Recent news that sales of vinyl are now outstripping those of downloads – in the UK at least – shows that we’re living in interesting times. Sales figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) show that, as 2016 draws to a close, money made on album sales is on the up. Given that conventional wisdom would suggest that we all want the convenience and portability of digital downloads above all else, this has been a shocking turn around.
That said, though, buying an album on vinyl was always an emotional experience. The size of the cover. The artwork. The sleeve notes. The static smell as you pull the record out of its sleeve. And then the feeling that something tangible is happening when you lower your record player’s arm, and the stylus touches the vinyl for the first time. The rumble. And then – joy – the music begins. Tell me that’s not an emotional connection.
Given that record and CD sales were in decline for many years, this is great news – and proof that conventional wisdom can be turned on its head. People are coming back to physical media for their music – and re-connecting themselves with the pure emotion of the experience.
For music, read magazines…
There are parallels with the publishing industry, of course. Magazine sales – they’ll tell you – have been on the slide for years. Editors and publishers will talk (quietly) about managing decline and doing the best job they can in meeting the demands of an ageing audience in a shrinking market. However, given that glorious story from the music industry, should the magazine publishers start being more bullish?
I reckon so. Record sales aren’t just about emotion. Nor are they all about fashion, and something that only hipsters get. No way… They’re a premium choice these days, especially considering the £20-ish price tag attached to them. And just as people are now clamouring for a premium experience in most walks of life – music and reading are just the same.
And why do – or did – we buy car magazines? Not just to learn about this week’s best car deals or road tests on the latest family hatchback. Oh, no. We buy/bought them to be entertained. That’s why, when car enthusiasts recall their favourite magazine moments from the past, it’ll usually involve an amazing drive story, a stupidly funny columnist, or some brilliant piece of industry analysis.
Always look on the bright side of life
That’s precisely what gives me hope for the future of car magazines. After all, great content is merely a good writer away. And there are many good writers out there. More interestingly, car enthusiasts still prize great magazine content above all else. I should know – I’ve run websites and magazines, and owners will generally be far more revved up about their car appearing in print than in digital form.
Great content is another consideration – that, and giving people what they want. I was in the very fortunate position recently of being allowed by my publisher to launch a brand-new car magazine. Called Modern Classics, and covering cars from the 1980s, ’90s and ’00s, it was catering for a market untapped in the print universe. And a year on from launch, I do know this – sales have increased consistently in a market where the general trend is downwards.
That alone gives me hope for the future of car magazines. Just like vinyl albums, car magazines are a tactile and beautiful thing – as such, they offer an experience that the digital world can’t really replicate, no matter how effectively it is delivered on desktop, mobile or tablet. Give people what they want, cover the cars they like to read about and, above all, talk directly to the readers’ hearts, and the sales will blossom.
Have faith – there’s life in the old dog yet!