willo.

He touched on his future plans before I left, commenting that he hopes to rent out a larger space in order to sell more goods than he can at the moment. I then left with my Kelis single in hand.

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Image: Conor Shields

At the moment, there are only a handful of record shops open for business in Dublin, with most following their own process of selection when it comes to picking which records to sell. It’s unlike your traditional business in which you can buy in bulk and hopefully sell enough to make profit. All records are hand-picked in the hope of being sold. It’s a delicate business, but one which I’m sure will be sticking around for future generations to have a nose at.

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Image: Conor Shields

Reporting and images by Conor Shields

Dublin is alive with the sound of vinyl

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.

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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.