Saturday 9 March 2013

Fran Ashcroft Waxes Lyrical

Waxing Lyrical

By Fran Ashcroft

It's been coming for a while - yes folks, as predicted in these very pages, vinyl is back. Not in a mainstream way, but an interesting one, and an international phenomenon at that.

The surge really got underway last year, with new indie micro labels springing up all over the place, issuing  releases as vinyl only, limited editions; and selling out fast. It's a perfect alternative to our digital, disposable, corporatised industry; imbued with a punk, DIY ethic, it's a gift to the burgeoning underground from the dept. of the bleeding obvious. 

There's always been an appeal to the physicality of vinyl, from taking the record from its sleeve to putting the needle onto the grooves, which makes it a participatory, ritualised kind of experience. There's something that goes far beyond the sonic - and I don't mean coloured vinyl or gatefold sleeves - and a sense of ownership that remains special and unique. I think perhaps vinyl captures the memories that music evokes in a more permanent way than any other storage device, and that's part of the magic.

Most of the releases I worked on last year went out on vinyl, yet the majority of the tracks were digitally recorded - and some would actually have come off better if kept in the digital domain. But that isn't the point. The vinyl comeback is to do with trying to put a sense of value and meaning back into music, and you can't argue with that. 

Of course, there's no money in it - manufacturing costs are high, and on typically short run releases, the margins are paper thin. But it has cred for the bands, adds brand loyalty for a label, and promises to build a dedicated, loyal fan base for both. So much so that a smattering of past their sell by date pop stars are falling over each other and jumping on the bandwagon as fast as they can to start their own vanity vinyl operations, and some of the smarter industry guys are sniffing around to see what the next trend might be to come out of it all (don't hold your breath for the next big thing 'garage psych blues' band to be touted and tarted up by a major). 

You might think this amounts to nothing more than harking back to the days of selling records out of the back of a pick up truck. But with a bit of luck, this little vinyl renaissance will foster a new generation of indie labels and artists - so don't throw away your Dansette just yet.

Fran Ashcroft on

No comments:

Post a Comment