Retro revival poised for heavy rotation revolution?
By Clive Ramroop, Contributor
The picture snuck up on me as I absentmindedly scrolled through my newsfeed of the same old repetitive stuff. Grumpy Cat, raving political babble, pointless detail of someone’s lunch, more Grumpy Cat, complaints about the summer heat, Doctor Who, that damn cat yet again, some boring meme I don’t care to recall, a photo of vinyl records at a store display… blink. Stop scrolling. Moment of disbelief. Click pic to see the details better. Jaw drop.
It was not an old photo retouched for digital sharing. I could tell it was a recent photo because of the David Guetta album among the Hendrix, Deep Purple, and Beatles on a rack at London Drugs. A full stock of vinyl records being sold in the year 2013, no less. I knew I had to see this for myself. A few days later, I dropped by a couple London Drugs locations in my area. The electronics department in both locations had their own stocks of vinyl albums: from current artists like Adele and Mumford & Sons, to re-issues of classics by Elvis Presley, Queen, and Miles Davis. A subsequent visit to HMV in Metrotown revealed another selection of vinyl. The whole experience felt like someone tossed a time warp into a giant blender and hit frappé.
With iPods making endless playlists magically portable, and the compact disc barely avoiding joining cassettes in the passé bin, I wondered how there could be a market for what I thought was a long-outdated music format. Aside from DJs and pockets of vinyl aficionados, is the demand really great enough for the venerable gramophone record?
The answers I got surprised me a bit. One London Drugs employee told me that some of today’s youth had been curious about these big black discs, and began raiding their parents’ dusty old collections to give them a listen. Apparently it started up a revival market fuelled by interest in anything “retro.”
Another employee talked about how vinyl yielded a “warmer” sound, as opposed to modern digital formats being prone to slight distortion. An old friend of mine told me how most jazz enthusiasts still listen to vinyl today, calling it the most physically durable format for recorded music, provided the medium undergoes proper care and maintenance.
It brought to mind something I learned about one of Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Technology, how further advancement may lead to something lost from the past being revived. But I don’t know how deeply the vinyl resurgence has penetrated the mainstream market. I haven’t seen any vinyl stock at Future Shop or Best Buy, and Metrotown is the only HMV location where I’ve found them so far. However, small independent stores might stand a good chance of providing a substantial supply. And there’s a website called Music on Vinyl (www.musiconvinyl.com), complete with online catalogue.
I couldn’t resist a few captures during my visits, purchasing five albums: three by Michael Jackson (Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad), and two by Daft Punk (Discovery, Random Access Memories). I still primarily listen to my CDs for music enjoyment, but I had different reasons for my purchases: future collector’s items. I’m dead certain some people still have their original Beatles, Stones, or Zeppelin albums from half a century ago. Hey, I have to start somewhere.