"It's an immediate reaction to how consumable everything else is": Inside the vinyl revival with Banquet Records' Jon Tolley

 

In the new issue of Music Week, we head to Kingston to drop in on Banquet Records. Last year, the store won Music Week’s coveted Independent Retailer Of The Year Award and it is looking to defend its title in this year's ceremony.

In 2018 they’re still going from strength to strength, and there are a number of reasons for this – not least because Banquet is, among other things, a label, a promoter and a store well-known for putting on very special in-store events, with last year seeing colossal queues form to meet Stormzy. That is, of course, to say nothing of the ongoing vinyl revival – with the BPI recently reporting that there was a 26.8% increase in vinyl sales in 2017.

“Every year I think the vinyl revival will slow down," Banquet co-owner Jon Tolley told Music Week. "It doesn’t seem to be for us.” He went on to explain why he thinks vinyl’s extraordinary resurrection is not just a passing trend.

“I’ve always thought – and it’s not rocket science – the reason vinyl’s on the up is as an immediate reaction to how consumable and how much of a race to the bottom everything else is,” said Tolley. “Music isn’t a commodity – it’s your art collection, a working man’s art collection. If you really love an artist you want something more than an MP3 or a stream. Records are that, more than a CD. If that’s why it’s happened, and it’s not like streaming is just going to stop, there will be the counter to that. I don’t think physical music is going to stop. I think there are way bigger challenges. For me, as a retailer, the actual challenges of running a High Street position are harder – the rates and the rent and the standard bills, and making sure your staff are paid. We’re certainly busier than we’ve ever been, but because of that we have to pay more money.”

 

I don’t think physical music is going to stop. I think there are way bigger challenges.

Jon Tolley, Banquet

 

Tolley also addressed the topic of the rising number of artist back cataologues making their way to vinyl and how important that has been in terms of tapping into retail customers’ completist habits.

“If you look at the top vinyl sales, it’s Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse,” said Tolley. “These aren’t back catalogues. I’m always amazed Ed’s still in the charts, who hasn’t bought that album yet? I only speak for Banquet, but what I see people buying isn’t predominantly reissues. We are particularly excited for new music, and so is our customer base. We do 200 gigs a year, all of those are current performing artists. Absolutely, we will serve a person in for the reissue – we sell Bowie, Beatles and Nirvana every week – but our raison d’être is new music and helping bands get to that next level. We’ve never done second-hand because I don’t think it contributes anything to anyone. The label doesn’t get any more money, the artist doesn’t get any more money. You’re not giving back.”

Tolley also suggested that supermarkets’ recent move into stocking vinyl has had a negligible impact on Banquet’s operations.

“I don’t worry about it,” he said. “I think it would be a different thing if they were doing Record Store Day. I think you would have to be quite arrogant to think that your shop, and shops like you, are the only ones allowed to sell a certain type of product. I mean, we could sell bread if we wanted to. We’re deciding not to, one day we might and undercut them. I think it’s good there’s a stepping stone into music – if you’re that person who’s thinking about getting a record collection again and you see that Stone Roses record or Smiths record, and you buy it, cool. You’re not going to then go, ‘Right! I’m going back to Sainsbury’s next week!’”

You can read the full interview with Jon Tolley here.

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