Vinyl records making a comeback in music scene
MANILA, Philippines–Singer and songwriter Ogie Alcasid did something last Oct. 4 that he has not done for a long time, and that is to autograph a vinyl version of his record “All the Classics,” which features some of his biggest hits such as “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang” and “Nandito Ako.”
That the autograph signing of the vinyl records at Stereofiles Audio in Quezon City attracted many fans was surreal for Alcasid, who left the event feeling sentimental about the good old days when long-playing albums were all the rage.
The past, however, has become part of the present of the local music scene, as demand for vinyl records, which have fallen by the wayside with the advent of compact discs and digital downloads, is starting to pick up again.
That demand has spurred PolyEast Records to release Alcasid’s “All the Classics” and other Original Pilipino Music titles from its catalog in vinyl format, including The Youth’s “Ang Plakang Walang Pamagat,” Regine Velasquez’ “Total Recall,” Boyfriends “Greatest Hits,” both volumes of Bamboo’s “The Singles” and the self-titled album of P.O.T.
PolyEast is one of the major labels in the Philippines with a stable of artists that includes Martin Nievera, Bamboo, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Karylle, Kyla, Zia Quizon, MYMP and Sandwich.
Richard Calderon, Digital Music manager and Vinyl project director of PolyEast Records, said the company was prompted to revive the vinyl records as it needed to offer more products to the market. It was also in response to requests for reissues by longtime Filipino vinyl collectors.
PolyEast was also encouraged by the strong resurgence of the vinyl format in the United States and Europe.
The 2014 Mid-Year Music Industry Report of Nielsen Entertainment and Billboard showed that as of June this year, sales of vinyl LPs were up 40.4 percent from the same period in 2013, about the same growth exhibited by on-demand music streaming, which went up by 42 percent during the same period.
“Streaming’s 42 percent year-on-year growth and vinyl LP’s 40 percent increase over last year’s record-setting pace show interest in buying and consuming music continues to be robust, with two very distinct segments of the industry expanding substantially,” said David Bakula, SVP of Nielsen Entertainment, in a statement.
The Philippines is seeing a similar trend, albeit at a far slower pace.
PolyEast, for example, produces about 500 pieces of each title that is sold at about P1,200 each, a hefty price that a growing number of Filipinos are willing to pay for high-quality vinyl pressed in Europe.
For Calderon, the revival of vinyl sales is not a mere trend but rather a rebirth of the format and PolyEast is taking advantage of the opportunity to reintroduce the market to OPM classics.
“Our company has the history of selling vinyls decades ago and has just started re offering this back to the market. Now we are solely promoting local music or OPM on vinyl, re-showcasing again our local homegrown artists and talents. Hopefully, the other local labels will follow suit,” he said.
Calderon said audiophiles go for vinyl records because of the warmer and richer sound compared to compressed sound, especially in the mp3 digital format.
“To the ordinary music fans, the main difference is how you play and listen to them. CD or digital music is like your fast-food style of music consumption while the vinyl is your fine dining, enjoying every detail of it from the product down to your turn table equipment in the comfort of your home,” said Calderon.
“You really have to have sit down on your favorite couch and spend time with a vinyl record playing on your stereophonic equipment at home. The art of playing and listening to a vinyl record,” he added.
Calderon hopes that other record labels would also release titles in the vinyl format as demand is present and will likely increase if more choices are made available.
Odyssey Music and Video Group, the country’s largest retailer of music and movies, is also cashing in on the revived interest in vinyls and started selling both local and international albums three years ago.
According to R. Jay Fonacier, president and managing director of Odyssey, most of the buyers are Filipinos who grew up with vinyl and about 40 years old. They are collectors and hobbyists who want to get the music from their youth.
Fonacier said in an interview that most of those who buy vinyls go for the foreign reissues in high-quality vinyl.
The Beatles albums are the best-sellers among the foreign releases while the P.O.T album is the top-selling OPM album.
He said demand for vinyl has indeed ramped up in recent years and it is coming from two fronts. For the older generation, they want to go back to their youth through the music that they are used to. And then there is also demand coming from those who did not grow up with vinyl but appreciate the full range of music offered by a vinyl record. Then there are also those who are drawn to the anti-technology ’hipster’ subculture in the United States.
But while sales of vinyls have been growing in the Philippines, Fonacier believes that the market remains small, considering the price of P1,000 for a record.
“Kids today are just too used to getting their music for free and in digital form. They weren’t raised to appreciate album art,” he said.
Thus Odyssey, which has 48 branches, has limited the sales of vinyl records to its Rockwell and Megamall branches, which cater to a higher income segment, but is also considering selling in other high-end locations like Ayala Alabang, Filinvest and Greenbelt.
Universal Records General Manager Kathleen Dy-Go, meanwhile, said the company was also exploring the idea of releasing vinyl versions of some of its OPM titles.
There was a potential market, she said, as Filipinos are discovering and redicscovering the quality of a vinyl record, which has always been described as having a “warmer” sound compared to a CD or the MP3 because there is more room to hear the notes in the lower register compared to the digital versions where the sound is compressed.
“And aside from the older generation, younger Filipinos are getting into vinyl. The more exclusive it is, the younger generation deems it to be hip and cool,” she said.
Because vinyls also appeal to a younger generation, Terno Recordings was encouraged to release a vinyl version of “Capacities,” the latest album of Up Dharma Down, which has a large following among listeners in their 20s and 30s.
Terno Recordings chief executive Toti Dalmacion, an avid collector of vinyl records, said the trend was there, but not widespread considering the cost, limited selections and prevalence of digital music files.
But as long as there are Filipinos who appreciate the significant difference in sound quality, there would always be a market for vinyl records with their full and rich sound.
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