Review 2018

Looking Back at 2018.

Thank You.

Here we are again; at the end of another RPM year and once again, thank you for your continued support. Themes I particularly enjoyed this year were “It’s a Grower”, “Starting with a Bang” (I finally got an excuse to play the awesome Diamond Head song Am I Evil?) and “Whatever the Weather”. The annual “holiday” to the good ship Albatros was also fun as well. It was especially nice to have a few folks participate that night who just happened to be on board and who threw themselves into the spirit of the event with good humoured enthusiasm (thank you Louis the barman for choosing to play Gong!).

RPM Music Markets

Two more RPM / Elsing Village Hall Music Markets were held in April and October and both events were encouragingly well attended. A lot of folks asked me in conversation if there would be events in 2019 and I can confirm that there will be. Just flick over to the new Music Market page on the RPM website for dates and also a few photos. If you haven’t managed to come along to one yet, please do! It’s not just like your usual record fair. As well as vinyl and CDs for sale, there’s books, magazines, instruments and lots of assorted musical ephemera. You just don’t know what you might find. Full English breakfast is served ‘til mid-day plus live musical performances throughout the afternoon can be listened to whilst enjoying a famous Cake Mummy bake (thanks Jackie)……..the chocolate sponge was a particular favourite.

The “Vinyl Revival”, Record Shops and Streaming

Some of you may remember the RPM Record Club and Sounds Music’s screening in November 2012 of the film “Last Shop Standing” based on the book by Graham Jones. Well, Graham had a new book published in September entitled “The Vinyl Revival And The Shops That Made It Happen”. It offers a measure of optimism to us lovers of record shops. Whereas the “Last Shop Standing” book was almost a requiem for the many record shops that had or were closing down, and a warning that we could in fact eventually lose them all if they were not supported by us the music lovers, there was a slight note of optimism at the end of it that more shops had opened than had closed. The new book picks up at this point and explains why we now have around 100 more new record shops across the UK than we had in 2009.

The first part of the book explains some of the economic history behind the record industry and is very illuminating. The second half can be used as a guide book to some of the best independent shops selling new and second-hand vinyl. There is a brief write up or potted history of each retailer arranged by geographical area which is an interesting enough read on its own. However, keep the book in the car’s glove box; you never know when it might come in useful. Through its pages I discovered Vinyl Eddie on the outskirts of York, a shop I had previously been unaware of and from whom I unearthed two of the inclusions on my “Top 5 Coloured Vinyl of 2018” list.

Vinyl does really seem to be gaining in popularity again and not just in the UK. A report from the Recording Industry Association of America stated that revenue from CD sales in the States plummeted during the first half of 2018, in fact down by 41.5% but that vinyl purchases continued to rise and were up by almost 13%. I suspect that the plummeting CD sales had more to do with the increasing popularity of streaming services rather than CD customers now all buying vinyl.

And talking of streaming……I began writing the majority of this piece at the end of October. It’s now the 29th December as I’m doing some final editing and it’s just been announced that HMV, the last big high street music and film retailer, has filed for administration for the second time in 6 years. Although the company sold 31% of all physical music in the UK in 2018 with it’s market share growing month on month, it seems that the pressure of high rents and low Christmas sales due to the continued change in consumer behaviour towards accessing entertainment via streaming services, is proving too much.

Personally, I’m afraid I just don’t “get” the streaming of music. There’s no situational, emotional or even cultural connection to what you are listening to, in my view. Streaming appeals to people’s laziness and self-centred impatience; it’s easy to access and you can pretty much get anything you want RIGHT NOW, in other words. The only tempting benefit that I can think of is that your “music collection” takes up no tangible space….but then, it’s not really your collection, is it? Having access to anything ever recorded via Spotify does not reflect your musical life or personality as an individual, does it? Or maybe I’m just an outdated fuddy-duddy who puts too much value into having a physical collection of music? I leave that one with you. Anyway, the Entertainment Retailers Association have estimated that there’s still £2bn worth of physical sales out there to be had…..maybe this will ultimately benefit all our favourite independent record shops if HMV does finally close its doors after nearly 100 years of trading.

Oh, and just to keep you up to date; I still don’t use Amazon, have never used Spotify and try to source any record purchases from independent shops. It’s much better for you as well; it gets you out of the house, engages you with people in the outside world and can combine a bit of vinyl browsing with visiting interesting places. Get off your backside and stop clicking that mouse, dude!

What a great idea!

National Album Day, that is.

After expressing my hopes for the album format in last years end of year ramble, this does exactly what I was talking about; focusing attention on the album as an artistic musical statement. It also lends national weight to the concept of what our RPM Record Club is all about. Just look (again) at the home page of the website for the statement of intent; “…..listen(ing) to albums in the way in which they were conceived……from beginning to end”. This event happened on Saturday 13th October, in case you missed it (shame on you), to "celebrate all aspects of the UK's love of the album". Columbia Records released the first album 70 years ago in 1948, the 33⅓ RPM long player subsequently being accepted as the standard format for recorded music. (Coincidentally, in December I received a new article from Philip also inspired by this anniversary which you will find over in the Soundcheck section of the website.) The originators of National Album Day, various sectors of the British music industry in conjunction with BBC Music, implored us all to play our favourite album at 3.33pm on that Saturday and I for one did exactly that; X In Search of Space by Hawkwind.

Apparently, during 2017, 135 million albums were purchased across all formats, a rise of 9.5 per cent on the previous year.  Of these, 4.1 million were on vinyl – the highest level seen since the start of the 1990’s. So, despite the perceived threat towards the album concept of downloading or streaming single songs, there seems to have been a bit of a rejection of this way of obtaining music, music lovers continuing to listen to the album as an entire entity rather than cherry picking a mix of individual tracks. This was backed up in May 2018 by evidence from a tracking study undertaken by the Entertainment Retailers Association. This showed that… “nearly 60 per cent of respondents had listened to an album in full in the month prior to the online survey.  And whilst albums are most often associated with older music consumers, the research suggested that it is actually younger fans who are more likely to have listened to an album recently: over half (55%) of those polled aged 25 or below said they had listened to an album in the previous week, compared with 45 per cent of 45-54 year-olds and just 33 per cent of those aged 55 or above. The research also challenged the notion that albums are a male preserve – with nearly four in ten (38%) female consumers having listened to an album in the week prior to the study, compared with 45 per cent of male respondents. The organisers plan to grow National Album Day organically into an annual event so that it becomes a keenly anticipated part of the music industry calendar, in much the same way as Record Store Day”.

Fantastic, I say! The album isn't dead just yet, it seems.

Happy New Year and here’s to some great album releases in 2019 or finally discovering that old album you’ve been searching for in a great little independent record shop.

Tim