- Vinyl records are experiencing a worldwide revival, attracting new and old collectors to their mix. They make up about 50 per cent of all physical sales in New Zealand, or around 5000 units a week.
Tony Pill is on his tippy toes adjusting a grey T-shirt hanging on the wall of his shop.
"Music-loving, crate digging, record spinning, vinyl junkie," it reads.
He could have written it about himself, as possibly could the masked customer in the corner of his store, head hung over Beatles albums, flipping through the jackets.
English-born Pill, who turns 76 next month, is Tauranga's antique dealer equivalent to TV's "Lovejoy", sniffing out elite covers from the 1950s up, knowing what people will come back to decades later.
A rare blue vinyl LP from Depeche Mode sells for $1000 at his Record Roundabout store and The Smashing Pumpkins' triple album is set $160.
Left for dust in the 1980s as the CD or compact disc took over, vinyl records are experiencing a worldwide revival, and are now the music industry's most sought-after and highest-grossing physical format.
Taylor Swift's album Evermore set a record this year for most vinyl copies sold in one week; and vinyl now makes up around 50 per cent of all physical sales in New Zealand, or around 5000 units a week, but the quantity varies greatly depending on the record labels' release schedules and seasonal differences such as Christmas, Recorded Music NZ data manager Paul Kennedy says.
"As most vinyl is shipped into New Zealand, vinyl sales are also especially subject to factors like Covid-related supply chain disruptions and the pressure on pressing plant capacity worldwide," he says.
When it comes to vinyl from music legends of yesteryear, some listeners are wanting to relive the "raw" stage performances, Pill says.
"You had to know what you're doing, you had to have a good voice."
He buys vinyl globally as well as throughout New Zealand, and won't buy anything less than a rating of very good (VG).
Last year he bought 800 records collected by Kiwi blues and R&B guitarist Midge Marsden and has also had the privilege of meeting one of New Zealand's biggest Rolling Stones collectors at Waihi Beach.
His own collection in his specialist store is a colourful nostalgic wonderland of posters, music jigsaws, framed photography and art (some signed by the likes of Jimmy Barnes and Melissa Ethridge), and a glass cabinet with music memorabilia.
It is also home to limited-edition picture discs (some limited to 300 worldwide) and new and coloured vinyl imports, rare and collectable LPs and 45s, along with difficult-to-find CDs and cassettes.
He resurrected his business after officially retiring in 2000 because he wanted one last spin.
He looked after the books of two music stores in the UK, before opening a record store in Tauranga's Piccadilly Arcade in 1988.
Nowadays, having relocated to Historic Village, it's his "hobby business", in an industry that's thriving.
And it's not just older folk ploughing through the stacks, he says, but school kids.
CDs are the "retro" collectables to Gen Z that vinyl is to millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.
Old-school posters of Kurt Cobain, Janice Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix are once again Blu-Tacked to bedroom walls.
And some teens like to wind back the clock even further.
A 15-year-old instrumentalist comes into Record Roundabout to look for Miles Davis and John Coltrane "to learn from the masters".
Youngsters will keep vinyl alive for a long time to come, he says, so long as record companies don't push the prices up too high.
But so far, people are prepared to pay, says Rotorua's Q Records & Collectables owner Quentin McIntosh.
"I call it the people's music shop because the more the people buy the more that we stock."
The 34-year-old opened his physical store nine months ago after starting it online on Facebook. He sells mostly new records.
Taking away discounts or specials, the average price of a new, single LP with two sides is about $39 to $59. Doubles are between $49 and $89.
He had two "holy grails" which he's now sold: an original Beatles box set with all of their albums, including rarities only involved in the New Zealand press of it ($700), and a "massive" Chris Cornell box set (also around $700).
Record companies are reissuing "pretty much everything", he says.
"Classic albums that might be celebrating 20, 30, 40-year anniversaries. There's a whole new generation of people picking up those records and experiencing it for the first time."
Such is the case with cassettes.
"I never thought I'd have to see tapes again in my life," he laughs.
"It's a very small but dedicated, niche group of people who come to pick up our tapes. They're very retro.
"We have some old souls in young bodies."
The physical, meditative aspect of playing music is what appeals, he says.
"You get to listen to it how it's meant to be listened to - track by track, you are involved physically by having to turn it over, read the liner notes, and I think it just creates that whole experience and it's therapeutic.
"They just want their real favourites to be able to listen to, and that's where the rabbit hole starts."
McIntosh, who has a background in radio marketing and promotion, has been collecting vinyl since 2007 (he's a 90s electronic and trip hop fan) and calls it a "neverending expensive hobby".
It's also a way of life for the likes of music industry entrepreneur Grant Hislop, founder of The Rock, Kiwi FM, Coastline FM and now The Station 105.4FM in the Bay.
As well as working for Warner Music looking after artists Shihad, the Feelers, Anika Moa, Fur Patrol, Weta; and managing Goodshirt, Pluto and Opshop; he owns bayofplenty.live.
Hislop's latest venture is Mood, which until recently, had a pop-up base at Historic Village.
It is both a record label and promoter of all things vinyl, which includes retail elements, radio, and Juice TV.
Vinyl surpassed CD sales for the first time since 1991 last year, he says, and is now a $1 billion a year industry.
"In the first six months of 2021, over 19,000,000 units were sold and demand is increasing.
"We're actually experiencing a massive increase in music consumption globally," he says.
"Fourteen per cent in the first six months of the year, and that has been intensified by the pandemic, and people turning to music as an escape.
"Radio listening is up globally 18 per cent, and obviously TikTok is the new kid on the block and going off."
However, the revival has been in play for 10 years, he says.
"General music consumption has increased and therefore people who discover an artist whether it be by radio, Spotify or TikTok, become a fan, and then want to dig deeper and own physical products produced by the artist.
"There's been a retro revival, and so, it's simply a cool thing to be into."
The availability of entry-level and mid-range turntables at good prices has also helped, and a limited supply of vinyl means it becomes a collector's item.
Most vinyl production runs are very small, and this creates "demand to own", he says.
"A vinyl collection is one of the few personal things you can own that takes you back to a time and place, whilst continuing to provide enjoyment for your whole life.
"And as people are discovering, they're still worth something."
Sound quality can be subjective, but in his experience, even to an untrained ear, you can hear the difference.
"Recently we did an experiment with someone who bought a turntable from us. We played the same Morcheeba album on vinyl and Spotify through the system, and flicked between.
"The sound was warmer, but overwhelming it was the bringing to instruments and elements of the mix, such as string and percussion and the general separation.
"For me it's that you have to be present and engaged. Select the album off the shelf, fire up the turntable, pour a glass of wine and sit down to enjoy.
"It's a process, a commitment, and an investment."
I've got some records to sell, how do I go about it?
Clean the records and sell them individually, otherwise find a dealer you trust, such as those featured in this story.
Tony Pill offers a free valuation service on collections and pays the best money for quality collections.
Bear in mind that scratched vinyl is virtually worthless, and don't be offended if a dealer doesn't want what you have, says Grant Hislop.
"There are some titles that every household in New Zealand may have once owned and so the market is flooded," he says.
"As good an artist as Neil Diamond is, there's only so much demand for one of his albums secondhand."