It sounds like an unlikely revival, but vinyl is scratching and crackling its way back to the top. Seven-inch vinyl records are once again a popular format for some indie singles' sales in the UK. Sales of 7-inch singles have risen to well over one million this year. The last time things looked this good for vinyl was 1998.
It doesn't stop there -- the NME's Alex Needham is championing the format to supersede CD. "I think it's very possible that the CD might become obsolete in an age of download music but the vinyl record will survive," he said.
The latest White Stripes' single, The Denial Twist, was helped into the Top 10 by 7-inch vinyl sales -- the band sold 5,500 singles in the format. Stuart Green, head of sales for the Stripe's label told Crave, "We're seeing more interest in 7-inch. We're now more likely to put out two 7-inch records and one CD whereas in the past the opposite was true." Not bad going in an age where iPods are as integral to the proper functioning of a teenage human body as lungs.
Lily Allen saw fit to initally release her new single, LDN, exclusively on 7-inch. It's arguable that the dying singles chart has been defibrillated by vinyl sales.
So why are thousands of people turning back to vinyl when tapes, and then CDs and MP3s, wiped out the vinyl singles market two decades ago? It's likely that the tactile joy of owning a physical object that represents your attachment to a band is infinitely more enjoyable than entering a credit card number into iTunes. Not to mention the fun of manipulating turntable technology to play vinyl, that sense of physical control of the medium. Sales of record decks appear to bear this out -- turntables had disappeared from high street stores but now we're beginning to see major retailers stocking these antique wonders.
What pleasure is there to be had in clicking a virtual button with a mouse? Very little, really. Whereas the slightly precarious operation of placing a record on a platter and dropping the needle seems like a surgical procedure of a kind that most modern automation has tried to completely erase.
There's a wonderful sense of anticipation when you hear that nervous crackle of needle on fresh groove during that brief moment before the music kicks in. How delightful that a new generation is discovering the joy of 7-inch. -Chris Stevens