Doors thrown open for a great vinyl revival
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.”
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.