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The revival of vinyl

The revival of vinyl

If someone asked you to spend a little time thinking about vinyl, the first words that may spring to mind would probably be vintage, archaic, and antiquated. At best, you might see the format as the preserve of the cool and the quirky; at worst, as something entirely outmoded.

But you may be surprised to learn about how quickly it’s growing. In an age when CD and digital sales are in rapid decline thanks to streaming services like Spotify, YouTube converters, and plenty of other underground ways of getting your hands on music for free, record sales are on the rise.

I don’t mean by a little bit. The format has seen an incredible 260 per cent growth since 2009, making it one of the fastest growing forms of music media. As CDs sit on supermarket shelves gathering dust, vinyl supply is struggling to keep abreast of ever growing demand.

Now accounting for 1.5 per cent of record sales in Britain, up from 0.1 per cent in 2007, vinyl is back and in business once more.

The attraction of ownership

So what exactly is driving this reverse in fortunes for the format? HMV may hold the answers. Forced to call in the administrators in January 2013, it has been significantly boosted by the revival of vinyl in recent years.

Attracting 41,000 new customers in just 12 weeks in 2016, it increased its share of the physical entertainment market by 3.1 per cent in the same three-month period and has overtaken Amazon as the UK’s largest music retailer.

How did it do it? How did it manage suddenly to not only match the more digitally-savvy brands that it had struggled to compete with, but to actually overtake them? According to Patrizia Leighton, HMV’s head of marketing, it’s because of the attraction of ownership.

As she explains: “There is still an audience out there… irrespective of what the media believes. Young people like to own a physical product as it makes them feel closer to the artist to have something tangible to hold in their hand. We are seeing a trend [towards this way of thinking], particularly among young women.”

The user experience – the new instant world of self-gratification versus the tangible, back to basics possession of a vinyl record – has no doubt played a huge role in the revival, in the same way that it has helped paper books to regain ground against their digital media alternatives.  A couple of years ago, there were widespread predictions that old-fashioned paper books were doomed to unavoidable decline in favour of ebooks. But as publisher Adrian Zackheim points out, the story of 2016 is that ebook sales have stalled, because many readers still like the permanency of tangible editions. “Paper books are staging a big comeback, even hard covers,” he observes. Waterstones recently returned profits after facing bankruptcy.  In the same way, a few years ago there were expectations that videoconferencing would remove the need for people to waste time flying around the world to meet each other. But this is not the case, many people still want to meet, face to face, in the old-fashioned way.

In today’s ‘experience economy’ consumers demand that a company delivers on its brand promise with authentic experiences.  To sustain its rapid growth HMV need to provide personalised and unique experiences.  The customer experience should be at the heart of the business, not just a business idea.

The role of eCommerce

Of course HMV’s reversal of fortunes has also been enabled by its eCommerce operation and digital marketing strategy. Launching an online business through its digital agency Ridgeway in June 2015, its revamped website has allowed it to significantly broaden its product range and consumer appeal.

With sites like discogs.com, and many small independent record stores now utilising the same strategy, it seems that the revival of vinyl can only go from strength to strength.

In a society where Spotify and Netflix are only set to get bigger. In a world where gratification is instant yet fleeting, and technology develops at an unprecedented rate, we all want something to hold on to. Vinyl might just be it, and if HMV can give us the brand experience we’re seeking – one that understands our needs, both digital and physical – they may well be on to a winner.

Stefan Kerridge is founder of The K Consultancy. Partnering with your business to bring expertise without the overhead. Working as part of your business to drive your marketing plan, execute key activities and help you realise your ambitions for more information visit www.thekconsultancy.co.ukfollow on LinkedIn