How young buyers got the needle

Mary Anne Hobbs broadcasting her show live from Jumbo Records in Leeds
Mary Anne Hobbs broadcasting her show live from Jumbo Records in Leeds
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They have no shortage of technology of their own, from social media to streaming video, but so-called millennial youngsters are turning increasingly to a science that was written off a generation ago.

Vinyl records, long considered the province of ageing hipsters trying to recapture their lost youth, have found a new audience among listeners who have no idea of their heritage.

The allure of owning a physical disc is said to have captivated an audience to whom dropping a needle carefully onto the groove is an art of near-seduction.

As the music industry mounts its annual celebration of record shops, with a live broadcast from Yorkshire on BBC Radio 6 yesterday, figures appeared to prove the downward age trend in vinyl listening.

Buyers under 25 emerged as around five time more likely than those in their 30s to have bought a traditional LP in the last three months. They were also twice as likely as those between 45 and 54 to have done so, the Entertainment Retailers Association said.

“For years, people said that the vinyl boom was down to people reliving their youth, but it actually isn’t like that,” said Adam Gillison, manager of Jumbo Records, whose Leeds store hosted yesterday’s broadcast by disc jockey Mary Anne Hobbs.

“We’ve spotted for several years now that 13 and 14 year-olds, or even younger, are coming in immediately after Christmas and buying records – clearly because they’ve been given a record player.”

Cheap gramophones with built-in speakers, modelled on the Dansettes of the 1950s but without autochangers, are as much a part of the culture today as they were then, he said.

“You’ve got the whole thing all in one unit, and you can just get on and play the records.”

Young people’s choice of artist as well as medium appears to be influenced by their parents and grandparents, with 1980s bands among the biggest sellers.

“The number of Smiths albums we sell to teenagers, is phenomenal. The Cure are also very popular,” Mr Gillison added.

But unlike their older relatives, whose choice was limited only to black or coloured resin, discerning listeners now judge the quality of discs in the same way as they might assess the thread count when buying a bedsheet.

“People ask about the weight. They want to know if its 180 gram vinyl. They’re not interested in poor quality pressings – they want something that’s good,” said Mr Gillison, who also noted that the argument about the “audio purity” that digital CDs were supposed to deliver had been turned on its head.

“People now think the purity is that warmth you get from the analog sound,” he said.

Jumbo opened its doors at the then fairly new Merrion Centre in Leeds in 1971, when Frank Sinatra’s My Way was in the charts. But his type of music is unlikely to be heard by today’s boutique buyers.

“There are certain genres that don’t really do an awful lot on vinyl. The easy listening, nostalgia thing – there’s not awful of interest and not a lot available either,” Mr Gillison said.