Blog : Vinyl outstripping CDs shows there’s hope for mags

Keith Adams

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!

Keith Adams


  1. I totally agree . I was an early adopter – I stopped buying magazines and bought lots of magazines on my ipad . Over a period of months I realised that I was missing magazines . Just like browsing through HMV record stores I missed going into WH Smiths and browsing through the car mags .

    I started of browsing in shops and downloading when I got home . I “ve now gone full circle and buy all my magazines .

    The Ipad is great for AR online , owners club forums etc.

    But you cant beat the look and feel of a glossy mag .

  2. Imagine if aronline was a monthly publication, there’s a wealth of brilliant writers and contributors to this site. Nothing would sell like it I’m sure. As for vinyl I sadly no longer have a collection but the sound quality of mp3’s just doesn’t compare, not to mention the smell, the artwork, the sound. personally I hope the rise in vinyl sales is the younger generation getting in on it after seeing their parent/grandparents listening to lp’s

  3. Its funny how Vinyl is making a comeback and so are books. Sales of e-readers and e-books have gone down while book sales have gone up. Is it nostalgia or is the fact that reading from a book is more tactile and your brain seems to take in the information better as it is a physical item.

    Not sure on the Vinyl comeback though – yes its is a slightly warmer sound than digital however you can’t keep playing your favourite record forever. Funny thing is there is supposed to be a big return for cassettes making a comeback which is even more bizarre!

  4. Pleased to hear that Modern Classics is doing well, Keith.

    Personally am not fussed about physical media – either vinyl or print magazines.

    Magazines are just an expensive bundle of full page watch adverts, full page tyre adverts, and full page insurance adverts. I’ll get my motor journalism online, thanks.

  5. In agreement with you Keith, whilst the internet does have it’s advantages in the buying / selling of cars if you are ‘in-market’ for a replacement chariot but it never quite hits the mark with regard to the ‘impulse buy’ – the kind of you make when flicking through the classifieds (which I always go to first) of your favourite classic car mag – I for one have made several of these such buys when I never really had any intention of purchasing a MGF / Saab 900 but before I knew it I had picked up the phone and was arranging funds.
    I am one of the folk that have purchased ‘Modern Classics’ and you have certainly hit the mark with that one Keith it reminds be very much of the much missed ‘Top Marques’ magazine whose mix of news,editorial, classics car section and the all important classifieds was pretty much perfect in my opinion.
    The problem with the digital magazines is just that – they are digital, I spend all day in front of a screen the last thing I want to do with my quality time is to read my favourite magazine on an iPad where I will be disturbed from my latest classic car fantasy by emails, pop up ads etc. Then their is the tactile nature of a magazine that just can’t be beaten – similar to the vinyl experience.

  6. Buying actual magazines is very helpful from a ‘how to’ point of view, in the same way as a proper printed workshop manual is useful (this obviously applies to the useful mags such as Practical Classics or Classics Monthly as things like Classic & Sportscar are useless unless you want to know about investment banking, Rolex watches or some such rubbish). There’s no way I’m taking my iPad in to the garage to help me work through something.

  7. I believe you Keith. Many years ago in the early 1980s I used to buy the American mags ROAD & TRACK and CAR & DRIVER from WH Smiths. I loved the tests of American cars and Japanese/German imports (even French). Loved the adverts for oil and spark plugs etc. I still have a couple of copies (one with a test of the Datsun 280ZX Turbo) Great times

  8. Great article Keith – I have bought Modern Classics since Issue 1. It fills a gap in my automotive literature between CAR Magazine and Volksworld Magazine.

    It is exactly what I need in my life as I am interested in Modern Classics owning 2 myself (both 1990s 5 cylinder relices).

    Long may it continue!

  9. The model that Car magazine moved to was that the magazine would be full of glossy pictured articles and in depth features, whereas the website would have the latest motoring news.

    Quite a few magazines moving away from purely news, the likes of RetroGamer is the classic car mag equivalent for videogames – reviews, retrospectives, interviews, features, news of ‘new’ retro games etc. The kind of thing that is nice to flick through and read on paper, rather than the latest and greatest news scoops.

  10. ” 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.”

    So much this. I’ll never forget putting Ace Of Spades on the turntable in 1981 not knowing what to expect and being blown away by the title track. As I listened I remember looking at the album cover thinking, “wow, these three Mexican dudes are amazing!”

  11. I’ve never taken to e-magazines. Tried downloading one a few years ago to read on holiday on the iPad. Wasn’t a fan and never downloaded one again. There’s something strangely satisfying about reading an actual magazine with proper pages!

    My only issue with them is finding somewhere to stash almost 10 years worth of Land Rover Owner International magazines….

  12. A tip I have picked up off the internet.
    Spray your records with window cleaner and wipe it off with a micro fibre cloth.
    It really does work.

  13. The headline announcements about vinyl outselling downloads has to be taken with a large pinch of salt. The figures compare the sales of vinyl albums with downloads of the same entire album, and the trend since downloads became a thing is for people to buy individual tracks from album releases and avoid the ‘fillers’. A total album sale by download is therefor not credited unless and until a purchaser has bought all the tracks. Download sales are still vastly outstripping vinyl in terms of total music bought, although even the download market is in decline in comparison to a decade ago as younger music purchasers prefer to subscribe to streaming services. So, don’t go celebrating a return to the old ways yet!!

  14. Rather like cassettes 20 years ago, sales of CDs are probably being hurt by manufacturers not fitting CD players in cars. Most new cars no longer have CD players and cars that still have them die out, this will probably kill off CDs. However, I had a wry laugh the other day when I saw a V reg Honda Civic parked up with a cassette player and some cassettes lying on the passenger seat, which shows this very passe technology still has its followers.

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