Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Debunking notions on vinyl records, millennials & OPM

Debunking notions on vinyl records, millennials & OPM
by rick olivares

You’d think in this day and age of technology and everything seemingly going digital, the rise in popularity of vinyl records is more than a fad and a throwback. Except it is not.

The days when Brazilian business magnate Zero Freitas purchasing every vinyl album he could get his hands on (as of February 2015, he has over six million records bought from all over the world) was the single news maker and proponent for vinyl are over.

After the vinyl record industry was all but declared having gone the way of the dinosaur in the 1990s, its’ back. And we aren’t simply referring to one’s back catalogue of records that are sold in flea markets and bargain stores. These are actual new and back issue releases. We’re talking about modern recording artists like Daft Punk, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Justin Timberlake, and Rumer to name a few putting out recordings on vinyl. As for that never-say-die and still-trucking English band, the Who, they just put out the 50th Anniversary Edition of the release of their seminal album, My Generation, containing a three-LP, 80-page book, and memorabilia package!

As for those original first or early pressings? You’ll find them on Ebay, Amazon, or those aforementioned flea markets.

With actual compact disc sales declining (except in the United Kingdom where they remain robust) and digital sales stagnating (as streaming has gone up), vinyl records are steadily climbing. According to Nielsen Soundscan, from a low of one million units sold in 2007 in the United States and Canada, sales have ballooned up to 12 million in 2015! Incredible isn’t it?

Now here is another monkey wrench in your pre-conceived notions… many of the buyers  -- at least according to some vinyl records outlets in Manila – are youngsters. Yes, millennials.

Before you dismiss them as hipsters, you might actually want to consider that a good thing. Whether they are being faddish or genuinely fans of music, that’s good because listening to these records means taking time away from one’s gadgets to sit back, relax, read lyrics sheets, credits, and liner notes.

During an informal interview with proprietors of the Grey Market, a vinyl record store in Shoppersville, Greenhills, we were informed that there has been a steady increase in younger buyers. The shop has seen an upsurge in vinyl sales.

The Astrovision outlet at nearby Virra Mall has a steady catalogue of vinyl. “We have regular customers,” offered one sales person who declined to be identified. “I think they even sell more than the CDs.”

Over at Cubao X, that haven for artists and counter culture, there are at least five shops that sell vinyl records with the most prominent being Gold Digger and Vinyl Dump. During a recent trip to Cubao X (like Tuesday, December 20), we were informed that Original Pilipino Music albums have become popular sellers. Even a beaten up copy of the Juan dela Cruz Band’s last recording, 1980’s “Kahit Anong Mangyari”, fetches a whopping PhP 5,000! “APO Hiking Society albums among many, are very popular and are in demand,” said one shop owner.

The local market has been flooded with Japanese imports that sell for as low as Php800 and go as high as P1,800 on the average. The old issues, beaten up due to improper storage and care, sell for as low as P300!

“Pricey,” described Cubao X thrift shop proprietor Chito Soliven. “But worth it if you’re a fan. But the old ones even if they show their age are popular. Regarding the people who buy the vinyl records, we have both Filipino and foreigners. Especially the foreigners who have a better appreciation for this.”

With the surge in sales and popularity, does that mean turntables, amplifiers, and speakers are selling like hotcakes?

Not exactly. Some really top of the line units sell for as high as PhP 65,000! The old ones, the lot and all, will go for as low as Php8,000. However, those units have definitely seen better days.

What are popular are those portable vinyl players with built-in speakers and contain USB port features that sell for several thousand bucks.

“At least we know the vinyl market is alive,” underscored Soliven. “And that’s good for music overall. Plus, they make for a good Christmas gift this season! Yea, the gift of music.”

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