New spin on old format

New spin on old format

SINGAPORE - Vinyl-record aficionado, Mr Ong Boon Kiat, 45, has more than 500 records in his collection. The writer and lecturer listens to digital music like most people, enjoying the superior portability and convenience the digital format brings. 

However, he refuses to part with his analogue music collection and continues to collect new records, despite the decades-old format's limitations.

The largest size of the vinyl LP (long-playing) records - a 12-inch disc - stores about 20 minutes of music on each side. Compare this with today's devices, which can store hundreds of songs in a fraction of the space, instantly ready to be played.

Vinyl's popularity plummeted in the mid-1980s as records were succeeded by audio cassette tapes, followed by compact discs (CDs).

This year, CD sales in the United States fell by almost 20 per cent to 62.9 million, from 78.2 million last year. With digital music dominating the music industry, CDs continue to lose ground.

By all accounts, vinyl should not even be in the picture. However, it refuses to go away, even showing signs of growth. Nielsen's annual mid-year report shows vinyl sales growing 40 per cent worldwide to four million, from 2.9 million sold in the same period last year. This makes vinyl the only physical music format which is still growing.

Vinyl enthusiasts such as Mr Ong sustain the industry. Naturally, vinyl has a much smaller share of the market, but its growth rate is matched only by music-streaming services.

Streaming grew by 42 per cent this year, with more than 70 billion songs played in the first half of the year, compared with 49.5 billion in the same period last year.

More tellingly, record labels have responded to the demand. Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony Music continue to issue vinyls, while modern artists, including Arctic Monkeys, Jack White, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Mumford & Sons, have put out new vinyl releases.

Among the high-profile musicians releasing on vinyl, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories was recorded on both analogue and digital equipment, selling more than 50,000 copies on vinyl last year. Lana Del Rey's latest album, Ultraviolence, features an exclusive cover for her vinyl release.

Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin reissued its first three albums on vinyl this year, with previously unreleased bonus tracks, including alternate mixes and new songs.

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