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Old is gold: LPs are back on the racks

Preeti Mehra Bindu D. Menon New Delhi | Updated on July 16, 2011

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Long-playing records have come a full circle, giving competition to CDs, DVDs, iPods and MP3s. Known in their NextGen avatar as vinyls, LPs are now being showcased in music stores in the metros to woo discerning music lovers.

The technology of a forgotten era made a comeback in Europe around two years ago. It is now available for Bollywood film music as well. And banking on its return to popularity are some of the country's mainstream music companies such as Saregama, T-series, EMI and Sony Music which have started releasing LPs here.

Saregama's first release was John Abraham starrer Jhootha Hi Sahi and then 15 other titles followed, including the popular Suprabhatam and Call of the Valley. It now plans to bring an exhaustive Hindi music collection in the format.

But why would people go in for expensive vinyls, priced at Rs 799 onwards, when downloads are available at the click of a button?

Sound clarity

“Vinyl was revived by electronic underground music groups in the West for its sound clarity. It is an analog recording and its output is received without conversion. The CD and DVD are digital recordings which do not capture the complete sound waves, hence do not offer the same sound quality,” explains a music production expert.

However, experts are not the target audience of the music industry. “Bollywood movies have been portraying the retro theme in a big way. On the entertainment and fashion fronts, sound quality has started gaining momentum among consumers. Almost every top artiste is going back to the analog format as it is more natural and earthy in contrast to digital sound which is very clean,” says Mr Nirjhar Mukherjee, Manager, Studio Operations, Saregama India.

Mr Mukherjee notes that the highest demand in vinyl has been for R. D. Burman's Bollywood collections. The company is finalising the release list for August-September and it will include several titles of the 1970s and 1980s.

With an interest in vinyls comes the demand for the traditional turntable. And Saregama has been fast to catch on to the trend by tying up with the Netherlands-based Lenco to market its LP players in India. Among the features included in the turntables are USB ports, in-built speakers and the AM/FM radio.

Niche market, for now

“The market may be niche right now, but has good potential as it also offers a style statement,” says a prominent music dealer in Delhi. He reveals that Saregama alone has sold over 8,000 LPs during March-June 2011. The Lenco turntables are available at a wide price range — from Rs 8,000 for the entry level to Rs 25,000 for those with added features.

Delhi-based T-Series too has been releasing Bollywood titles in vinyls. According to Mr Jatin Gill, Vice-President, Music Division, T-Series, “We are releasing only new movie titles. The market is niche and production is still costly. We mostly procure our LPs from the UK and this is distributed through an exclusive distributor channel. We sell about 500-700 units per title.”

Currently, the industry body for domestic music estimates LP sales in India at about one per cent of the total Rs 700-800-crore market.

Whether the niche market for vinyls becomes a mass market remains to be seen, but music buffs are twittering about it. Says Mr Ravijit Chaudhuri on the social networking site: Nice to see vinyls back on shelves… Only thing they're mighty expensive at over Rs 800 an LP.

Published on July 03, 2011

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