Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

In the groove - it's vinyl's big comeback

Musician Brendan Zwaan discovered vinyl three years ago and has been building up his collection ever since. Photo / Dean Purcell
Musician Brendan Zwaan discovered vinyl three years ago and has been building up his collection ever since. Photo / Dean Purcell

Music lovers' appetites for vinyl records is increasing, and a retro revival shows no signs of slowing.

Some Auckland retailers are reporting a tenfold sales increase over the past four years, and new shops are opening to meet the growingdemand.

Real Groovy record store owner Chris Hart said vinyl was the store's most popular item, and customers of all ages were keen to get their hands on new and used records.

"New record sales are probably up tenfold in the last four years," he said. "We also just can't get enough good, second-hand records, so we import a large amount of LPs from America and the UK. Every week we have getting on to thousands of new releases arriving from the US and Europe.

"Sales of turntables are also going up all the time, the manufacturers of our main kind have quadrupled their production in the last two years alone."

Southbound Records opened on Mt Eden Rd last year to cater for the growing number of vinyl fanatics, said manager Dorland Bray.

"We sell 90 per cent vinyl LPs, brand new ones - it's the whole point of us being here and it's growing every day, we get new people in every day.

"Five years ago we couldn't have opened this shop."

A vinyl revival began about six years ago and is showing no signs of losing momentum as more people are catching on to the benefits of listening to records.

Mr Hart said the sound quality of vinyl records was richer than that of CDs, and records also created a social ambience.

"Playing a record is a much more social experience than you can have on a personal audio device. Most of the time you're playing it when other people are around, so you kind of need to think about playing to the room."

Mr Bray said having something physical to own was important for music fans.

"People don't like paying for downloads - they'll listen to them, but they don't want to pay for them. If they give you $50, they want to see something for it - they don't want to pay for something invisible."

LPs also appealed to all listeners - from baby boomers reconnecting with the way they listened to music in their youth, to DJs from the 1990s putting their turntables to use and younger listeners who want memorabilia of their favourite bands.

Mr Hart said vinyl records cost between $20 and $35, and were often integrated with digital options.

"A lot of them come with a CD insert and a download certificate so you can just go online and download the LP legitimately. The other thing is if you spend $30 on a record and you don't like it, you can trade it back in - you can't do that with a download."

Mr Bray said funk, reggae and jazz were always popular, but Europe-based Kiwi Connan Mockasin was hot at the moment alongside Lorde and rock classics Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Nirvana.

A dedicated convert to the record revolution

Musician Brendan Zwaan, 24, has added over 120 records to his collection since joining the vinyl revival three years ago.

"I moved in with a flatmate who had a record player and after hearing some of the old records ... I couldn't help myself really," he said. "It's the richness of the sound combined with the availability of a vast amount of music. There are just so many amazing old albums that are just so cheap ... it's an endless library of possibilities."

He bought a second-hand Vestax PDX 2000 turntable and estimates about 15 people he knows had also ditched digital files to listen to music on turntables.

"About three years ago when I first got into it it seemed like everyone else was on the same track ... even the ones who were out of the industry altogether seemed to agree that it wasn't that great a feeling to download all the music you like at your fingertips, but all you have to show for it is some digital file that you couldn't touch or hold or look at ... it's kind of bouncing back - a reaction to the valuelessness of digital media."

Mr Zwaan, who is in two bands and works at an Auckland bar and also a music store, enjoys finding progressive rock from the 1970s and is determined to keep his collection long-term.

"LPs are one of the last physical media that is likely to exist, so for that reason I don't think it's ever going to die out altogether. It might be in a bit of a bubble at the moment and maybe it will taper off a little bit.

"There is just something incredibly real and physical about the idea of the record that has the waveforms of the music physically imprinted on the disc you're holding. It doesn't get much more real than that."

- NZ Herald

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