Doors thrown open for a great vinyl re­vival

China Daily European Weekly - - Spotlight -

If you were un­der the im­pres­sion that old-style phono­graphic records had gone the way of the dodo, you might be in for a sur­prise

Day, an an­nual in­ter­na­tional event that few peo­ple other than the most dyed-in-the-wool au­dio­philes will be fa­mil­iar with. The in­dus­try uses the day to pro­mote in­de­pen­dent record shops that con­tinue to sup­port the in­dus­try as they bat­tle tough times. The idea of a spe­cial day was that of an em­ployee of the mu­sic store Bull Moose in the United States.

Two weeks af­ter the 2018 Record Store Day, an event called Blue Union Vinyl Mar­ket, which at­tracted lo­cal record stores’ own­ers, in­clud­ing Wang, was held at Blue Note Bei­jing, the first branch of New York’s fa­mous Blue Note Jazz Club in China.

Event co-ini­tia­tor Shi Jing says many young mu­sic lovers turned up to buy CDs and vinyl, which was a big sur­prise.

“Their in­ter­ests are many and var­ied, from jazz, soul and hip-hop to rock. They em­brace the tra­di­tional mu­sic cul­ture. It’s great to see that peo­ple are pay­ing for mu­sic. It’s pos­si­ble for record stores to sur­vive and thrive here.”

One buyer of phys­i­cal records is Zhang Yuanyuan, 24, a mu­sic lover in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

Zhang says she loves the Tai­wan pop singer Jay Chou and has bought all of Chou’s CDs and vinyl records since she was in high school. She also fol­lows her idol’s tours and buys the most ex­pen­sive tick­ets.

“Only loyal fans buy phys­i­cal records nowa­days to add to their per­sonal col­lec­tion. It’s a spe­cial con­nec­tion be­tween me as a fan and Chou. I also pay for on­line stream­ing and down­load­ing.”

The In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of the Phono­graphic In­dus­try said in a re­cent re­port that rev­enue from phys­i­cal for­mats fell by 5.4 per­cent last year, com­pared with a fall of 4.4 per­cent in 2016. Con­sump­tion of phys­i­cal for­mats fell in most mar­kets, but rev­enue for phys­i­cal record­ings still ac­counted for 30 per­cent of the global mar­ket and a higher per­cent­age of mar­ket share in coun­tries such as Ja­pan (72 per­cent) and Ger­many (43 per­cent). Glob­ally, rev­enue from vinyl sales grew by 22.3 per­cent and ac­counted for 3.7 per­cent of the to­tal recorded mu­sic mar­ket last year.

“We are op­ti­mistic about the phys­i­cal records mar­ket in China, though it will take some time to re­cap­ture the glory years of the 1990s,” says Hou Jun, vice-pres­i­dent of China Record Group Co Ltd, the big­gest and old­est record com­pany in the coun­try.

“Many peo­ple are happy to lis­ten to mu­sic on their smartphones and as­sume record stores can barely sur­vive, but in fact the coun­try, which used to be home to many lo­cal record com­pa­nies and record stores ca­ter­ing to ev­ery taste and bud­get, is en­joy­ing a re­vival, es­pe­cially with the resur­gence of vinyl.”

In the 1990s, the com­pany sold about 10 mil­lion records, such as pop, folk and clas­si­cal mu­sic by Chi­nese singers and or­ches­tras, Hou says. In the early 2000s, the num­ber dropped to no more than 10,000 copies, and the huge change in the way mu­sic was con­sumed led to many Chi­nese record com­pa­nies clos­ing down in the first 10 years of the mil­len­nium.

How­ever, it now ap­pears that some of those changes were not nec­es­sar­ily per­ma­nent. In the late 1990s, China Record Group Co Ltd closed its last vinyl pro­duc­tion line be­cause of the de­cline of the mar­ket of phys­i­cal records. Sev­eral weeks ago, as the com­pany cel­e­brated the 110th year of its found­ing, it an­nounced plans to re­vive vinyl pro­duc­tion.

Fan Guobin, pres­i­dent of China Record Group Co Ltd, says the com­pany has im­ported a pro­duc­tion line from Ger­many that marks the start of the com­pany’s vinyl pro­duc­tion, and the com­pany has set up a vinyl records fac­tory in Shang­hai that has a com­plete pro­duc­tion line.

Hou says, “The com­ple­tion of the fac­tory shows that China’s vinyl record pro­duc­tion, which orig­i­nated in Shang­hai in the 1920s, is ready to take off again in the same city.”

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Wang Zhuo­hui’s record shop. Wang says that see­ing peo­ple in his orig­i­nal shop, no mat­ter whether they were look­ing for some­thing in par­tic­u­lar or sim­ply brows­ing, was a de­light.

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