Vinyl records make a comeback among music fans who want to hear something more than sterile digital downloads
Decades after they died out, vinyl records are back and they’re taking the music world by storm, trending big time in Thailand and in other parts of the world.
Back in the 1970s those who wanted to own music bought LPs. The 1980s saw a craze for cassettes while the 1990s brought CDs. The beginning of the 21st century saw the advent of digital downloads and heralded a major change – we no longer owned the music.
So perhaps it’s not all that surprising that the LP is coming back into fashion. Even in this era where everything has to be small, fast and convenient, there’s something special about ownership.
“I think music just became too automatic. In less than 40 years, we’ve gone from LPs to downloads and somewhere along the line, we’ve lost touch with the entire listening experience,” says Pichai Chirathivat, managing director of Spicy Disc, which is re-releasing albums by Groove Riders, Sqweez Animal, Laongfong and Friday
“Vinyl has a lot more charm than CDs and MP3s. You can read the liner notes, appreciate the album artwork, know who’s who on songs and enjoy the warmer sound. There’s a history there.”
Bun Suwannochin, managing director of Baicha Song agrees. He’s even recording his new artists straight to vinyl with Sweet Nuch’s “Ton Chabub Sieng Wan” among the first releases.
“Vinyl records are becoming popular around the world. Thailand was slower in reacting but we’re here now,” he says. “I think that I was the first music label to put vocal songs on vinyl.”
“The return to vinyl is a lifestyle choice and demonstrated that people want to listen to a warmer good quality sound,” adds Nithiwat Chenchedsada, managing director of Grammy Big.
“Of course it’s a niche market but there is something very special about picking up the cover, taking the record out of its sleeve and placing the needle on the record. It’s much more of a ritual that pressing ‘play’ on an MP3 device.”
Buyers tend to agree, wanting a tangible and interactive experience instead of the passive experience that digital world provides. One of the most significant differences between records and other formats is the sound quality and undoubtedly the organic, warm, analog aesthetic is a huge part of vinyl's appeal.
Despite vinyl being only a small segment of the music business, major and independent labels are increasingly opting to reissue and release their new albums on vinyl, even though it's an expensive process.
GMM Grammy started its vinyl revival with Thongchai “Bird” McIntyre’s “Had Sai Sailom Song Rao”, Micro’s “Rock Lek Lek” and Thongchai’s “Sor Khor Sor”, all of them re-mastered in Thailand by Woody Pornpitaksuk and manufactured in Japan. More recently, it has released more than 20 albums, re-mastered by Bernie Grundman and manufactured in America. They include Rewat “Ter” Buddhinan’s “Alive the Collection” box set, as well as albums by Bodyslam, Da Endorphine, Big Ass, Loso, Palmy, Silly Fools, Pang Nakharin, Nuvo, Potato, Maleewan Jemina, Nanthida Kaewbuasai, J Jetrin, Inca, Waen Thitima Sutasunthorn, Boy peacemaker and Beau Sunita.
Vinij Lertratanachai, managing director of Fresh Air Festival, has registered a new online brand, V Love Vinyl, in support of vinyl records and opened a vinyl store on the seventh floor of MBK Centre. He’s offering Asanee-Wasan’s “Bar Hob Fang”, Marijuana, Thanes Warakulnukhroh’s “Dan Siwilai”, the Olarn Project’s “February 2528” and “Hoo Lek”, Pan Paibulkiet, Anchalee Chongkhadeekij’s “crossroads”, Rawiwan Chinda, Grand Ex, Ad Carabao’s “Roy Khamron” and “Cambodia”, Chalieng’s “Euen Euen Aik Mak Mai”, Byrd & Heart, Nupap Savantracha’s “Pae Jia”, Setha Sirachaya, Surachai sombatcharoen, Tawan’s “Mob” and Phongprom Snitwong’s “Shambala”.
“Last year, I released about 20 vinyl records, and I am figuring on the same number for this year. One of them is a limited edition of the ‘Three Songs-for-Life Legends’ live concert featuring four vinyl records, behind the scenes, posters and accessories packed in a wooden box. Vinyl records today weigh more too at 180 grams over the original 140-160 grams and that gives the vinyl longer durability and improves the sound quality,” says Vinij.
Making vinyl records is more art than science. CDs are duplicated, but an LP is made from scratch with PVC pellets and paper labels in a multi-step process that’s prone to error. Most of the labels are having the records pressed in vinyl-manufacturing companies in America, Germany and Japan in runs of 500 to 1,000 copies.
The labels are also targetting new generation buyers in addition to the older aficionados, who favour vinyl because they prefer its more visceral sound, complete with occasional scratches.
“There are a large number of young people in their late 20s and early 30s showing interest in vinyl records but they don’t care about the sound. Even though they haven’t yet bought a record player, they want to support the artists they love. Fans of Stamp are a good example and his record quickly sold out. Moderndog is another,” says Bun, while Nithiwat adds that Grammy focuses on high-end listeners, fan clubs and university students as well as first jobbers.
Vinij, however, disagrees. “The new generation has no loyalty but they’re always desperate to follow any new trend,” he says.
And on the bright side, pirating is unlikely to be a problem. Thirty years ago, Thailand was a hotbed of counterfeit vinyl, all of them coming straight out of its vinyl manufacturing factories. Ironically, today, vinyl could well solve problem of copyright infringement.
_ The first Bangkok Analog Fest is set for August 30 and 31 on the seventh floor of MBK Centre. Around 30 booths will offer used and new albums as well as reasonably priced record players and turntables.
_ For more details, visit www.vlovevinyl.com