Vinyl renaissance spreads to China

Updated 2017-10-08 10:31:52 Xinhua

Although vinyl records long ago lost their battle with cassettes, CDs and online downloads, fans of the retro music format are seeing signs of a comeback in China.

"During the past year or two, more and more young people have come to my record store and listened to and talked about vinyl. I'm so happy to see the trend," said Jin Fangyong, 60, in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Jin, who has a collection of nearly 100,000 records, has also noticed a resurgence of vinyl at domestic music shows in recent years, where nearly every record company has dedicated a booth to vinyl.

Industry insiders said the renewed interest in vinyl in China stems from its renaissance in Europe and America, which started years ago.

A Deloitte report predicted that vinyl sales would generate one billion U.S. dollars globally for the first time this century in 2017, accounting for 6 percent of global music revenues. In addition, new vinyl revenues are likely to see a seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth this year, with 40 million new records sold.

Domestic record manufacturer YongTong, based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, has ridden the wave of vinyl's surging popularity. The company opened a vinyl production line in 2015, the first since China's last such line closed nearly 20 years ago.

Chen Yingming, general manager of the company, said the idea was inspired by his son, a die-hard music fan. Five years ago, the boy, 17 years old at the time, asked for a record player from his father.

"I was astonished. Where did he see vinyl?" said Chen. He later learned that records had made a comeback abroad, and some of his son's idols had even put out recordings on vinyl.

Chen's team visited several record factories in Europe and the Untied States in 2012, before spending more than two years manufacturing and improving the company's first vinyl pressing machine.

Now YongTong has eight production lines, each able to press 800 records per day, supplying both domestic and foreign record companies.

Some domestic record companies, including China Record Corporation, have also considered opening vinyl production lines, after Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony announced a plan in June.

Prompted by the growing appetite for vinyl, record stores have emerged in major cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

"Given vinyl's increasing popularity abroad, it is only a matter of time for China to embrace the renaissance," said Lin Hengmin, founder of Hym-originals, a company that has provided vinyl services to musicians since 2015.

Many aficionados are attracted to the sound quality of vinyl, which is warmer and more natural than modern formats.

"I can still remember the feeling when I first listened to music on a turntable as a teenager," Jin said.

Jin believes vinyl is an art.

"Everything about vinyl deserves appreciation: the covers, photographs, packaging, and signature," he said.

Some young people have turned to vinyl to seek a long-lost "sense of ritual" in this fast-paced era, Lin said. "When playing records, you must manually change songs on the turntable. It's a more interactive way to enjoy music."

Some fans buy vinyl just to pay tribute to their idols, even if they are used to digital music, Lin said.

Vinyl's comeback reflects the more diverse musical tastes and lifestyles of Chinese people, especially the young generation, said Liu Jin, general manager of the musician division of Taihe Music Group.

"Despite its renaissance, vinyl will remain a niche. But it won't die out," Jin said.

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