How vinyl is wooing music lovers in digital era

It’s a late Thursday evening in Bandra, and I’m joined by a few under-30s, making their way down a creaky staircase that reads ‘Take Me Down…Paradise City’ to enter a basement for their regular dose of Vinyl Listening. Here, you are all set to listen to a vinyl… as it should be listened to. A bit of crackle, pops and variations that make it sound more real and authentic. “For our vinyl nights, we turn out the lights in our basement and listen to an entire album. Once done, we then turn on the lights and have a sharing experience based on the album, the music, some trivia and anything anyone wants to share about the album,” explains Aman Singh Gujral, Founder of Adagio, who organises vinyl nights every alternate Thursdays at his music studio.

Vinyl lovers gather on Record Store Day at Adagio
Vinyl lovers gather on Record Store Day at Adagio

At Adagio, you are into Rockland, a road to classic rock days. Headbangers, whose parents probably owned records, are rediscovering vinyl and collecting it. In a world that is deep towards digitalization, Adagio swims against the tide. Gujral addresses a post-college, working crowd, and also offers private vinyl listening sessions for families and friends in short groups amidst the pandemic.

“We also introduce the vinyl to our guitar lesson students,” explains the 28-year-old who dropped out of a CA course at the final stage to follow his music dream of creating everything analogue.

Pilak Bhatt — Music Circle
Pilak Bhatt — Music Circle

So ever wondered why a over 140-year-old format keeps refusing to die? Ask a few vinyl lovers this question and chances are you get many theories that also reveal something about the people themselves who own vinyl. “Vinyl is a very durable format and if proper care is taken, they can last a really long time and can be passed on from one generation to another. It has a solid asset and investment value. It’s also a way of drawing children towards music as they get fascinated by the way turntables work,” states Pilak Bhatt of Music Circle, adding, “Through vinyl, I introduced my son Yash to all the classic rock groups like Santana, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Beatles.” Bhatt has been into the business since two decades and has one of the largest collections over one lac records in Mumbai.

Of all the formats ever invented, the vinyl record has the biggest personality, compared to a CD. It’s the artwork of an album you’d proudly hang on your wall. It’s the beautiful, pure and warm sound of analogue. It’s the way that albums and their sleeves tell better stories when they have two sides — gatefold. It’s the ritual of carefully sliding the record out of its plastic sleeve, placing it on the turntable, cueing the needle to the start of play, that all add up to a vibe to own a vinyl recording. Those who have good sound systems would never like to listen to MP3 or streaming music on it.

As it turns out, there are reasons why such an old and supposedly obsolete format has risen from the dead. Firstly, there are a lot of buying options for vinyl, and secondly turntables are available on platforms like Amazon, with an entry level turntable for as low as Rs 4,500. Sales of vinyl records too have enjoyed constant growth and price appreciation in recent years. Therefore customers buying vinyl know that the value of vinyl is only going to increase in future. Records and turntables also make for an ideal gift.

Royal Music Collection
Royal Music Collection

“In the 60s and 70s, friends used to gift one another LP records for birthdays or anniversaries. Some pre-owned LPs still have messages written on them,” states Jude D’souza the man behind The Revolver Club, adding that many buy LP records much before they even pick up a turntable. “It’s giving someone a new lifestyle to take on. When choosing a record, a lot of people think twice, unlike streaming services that is free.” TRC has also started stocking LPs of Indian indie artists like Alluri, Parekh and Singh among others.

Nobody ever thought vinyl would make such resurgence. Mehmood Curmally former MD of Rhythm House is selling vinyl at his store JnY in Mumbai. “I know the value of vinyl for I have been selling music all my life. Today, there is a chance for the 60-year-old guy rediscovering his vinyl collection years later and trying to revive it,” states Curmally.

WhatsApp has kept vinyl lovers together with the formation of Record groups like Bombay Record Club, whose members range from new to hardcore record collectors from all over the world who discuss everything to do with vinyl to the technical aspects of turntables. A music portal from Mumbai, www.musicunplugged.in has dedicated a section devoted to vinyl reviews every fortnight.

Crate digging on Record Store Day 2019 at The Revolver Club
Crate digging on Record Store Day 2019 at The Revolver Club

Record Store Day in 2008, held internationally every year in April, and now in Mumbai since 2017 and other parts of India, fuelled a much needed platform for record lovers to meet, grab exclusive deals on special releases and avail discounts. This year we celebrate the last Record Store Day on Saturday, October 24 (only online).

So the big question. Would digital and physical music evolve along similar lines now? The answer is that one is a browsing tool for keeping up to date; the other is the original artifact that would last forever. As the word ‘revolution’ suggests, the world is like a record spinning round in generational cycles. Chances are, today’s young vinyl rebels will be the ones to influence the habits of the next generation.

RECORD STORES IN MUMBAI

MUSIC CIRCLE: Pilak - 98203 65979

THE REVOLVER CLUB: Jude - 98331 82255

ADAGIO: Aman - 99300 08054

JNY ENTERTAINMENT:

Mehmood Curmally - 98218 72006

ROYAL MUSIC COLLECTION:

Razak - 98209 33365

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