Since 2008, sales of vinyl records in the UK have jumped from the million mark to just over five million. The resurgence in record sales comes at the same time as the CD market finds itself in a slump. This can be attributed to many factors, including the superior sound quality of vinyl, interest from a new generation of music fans, a newfound enthusiasm from older music fans who are returning to the format, and a spate of special releases and re-issues on vinyl. According to Mark from LP Record Store, people are “coming round to the quality of the sound that vinyl offers. The way it’s listened to it’s like a journey; putting the needle on the first track and listening to a full album”.

Record labels have started to manufacture vinyl again on a much bigger scale and many bands are choosing this format for releases. Owning a 12-inch feels much more tangible, with many bands choosing the format to maintain a physical connection with their fans in the digital age.

We’ve had some great independent record shops in Sheffield over the years, but most are sadly no longer with us. I have fond memories of visiting Warp and Jack’s Records in my youth. They were essential visits for music fans young and old. Thankfully, Record Collector in Broomhill still survives, and it has been a Sheffield institution since it first opened its doors in 1978. It’s a mecca for avid music fans on the hunt for new and second-hand releases, as well as the latest releases by local bands. They put the renewed interest in vinyl down to many factors, with interested parties ranging “from students to people who had turntables 15 to 20 years ago, sold their turntables and entire collections, and are just getting back into the feel and sound of vinyl”.

Sheffield has seen the demise of most of its record shops including the recent sad news regarding the future of HMV, and things are likely to deteriorate even further. Not too long ago we had a city centre brimming with various music outlets, like Woolworths, Fopp, Music Zone, Virgin and Our Price. Hopefully, we’re seeing the return of the independent record store, and along with Record Collector, newer shops like LP Record Store and Vinyl Demand join established names like Rare & Racy in fulfilling the needs of local enthusiasts. There is also an increasing resurgence in record fairs and bargains to be found in many of the city’s charity shops. Last Shop Standing, a documentary based on the book of the same name by Graham Jones, examines the decline of the independent record store – over 500 have closed since 2008 – featuring our very own Richard Hawley being interviewed in Record Collector. With larger high street names disappearing, this could be ‘make or break’ for smaller shops. There is a great opportunity, despite the predominance of digital formats, to take advantage of the growth in vinyl sales. But ultimately independent record shops depend on the support of the local community, so it’s down to us to support our local emporiums.

We are fast approaching the highlight of the year for avid collectors of music – Record Store Day, this year taking place on 20th April. Since its inception in 2007, Record Store Day has been a key date on the calendar for fans and collectors alike. It’s also a boon for the shops taking part. There’s always a sizeable queue on Fulwood Road waiting for Record Collector to open and a welcoming atmosphere greeting you on arrival. As Joe from Record Collector states: “[It’s] a positive experience for everyone up here… It’s just a fun day, something for people to get excited about, and people really have a good time, even stood in line waiting to get in the door. There’s that excitement of hopefully getting those releases you really want, and figuring out back ups.”

A few years back there was a huge buzz about a Radiohead release, and every year sees increasing support from bands for the day. Past years have seen rare releases from the likes of David Bowie, Blur, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, Public Image Ltd and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. What makes these releases so unique is that they’re available on the day and are limited pressings. It’s an opportunity for enthusiasts to get their hands on something genuinely special.

The full list of artists taking part this year can be viewed on the Record Store Day website, but there are confirmed releases from REM, Built To Spill, Bob Dylan, Black Keys, David Bowie, Elliott Smith, Low & Dirty Three, Phoenix, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Pulp. There will also be live music and events taking place on the day. LP Record Store are throwing an afterparty at Penelope’s featuring Screaming Maldini and The Retrospectives, and Knife and Fork will be curating a special vinyl exhibition upstairs.

Record Store Day is easily the busiest day of the year for independent record stores, and represents a huge spike in sales, but the impact is much more significant than that. Not only does it boost the profile of the shops involved, but more importantly it gets people through the door. With bigger chains going into administration, there is an opportunity for indies to fill the gap, and getting music fans out of the house is vital for their future success. Promotion is the key, and there will be a spate of coverage running up to the day itself.

As for the future of vinyl, well, much of that depends on you. It’s easy to rely on the internet when purchasing music, but if you visit a local shop you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you will find. Much of the pricing is very competitive, not to mention finding yourself surrounded by like-minded, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and customers. Who knows, you might just discover your new favourite band.

Local record stores worth checking out:

Record Collector – Broomhill
LP Record Store – Arundel Street
Vinyl Demand – Charter Square
Rare & Racy – Devonshire Street
Shado Retro – Nichols Building
Music Junkie – Cambridge Street

recordstoreday.com

Rob Aldam.