TOKYO: Vinyl music records are regaining popularity in Japan despite the Asian country and the rest of the world being in the digital age.
Production of analog records in the country, which peaked at around 200 million units a year in the second half of the 1970s, followed a downtrend later and hit bottom in 2009, at about 100,000 units, due to the spread of CDs, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan.
But the annual production started to rebound since then, reaching some 1.22 million units in 2019, up roughly 12-fold from the level 10 years before, with some artists launching new songs and albums on vinyl records. The record industry has been making efforts to win more fans, including among young people.
On the analog record floor of Tower Records Japan’s Shinjuku outlet in Tokyo in mid-December 2020, fans were seen digging through their favorite records. “It takes time, such as for changing records and putting a stylus on a record on the player, but I like analog records because they make me feel like ‘I’m listening to the music,'” said a 50-year-old corporate worker who came to the store to buy hit songs of the Showa era (1926-1989). “Looking at record jackets and reading lyric cards are also fun.”
The vinyl record floor, which opened in March 2019 in response to rising demand, sells about 70,000 items, including J-pop, jazz, rock and soul music records. “I think that more and more people, including those spending more time at their homes (amid the novel coronavirus epidemic), are eager to enjoy analog sound, not being satisfied with listening to the music on smartphones and other devices,” Taichi Aoki, the 44-year-old manager of the store, said.
In recent years, popular musicians, such as Mr.Children and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, have launched new songs or albums on vinyl records.
While streaming and other online music distribution services are growing rapidly, ways of listening to the music “are increasingly becoming diverse, with more and more young people familiar with vinyl records,” an official of the RIAJ said.
The music industry has been working to make analog records more popular and spread information about them.
Tokyo-based Toyokasei Co., which has been producing vinyl records for over 60 years, holds related events several times a year, including on Nov. 3, designated as “record day,” in cooperation with about 30 music companies, and CD and record stores.
Vinyl records of around 100 newly released and renowned classical titles are sold at each of these events. Sometimes, more than 100,000 titles go on sale for an event. Such events have been drawing a lot of attention, including from abroad.
A record sales event featuring anime songs is planned this spring. “I hope this event will help young people discover the attractions of vinyl records,” Tsugumi Hattori, a 25-year-old marketing employee of Toyokasei, said.