Review 2014

RPM Review 2014.

Where did the last 12 months go! Once again, thanks so much to everyone who has kept on coming to RPM through 2014….it looks like this mad idea will keep running a bit longer then, doesn’t it? The “for services to listening to music” award must surely go to John and Sal who STILL have their 100% attendance record intact. What commitment!

Looking ahead, I can’t wait to hear what music RPM-ers will bring along for the themes and Mystery albums of 2015……….maybe we’ll start to see a little bit more new vinyl at the club as well……(what a seamless link)……….

New Vinyl Comeback

Have you bought any new vinyl during the past year? Lots of people did. By the end of November 2014, sales in the UK of new vinyl records had exceeded the one million mark, the first time since 1996. By the end of the year, it is expected sales will reach around 1.2 million. I came across a few articles in the press, and perhaps you did as well, reporting on this event and exploring the reasons why this had happened when, a year or two ago, it was being suggested that even the CD was on it’s last legs and music fans were heading towards the brave new world of streaming and downloads; a virtual and intangible record collection. What a dreadful thought!

In one article I read, Stephen Godfrey who co-owns Rough Trade Records proposed his theory behind this revolt against the non physical music format. He said, “What we’ve found is that digital music has led to the growth in vinyl sales. The disposable nature of digital music tends to add more value to music as an artefact. And vinyl being the quintessential example of music as an artefact is benefiting from that.”

I’ve picked up a few new vinyl albums which I’d say fit with this idea of the artefact; Blues Pills debut album with art work by Marijke Koger-Dunham, leading artist with 1960s art group The Fool (think Clapton’s painted Gibson SG guitar, murals for the Beatles or album covers for the Incredible String Band), Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar by Robert Plant, Rock or Bust by AC/Dc (complete with holographic exploding stone logo filling the entire 12” x12” cover. Awesome.) Great music complimented by superb and imaginative graphic art to create a complete aural, visual and tactile experience. Both Robert Plant and AC/CD came with the complete album on CD as well. What a winner.

This vinyl revolt, however, has not come from the major record companies, (no surprise there), but seems to have been initiated on an almost underground level by small independent labels who picked up on music fans feelings at street level; feelings of anti-establishment rebellion and disenchantment with the download culture the “big boys” in the music industry have been trying to force upon music buyers. Derek Oliver who runs the vinyl label Rock Candy thinks this; “Fans have been told by the corporations what to buy for years, and what format to listen to it on. You had to listen to their music on the format of their choice. I think consumers are totally disillusioned with the notion that music doesn’t come in physical form”. Of course, ironically the mega corporations, the same ones who told us vinyl is dead, CDs were on their last legs and downloads were the future, sensing some instant cash to be made, have now jumped back aboard the vinyl train a few stops along the line. That says it all to me; they’re in it for the money and the music comes second! The independents are often music fans themselves who happen to make records for a living. There’s the difference.

The Live Music Scene.

I must say I found Stephen Godfrey’s statement that digital music has a “disposable nature” rather concerning. It immediately says to me that the general public at large does not value the creators of that music, namely the musicians. If it were not for musicians wishing to express something, then there would be no records in the first place. Most people nowadays probably first encounter music in its recorded form. For me it was Radio Caroline and Radio Mi Amigo on my first transistor radio hidden from my parents under the bed clothes late at night and, of course, the weekly dose of Top of the Pops on TV. Seeing my first live band though, was a revelation! As great as records (vinyl if possible) are, the live experience, whether a solo acoustic performer in a small intimate room or a stadium rock band with a huge PA and enough lighting to flag down the mother ship from Close Encounters, for me, just can’t be beaten. As a music fan, my interest and enthusiasm doesn’t end at the record / CD player. That’s just the beginning.

In an article I read in September entitled “Is your favourite venue about to close?” Mark Davyd, CEO for the Music Venue Trust, states that the most significant action music fans can undertake is to “Go to your local venue”. It seems like stating the obvious, but a lot of venues are finding times hard with diminishing revenues, changes to planning laws and the ubiquitous threat to their licences by noise complaints. He goes on to say, “If people went to their local venue once a month, we could change the economy of these (venues) overnight.” This in turn would give them a stronger presence in the economy of the “high street”, their existence possibly being more valued and of course they would continue to provide the platform for musicians (those creators of records the down-loaders seem to under value) to ply their artistic trade.”Without these venues we are looking at a cross-industry meltdown of talent creation, of experience and skills”, says Davyd. If there’s nowhere for bands to play, it could in theory have a knock on effect impacting the record industry; less interesting new talent to listen to.

This year, not only have I seen live music in the county’s established venues such as UEA LCR, the Waterfront and Norwich Arts Centre, I’ve also seen American Old Timey in a barn in rural North Norfolk, folk and blues on board the Albatros, an 18th century North Sea schooner moored permanently at Wells-next-the-sea, and top acoustic artists in a local village hall. We’re fortunate to have such diverse venues in Norfolk. For this to continue, as Mark Davyd states, it needs the support of music fans. I know a lot of RPM-ers go to gigs; I’ve met you at some. But if you haven’t been to a live music event recently, then give it a go. You’ll experience an engaging, uplifting, satisfying and yes, fun night out, often with the chance to purchase special editions of records or recordings not generally available. As Mark Davyd says, “It really is one of those things – you won’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone.

Going into 2015, the first theme of the year reflects these thoughts; The First Live Band I Saw. Cast your mind back…………..I hope it was great and made you want to keep going back to your local music venue.


Oh, btw, 2014 was as Amazon free as 2013. (Still) shop local.