A Pressing Moment
With the curtains closed on the ninth annual Record Store Day – a worldwide event built around a support and appreciation of independent record stores, with a particular focus on vinyl – it’s easy to see the resurgence of this much loved format and feel that a long and prosperous future awaits it. Last year it found powerful allies from retail monolith Tesco & Sainsburys who announced that they would start stocking records instore, HMV announced that they sold a record player every minute over the Christmas period, and sales reached such a level that the Official Charts Company launched a specific vinyl chart – but things might be a little more complicated than the headlines would suggest.
Despite the huge surge in vinyl sales – which were up 64% to 2.1m units YoY from 2014/2015 – a brief look through the top 25 selling records of last year is a nostalgia trip to the past 50 years of popular music from major labels with the usual culprits of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Nevermind’, ‘Definitely Maybe’, ‘Rumours’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ all featuring. Obviously there is a place for classic records within vinyl’s renewal, but if the format is to survive long term and for the trickle-down effect to benefit the smaller majority then there must be a sustainable trend towards supporting both new and independent artists. The major labels have (potentially cynically) spotted the opportunity to re-issue these records to sell the same product to the same people in a different format (much as they did with the dawn of CDs). While scoring a quick buck in the short term might be a welcome treat in a challenging music industry, it simply covers some of the cracks in the vinyl boom. This has led to major negative effects for smaller players – as the major labels eat up capacity, causing lead time delays at pressing plants – a lesson we learnt the hard way when it took more than 3 months lead time in the pressing of our debut artist’s debut EP (previously this figure would have been closer to 4 weeks).
While Millennials’ passion for quality products (from craft beer to artisan coffee) can be viewed as an encouraging sign for the future, there is a concern that much like craft beer has done little to stall the decline of pub closures across the UK; vinyl’s resurgence may do little to improve the fate for the vast majority of artists and independent labels who are seeing little of this new revenue stream in a highly competitive music industry.