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Record shops enjoy revival as new music fans turn to vinyl

When the compact disc was introduced to mainstream music in the 1980s, it seemed to mark the final farewell for vinyl.

For many music fans, the new digital format replaced the trusted old seven, 10 and 12-inch record and analogue became, to a large extent, obsolete.

Vinyl records were stored away in attics, gathering dust, or were sold off at record fairs to collectors or DJs.

But in recent years there's been an upsurge in the sale of vinyl, with independent record shops springing up around Belfast. And according to Radio Ulster presenter Stuart Bailie, who also runs the Oh Yeah Music Centre, there's a definite niche market for shops like Magpie Records, Dragon Records and Head Records, all located in Belfast city centre.

Stuart, who owns around 2,000 vinyl records and who still plays vinyl on his radio show, said he believed sales were on the up because of a new generation of music lovers who thought it was trendier to buy the old style format.

"For me, it's a generational thing. I loved getting the bus home from town on a Saturday after buying a record, taking it out and reading the lyrics. It was a tactile experience and I still get excited buying vinyl," he said.

"I just got the 7-inch of Motown Junk by the Manic Street Preachers and keep looking at it and touching it. There's something very special about vinyl that you just don't get with CDs.

"And now, it's part of that whole hipster value system. You can just see some trendy bearded bloke sitting in his bijou apartment, listening to his vinyl. Apart from anything, it sounds much better, much warmer.

"We just had a record fair at the Oh Yeah Centre last weekend and there were more dealers there than ever before. There's a real niche market right now and like certain trends that never quite disappear, vinyl has come back into fashion."

Broadcaster, DJ and promoter Joe Lindsay, who runs the nightclubs Palookaville and Rushmore, said his love affair with vinyl began at the age of 11, when he bought his first 7-inch single, the theme tune from the Japanese fantasy television show Monkey.

"It's an addiction for me," he said. "I own about 3,000 to 4,000 records which I store in my man cave. I actually have to hide the records from my wife when I buy them. I don't need them, but I want them.

"Whenever I go to places like London, Berlin or New York, I always put aside a day to spend browsing through old record shops. There's something really special about the smell of a record sleeve and the feel of a record. I've always preferred vinyl. It's not a snobbish thing, CDs are too shiny, too bright, the artwork is too small. For me, vinyl will always be superior."

Joe pointed out that record companies were still releasing records on vinyl because there was such a market for it now.

"I think technology is so overwhelming that people are going back to a purer form of music," he said. "There is a degree of nostalgia to it. I'll always be an avid collector, it's my guilty pleasure."

Terri Hooley, who is closing the doors of his record shop Good Vibrations next month, but will still be selling vinyl online, said he had noticed an increase in vinyl interest, particularly among younger music fans.

"I have friends of mine who tell me their sons have taken their old record players down from the attic to play their vinyl," he said.

"Vinyl has always been, and will always be, sexy."

Belfast Telegraph