Looking back to the 1980s for inspiration is rarely a great idea. Whether it’s the perm hairstyle or Magnum, P.I, most of the popular fads from three decades ago are probably best off staying in the past rather than being revived.
In the world of cutting-edge technology, it should surely be even more important to keep innovating and moving forward. A new Hollywood blockbuster using 80s-style special effects would be unlikely to set many pulses racing, so it comes as something of a surprise that Sony has announced that it will resume production of vinyl albums for the first time in nearly 30 years.
The Japanese mega-firm is to start pressing its own vinyl releases again at a factory south-west of Tokyo by March 2018, marking a return to the record-cutting game after it was previously abandoned in 1989. The format was expected to die out due to the rise of CDs, followed in more recent years by digital downloads and streaming, but has proved to be remarkably resilient.
Following an initial decline, consumers have started to fall in love once again with LPs and sales of vinyl reached a 25-year high in 2016. The revival has not just been driven by the nostalgic cravings of the middle-aged, but by the fact that many music fans still want to enjoy something tangible. A vinyl record can be shared, traded or passed down through the generations and is far more durable than a CD.
Listening to music on vinyl is also a more active experience than a digital download or even a CD, as you have to move the needle over and flip the album. It may not be as convenient, but fans can spend time with the album, learn more about the artist and look through the art and lyrics. As time has gone on, the thrill of hunting for rare records has also excited lovers of vinyl. The sound of vinyl seems more authentic somehow than digital music, with even the slight crackle or hiss, causing the jump of the needle a reason to rejoice in the airbrushing age.
It is estimated that sales of CDs and digital downloads will continue to fall this year, while global vinyl revenue is set to top $1 billion in 2017. Sony Music CEO Michinori Mizuno told Nikkei Asian Review: “A lot of young people buy songs that they hear and love on streaming services.”
There is no word yet on which titles will be produced by Sony, but the top sellers are typically a mix of classic back-catalogue items and newer releases from modern bands. While it may be an unexpected move from Sony, the surging popularity suggests it should be well worth revisiting an old favourite.