By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine
Superstar DJ Pete Tong says there are 18-year-olds who have never seen vinyl. Surely he's got it all wrong?
Is it a bird, is it a plane?
Where did it all go so Pete Tong for vinyl? The man himself - whose name roughly means "wrong" in rhyming slang - says digital technology is now so dominant records are completely extinct in some young people's lives.
"I played a seven-inch vinyl set recently and discovered there are 18-year-olds who have never seen vinyl," he says in an interview in this month's Wired magazine.
His own record collection, amassed over 25 years, is in storage and these days he says he mainly DJ's using digital technology. But is he right, is there a generation of youngsters who are just as likely to see a vinyl record as they are a Dodo? The Magazine went out to investigate.
"I've seen a few records but I've never seen a record player," says 18-year-old Dwayne Prentis. "I've seen decks at clubs and at my mates' houses but not those things that your olds might use to play their records. I don't even think they still make them.
"Vinyl isn't very practical, how are your going to listen to you music out of the house? You can forget taping it, I ain't being seen dead with a cassette. I'd get grief off my mates. In our house we have CDs and I download a lot of music from the net. "
Sarah Hopkins, 20, says her parents have records but thinks Pete Tong might have a point.
"Now it's only DJs who buy vinyl, so if you don't go to clubs then you might not have seen it," she says.
Pete Tong showing his vinyl and his age
Laurie Verling, 20, agrees: "My parents have vinyl records but they don't play them. We play CDs and download stuff. Vinyl is becoming rarer, people are replacing their record collections with CDs.
"For our generation it's usually only DJs who buy it. There are probably some youngsters who've never seen it and when we have kids there will be no records in most people's homes."
The latest figures from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) show the digital music market grew by 350% in 2005. In the week between Christmas and New Year download sales topped 1 million units for the first time in the UK.
The sale of CDs fell by 19%, from 26.5 million in 2004 to 21.4 million in 2005.
Sales of vinyl have fallen so much that the BPI doesn't have the figures immediately to hand. But while vinyl sales are lower than both other formats, it hasn't been consigned to the dustbin just yet. It is now a strong niche market, says the BPI's Matt Phillips.
"Vinyl and tapes were blown out the water as a mass consumer product by CDs, but it is now a strong niche market with real music buffs collecting it and independent labels re-issuing classic albums."
Gennaro Castaldo of retailer HMV says vinyl is no longer a mass-market product but it has a cool, credible appeal for youngsters, as well as those who grew up buying records.
"Assuming youngsters are into music I think most of them will have seen vinyl; they might not own any but they will have seen it," he says. "It's a format that a lot of indie bands use. The record companies are clever, they don't press loads of records just a few thousand, making them limited edition and collectors' items. I think there is an emotional attachment to vinyl. We now sell vinyl frames so people can put their record sleeves on the wall and make them art work.
Claire Even, Sarah Hopkins and Laurie Verling, plus identified object
"There is a misconception that young people drive music sales but it is the baby boomers who represent the backbone of music purchasing in the UK. They grew up with records and have the disposable income to buy them and do just that."
But maybe 17-year-old Luc Daines sums it up for most teenagers.
"I've seen records but they are as much use to me as a bike without wheels. I don't have a record player to listen to them when I'm at home and can't play them when I'm on the go, so what's the point?"
I'm 17, and I find vinyl out-of-date and impractical when compared to current formats like CD and MP3. Sure, it's a truly analog format, but it's just too unwieldy for me. I'll gladly sacrifice an analog wave for a 44.1KHz digital one so that I can take it with me.
Chris, Gillingham, Kent, UK
Sadly, I think it is all too true. Vinyl has become an expensive premium product. I would never have conceived of spending £25 on a single vinyl record when I was younger, it's only because I am more financially comfortable that I can indulge myself. CD's marketing machine peddled a myth of "perfect sound forever" and people bought it, confusing the lack of vinyl noise on CD with quality. "Kids today" just want portable, cheap music and loads of it. Sound quality, as evinced by the rise of MP3, is not a consideration, hence the failure of hi-res formats like SACD and DVD-A. Most people just don't care enough is the sad fact.
Ian, Brighton, East Sussex
Digital music just isn't the same. I prefer the whole experience of vinyl: the touch, the way it looks, the way it smells. Sometimes you can literaly smell a really good track.
Chris Murphy, Penicuik
As a DJ, vinyl is still very much there to be bought. But CD-R's and MP3's are growing hugely. It's so much easier to stick a case of CDs in a bag than a load of vinyl, plus you can remix and re-edit things in your house on your computer and record them to CD-R before your set. This is a massive advantage, as well as being fun! Regardless of that, MP3 players are wiping the floor with any other format for portable entertainment. I got my 60Gb IPod for Christmas, and it has hardly left my side since.....!
Rob Abercrombie, Edinburgh
Is this a case of "iPod, therefore I am"?
Simon Harris, Great Malvern, England
Vinyl is not dead, I collect many records and prefer them to CDs and Digital. AS a 19 year old i can see that many people may not understand the fact that with vinyl you have something physical in your hand rather than a digital track. Digital for out and about Vinyl for at home, thats my motto
My teenage nieces and their friends are all avid collectors of vinyl. It's the 'in-thing' at the moment in their (quite extensive) circle of acquaintances. Although I must say, they aren't collecting the sort of music that Pete Tong would play - these are all rock/goth/skateboarder kids trying to track down Ramones 7" singles and similar.
Jo, Birmingham, UK
I'm sick of these "vinyl purists" who insist it provides a better sound. Records sound rubbish, scratch easily, are bulky and you can't play them in the car or on the move. No wonder todays 18 year olds don't bother with vinyl.
Iain Murray, Edinburgh
I have a small collection of vinyl records - including some white, blue and green vinyl and a couple of picture disks. They had sat unplayed for quite a long while until recently I downloaded Audacity and used it to transfer some of the tracks to my iPod.
Nick Caulfield, Egham UK
Strange, no mention of minidiscs. They are a much better format than any of the other digital systems. They are portable, recordable anywhere (just like a tape cassette) and can carry four hours of recording. Best of all you're not over-loaded with stuff because in that four hours you can catalogue and manage your recordings. Try doing that with forty hours of recordings. Need more than four hours? Then carry a couple of spare discs.
ian m parr, Whitchurch, Shropshire
What rubbish! Of course young people have seen records. The people who love music the most will actually own records as they are made to be collectors items. From indie to garage, the records are being made and are being sold in major shops such as HMV. I think it's more a case of young people having low memory spans (i.e. they cannot remember having seen a record even though they have!) - from a young person.
The only way to have 'never seen' any vinyl would be to have never been into an HMV or virgin megastore, since the vinyl display in there is usually pretty obvious and near the checkout.
Thomas Bloxham, Birmingham
The point is sound, wind up my Planar 3, turn on my Cambridge amps and Dark Side of the Moon, it just doesn't get better, you can keep your CD's, MP3's, WAV and whatever else. VINYL LIVES!
Jonathan Madden, Esbjerg, Denmark
Mr. Tong does indeed have a point. But the niche will remain; I can't imagine a small number of youngsters won't be dazzled by the skill required to mix & scratch vinyl proficiently and want to follow in the footsteps of those who can - hopefully, well into the future. (Just have a listen to Qbert, DJShadow, DJ Yoda...etc)
Overheard on the top of a bus: 'Did you know Paul McCartney was in another band before he was in Wings?'
Diane (but someone else said it first), Sutton
My turntable was recently returned to me by my father after an absence of 15 years (turntable not father). I was surprised to find how good the record sounded and to further find that most albums are released on vinyl and that there are many website still offering it for sale. I will now not buy cd's. Downloadable music is very convenient, and ipods are very pretty, but lp's are not just about the music, what about the design,artwork and the be anoraked mans lust for collection. Records also seem to encourage the listener to listen and appreciate the music as opposed to merely having it wash over. You only have to glance at some web auction sites to realise that vinyl is alive and flourishing.
mark west, reading
My cousin's daughter was amazed when he was playing an old vinyl record and *turned it over* when side A had finished. She looked at him in shock and asked what on Earth he was doing...
David, Maesteg, South Wales
I buy CDs, don't download, and have always kept and played my LP collection, and now that leading hifi companies are bringing out new turntables at £1000, I feel vindicated: they wouldn't be doing it if the market wasn't there.
Andrew Smith, Eastbourne U.K.
it's like telling kids that computer games used to come on puch cards or tapes and took 1hr to load and we used to spend all our lives waiting for them to load thats if they ever loaded. its only natural with progress that thing become obsolete
Vinyl is certainly not dead! Most bands out now release their singles and albums on vinyl, and a few singles recently have been released only on vinyl ("Apocalypso" by Mew, for example). The Dead 60s released a special double LP last year, and lots of classic albums from the 60s, 70s, and 80s are also being reissued on vinyl. It is a format for the music enthusiast and collector. I am sure that most vinyl fans, like myself, enjoy playing records at home, but also have the songs on digital format whether on CDs or on MP3 players. Long live vinyl!
Anna Wrafter, Hoboken, USA
What absolute tosh. I think Pete Tong should perhaps stop making sweeping generalisations and focus his energies upon saving dance music from the dull oblivion it is about to enter. Myself and my friends, all aged around 20, have been buying vinyl for years. The indie scene produces countless amounts of vinyl which are eagerly snapped up by fans. Many small bands will release their first single on vinyl only, as the sound quality and artwork are superior to CD.
I grew up buying vinyl and cassettes. I do miss the thrill of buying an actual album and hurrying home to play it. I still play them and now i tend to buy rare albums, picture discs etc..However for the latest music i will continue to buy CD's and use my MP3 player.
Sara, East Sussex
When I was 18, I used to laugh at my dad every time he took out his Beatles vinyls and the crackling began and until recently, I wouldn't dream of touching a vinyl. However, about a year ago (then 22), I started getting into real hifi and found that CD's simply cannot come close to the natural sound a vinyl can produce. If looked after, there isn't a crackle to be heard and the sound is mesmerising! I usually buy CD's, but if there something that I think is very special, I'll also buy the vinyl version too. It's not cheap (about ¿40 per vinyl), but its worth every penny!
Nick. R, Vienna, Austria (Living abroad from the UK)
I'm 16, and I've seen vinyl. My parents have a stack of records in the roofspace, but unfortunately we don't have a record player so we can't play them. I'm planning to borrow one so I can record them onto my MP3 player, because there are some great songs there. It's not worth my money buying a player because MP3s are far better when you're out. You can hardly carry a record player with you everywhere you go. Some of my friends who are really into music have record players though, and they're always going through old music shops getting vinyl. They reckon MP3 files are faceless downloads; records have soul.
Is this really a worthy news story? come on, i bet many kids today havent seen an 8 track either.
Im 24 and have amassed an obscene amount of hip-hip & d&b vinyl but more and more im finding myself using modern technology such as final scratch, bypassing the need for bulky vinyl.
My friend has been a DJ for at least 12 Years. Back in the day, he used to demonstrate a great deal of talent in his mixing ability using vinyl. Now however he uses compact disk mixers and if he's feeling really lazy uses a laptop to mix his mp3s together fully automatically. Talk about money for old rope......Alan!