If in the early nineties I had been handed a vinyl record, I would have looked at the person passing it to me and said: “What do you want me to do with that?”
Around that time I’d just bought “Definitely Maybe” and CD was king. These shiny little discs had killed off the cassette and walkmans were hitting bins quicker than shell suits.
Fast forward 10 years and the tables are turning on this once seemingly future proof medium. Vinyl is getting its groove back (last year saw a 101% rise in sales on 2012) and although MP3s and iTunes have been the main contributors to a scratchy few years for the CD, vinyl has certainly been taking its slice.
As the seventh annual Record Store Day approaches, two Burnley record stores are gearing up for one of their busiest days of the year. Astonishing Sounds and Electron are located only a vinyl’s throw away from each other in Hall Street – an incredible fact when you think there are only around 200 record stores throughout the whole of the UK.
And Neil Kinder, who moved Astonishing Sounds to Burnley from Blackburn in 1989, said there has always been a strong demand in the town.
“There is a strong demand in Burnley. In the North-West it’s probably the strongest outside of London.
“Technology has taken the edge off slightly. The CD market has suffered but the record market hasn’t really. It’s become more niche. Saying that, the last two years a lot of kids have been buying records, because not everybody wants to be an iPod user. It’s a bit like standing out from the crowd. People like vinyl because it’s more interesting. It’s not as instantly disposable as CD. With vinyl people always have an emotional attachment to records they like.
“It is an extension of your individuality. New cars are nice but you see a lot of people driving around in new cars and they all look the same. However, when you see an old one you stop and take notice.”
In a time when high street stores like HMV and Virgin have fallen victim to the recession, these two independent stores have kept going; providing music lovers with a unique treasure trove of hits.
Electron has been around since the early 1900s. Les Baxter, who runs the store now took over from his dad in around 1983 having ran its sister store in Nelson.
“We had an old man come into the store once and he said he used to come in and buy records just after the war finished in 1919.
“In the 60s and 70s vinyls were selling like fish and chips. When the second Beatles records came out we got about 50 in and they flew out. You’ve got to remember people were spending half their weekly wage on records as well.
“I don’t know how it’s stood the test of time. There’s something special about vinyl. You really feel like you’re buying something.”
Record Store Day, which takes place on Saturday, came about as a way of celebrating the culture of the independently owned record store. A whole range of artists will be releasing limited edition records on the day as thousands of fans queue hoping to get their hands on that rare piece of music.
“Record Store Day is good,” said Neil. “In the last two years that corporate side has crept in a bit though and you’re seeing it now more from the company point of view. Some of the releases are a bit cynical. You’ve got to think you’re only getting a colour vinyl of something you already have. It is a good way of getting the younger generation interested and we tend to get a lot of people we don’t always see here on the day so that’s definitely a good thing.”
Digital is here to stay but vinyl will always have a place in people’s hearts and on their shelves according to Neil.
“Vinyl is special and it will always be around. I love coming into work. I don’t know what I am going to sell from one day to the next. You are what you buy in this business.
“You can have a shop full of stuff and people will always ask you for something that you don’t have. It’s what makes it interesting.”