Everyone remembers their first time. No, I’m not talking about the actual first time. I’m speaking of the initial experience with vinyl. Every vinyl fanatic remembers their first time with the old-fashioned music format.
Flicking through options to find a beautifully constructed piece of art that you may have spent your life seeking. Stripping the outer layer and slipping the record from its package and placing it on the turntable. Gently letting the needle down on the wax with all the care in the world and hearing a crisp, warm noise generated. It’s a wholesome feeling.
Matt Richter, Head of Online Sales at Vinyl Revival, describes the vinyl addiction best: “There’s a nostalgia and a culture to it. People don’t want to get rid of it. It’s hard to explain, but when you start getting into it, you’re hooked. It’s a gorgeous way to listen to music.”
In the last decade, there have been millions joining the vinyl-loving party. According to statistics released by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) at the end of each year, vinyl sales have sharply increased by 4517% in that period. In 2008, a miserly $392,000 vinyl albums sold in Australia. Since then, the format has enjoyed stellar growth, hitting $18.1 million worth of vinyl records sold in 2017 nationwide.
The vinyl revival has come at an extremely unexpected time. In the decade that vinyl has returned to fashion, streaming has gone from its infancy to quickly progress to become the most popular format for music consumption.
In ARIA’s 2017 statistics break-down, all components of music streaming increased significantly. Subscription services income totalled almost $170 million, recording an increase of 55% on the previous year. Ad-supported streaming models came to $19 million, a rise of 64% from 2016.
When streaming first gained momentum in the late 2000s, music industry experts feared the end of not only physical formats but the industry as a whole. Music streaming can be free if users wish, which is a problem in itself. However, the principal concern lies with the revenue raised for the artists. Artists – along with rights-holders such as record labels and publishers – gain between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream. That doesn’t seem sustainable.
But somehow, the music industry is getting stronger. According to ARIA, the total sales of the music industry, including physical, digital and streaming formats, came to about $391 million. That’s a 10% increase on 2016’s $354 million generated.
Music streaming has divided music industry pundits. Yet, Pat Monaghan, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and now owns Melbourne’s esteemed Rocksteady Records, believes streaming has its benefits to the industry.
“I have no problem with streaming, other than what they pay artists. In lots of ways, it’s very useful for people to kind of get a taste for the sound. If the general flavour of it engages them, they can then decide if they like it and want to own it. As opposed to borrowing it from someone, they come and buy it. If they see something they haven’t before, they can quickly get a taste of it and say that’s for me.”
It seems strange that people want to own the music when they already have it at their fingertips on streaming services. But it appears that’s the case. Richter believes there are a few notable reasons behind it.
Matt Richter of Vinyl Revival. Credit: Sarah Cadzow
“The sound quality is tremendously better.”
“It’s a multitude of things… People want something physical to hold and I think that has a huge effect on it. Also, the sound quality is tremendously better. Over the years, we have whittled down the quality of audio for convenience. It’s more convenient to play something from your phone rather than to flip a record. When people walk through the door and you reintroduce them to it, they realise the quality is so much better.”
Richter also pointed out an underrated reason for the vinyl resurgence in stating “many people say it’s largely built out of Record Store Day.” Record Store Day coincidentally began in 2008, the exact time that vinyl began to pick up. Initially formed to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture of vinyl and record stores, Record Store Day has spread like wildfire worldwide. It’s become an official holiday in some American cities, there are hundreds of limited edition releases exclusively for the day and there is major artist meet and greets.
With all these factors playing an equally important part, it seems clear that vinyl will be spinning for years to come. While many people are still critical of vinyl’s stability in the industry, Monaghan says the classic format will survive.
“For an item to come back so strongly and stay, it’s unique. This is not a fad.”
“For an item to come back so strongly and stay, it’s unique. This is not a fad. If it’s not as strong as it was in terms of dominating a market, it’s still pretty damn strong. At times you would suggest it’s almost thriving.”