Natalie plays CDs in her car, uses an iPod when she's out and about, then puts a record on when she gets home.

It's her hierarchy of convenience and perceived authenticity - running from downloads to expensive vinyl - and from what is being heard at the shop counter, this is how increasing numbers of us are engaging with music.

So, with fingers crossed, I'm going to suggest Natalie's approach as the future, even if that's more in hope than in any great faith in the youth of the day after tomorrow. The alternative - gulp - is that vinyl, the vestigial nipple of music formats, is well into its final comeback, and it has had more than its fair share already.

Yes, new record sales in the US increased by 26 per cent last year, but the highest-selling album, Twenty One Pilots' Blurryface sold only 49,004 copies, while the bulk of the increase was likely because of grief purchases following the deaths of David Bowie and Prince.


Of course, there will be no end to the wide-eyed "believe it or not" reporting of this growth, but it remains hard to take the trend's medium-term prospects too seriously.

In the end, as ever, it'll come down to money, and right now vinyl is promoted as a premium product for which premium prices can be charged, which is understandable, except that given that most of the world's pressing capacity is dedicated to churning out rock re-issues for the boomer and Gen X markets, you have to wonder about what happens when they're gone. It's no accident that many young groups are now turning to cassettes for their physical releases.

But there is hope, so let's consider Natalie Newall further.

As a 43-year-old primary school teacher from Titirangi (by way of small town Northland), she not only grew up with records as the default format - her first love was Billy Idol - but only after saving hard, collecting the records and thrashing them in her bedroom.

Such milestones hardwire you for a vinyl predisposition and the view of intangible digital downloads as fundamentally inauthentic. As Newall says, she opts for MP3s when she wants background noise, while selecting and then playing a record almost defines "me time".

It's all part of a cycle: "If I'm interested in a new-release album and I'm not sure if I'll love it, I pick up a CD copy first. Then, if it's one I want to add to my collection, I'll invest in the vinyl version. For artists I really love, I'll have their whole album collection on CD, vinyl and digital formats."

The promising part is that her enthusiasm is rubbing off on her 10-year-old son. Like all kids, his attention is hooked if something appears on a screen, so mum's interest in online record groups such as Vinyl Discoveries gives the classics legitimacy.

As a result, he's an ELO fan with a growing record collection that runs to the likes of Muse, Black Sabbath, America and Michael Jackson. It's homespun indoctrination like this - before the kids think you're uncool - that may be the format's best hope.

Much like Amanda Barber, a 28-year-old English language teacher from Wellington, who was raised properly by two record-loving parents. Not only did they play records but they played them on a proper sound system that made each crackle as warm as a cosy fire.

Again, the result is that records feel special, the format for serious appreciation.

"It's also the physical representation of having a song or album as part of my material identity. If someone wants me to describe my music tastes, I just show them my collection."

Yet her iPod still comes into play when she fancies a random selection, and You Tube is a great tool for researching an artist or genre.

And that's another thing: the curation and curiosity that goes into building a collection quickly becomes a musical journey and Barber's currently digging into the '40s, which means finding room for an expanding number of 78s (and a whole new level of [aged] care to come to grips with).

Which brings us to the notion of formats within formats. If the net can provide a one-stop-shop for research or "try before you buy", the vinyl expression of that information can range from 78s, to albums, to EPs, to 10", 12" and, most loveable of all, the 7" or 45.

This is where things become less a bug than a full-blown illness.

Dom Nola is an Auckland DJ (aka Miss Dom) and former bFM programme director who fell for 45s as a young girl.

"There was a 7" of The Stones' Honky Tonk Woman floating around in a large bag of records that my brother inherited from our grown-up sister; I loved that 7-inch so hard and kept going back to it again and again."

She's now spreading her love for them to her punters, while to some extent, mimicking the flexibility of music streaming: "You can almost shuffle them like a playing cards and then see how a set can just magically come together. It's the same songs creating a completely different vibe."

But if putting your taste and knowledge on public display carries some risk, Nola enjoys the payoff.

"For me, playing vinyl makes me feel empowered, it's a deeply personal experience, and as a woman in what is mostly a male-dominated arena, I find playing to people a good place to stand my ground. Especially if I can pull something special from the crate. The looks I get sometimes, "oh, you little blonde chick", and I'll pull out a 7-inch by Agent Orange or Bad Brains ... then it's 'woah'."

So yeah, no pressure, but the prospects of records surviving another generation could come down to the likes of Natalie, Amanda and Dom. If gospels are for spreading, fundamentalism is always a dead end. Vinyl's best hope will be when it stops being seen as a hip and fashionable accessory and replaces the crappy T-shirt as the top-end expression of true fandom.