Northern Ireland

Not just for hipsters: Why we fell back in love with vinyl

David Bowie records Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Bowie was the biggest-selling artist on vinyl in 2016

Stand aside digital, see you later MP3, time to dust off your old records because vinyl is back.

Of course to die hard fans, it never went away.

With the introduction of more accessible ways to listen to music you might be forgiven for thinking the death knell of plastic rang decades ago.

But in 2016, sales of vinyl records reached their highest level for 25 years.

Image caption Nothing like the scratch of a record player

The British Phonographic Industry, says the figures for last year are up 53% on those for 2015, with the late David Bowie topping the best selling artist list.


Owner of Dragon Records in Belfast Jeff Doherty who has had his shop for six years said he is seeing an increase in teenagers coming into the shop.

Image copyright Dragon Records/Jeff Doherty
Image caption Inside Dragon Records Belfast in the city centre

"There's a certain element of it becoming trendy - which is no bad thing," said Jeff.

"Before that, primarily, it was people in their 40s and 50s but it's hitting a younger age group now. Even looking at the art work on a 12-inch record, you really feel like you have something.

"As well as that, vinyl has a really nice sound to it which people are enjoying.

"Rather than buying current records, teenagers are buying The Beatles, Pink Floyd and bigger groups from the past," Jeff added.

'No comparison'

So why have sales rocketed this year?

Walk into any number of high street shops and chances are you'll see trendy new record players, re-vamped and stylised for a new audience.

What is it about vinyl that makes it so tenacious? Is it the sound, or is it being able to hold something tangible in your hand?

Music journalist, DJ and BBC Radio Ulster presenter Stuart Bailie said there is no comparison when it comes to vinyl v digital.

"There is a better, warmer sound off vinyl and also the digital experience tends to be cheap, tinny and compressed.

"Also, you'll always remember where you bought your record, where your life was at the time and what your state of mind was when you got it.

Image copyright Stuart Bailie
Image caption Stuart Bailie and some of his records

'Not a fad'

Stuart said his 16-year-old daughter got a record player for Christmas.

"She has taken possession of my old Smiths and Pixies album and it's a lovely thing to be able to hand that over.

"The millenials are just loving vinyl - I don't think they're bothered about whether it's cool. They just love the feel, touch and sound of it.

"We're all pretty sure now it's not a fad - it's something that is going to be in it for the long haul."

Image caption Stuart said Astral Weeks is one of his most played records

'Favourite record?'

"My most precious piece of vinyl is the first Clash album because I went to the gig in the Ulster Hall and got them to sign it - it's irreplaceable.

"I play Astral Weeks by Van Morrison a lot - it's a work of genius," said Stuart.

So if you have an old record player gathering dust it may be time to fire it up and stick on whatever you fancy.

It doesn't matter if it is The Everly Brothers, The Smiths, Springsteen or Ella Fitzgerald - as long as it's vinyl.

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