A groovy kind of love, vinyl is here to stay

As he prepares for ‘Record Store Day’, Flashback owner says it’s ‘the format that wouldn’t die’

Friday, 22nd April — By Anna Lamche

Mark Burgess

Mark Burgess inside Flashback Records

VINYL records belong to the future as well as the past, the owner of a vinyl record shop has said as he prepares to celebrate his industry this weekend.

Flashback Records, run by Mark Burgess, has been a permanent fixture in Essex Road since 1997.

While music labels had mostly forsaken the format by the late-1980s in favour of CDs, Mr Burgess kept his faith in vinyl records, even selling his house to keep Flashback Records open back in the noughties.

He may have been branded a “lunatic” at the time, but the gamble appears to have paid off.

“Vinyl was a format that wouldn’t die. [That’s] partly because of the collector gene people have – people like to have a library. In the same way that despite the Kindle, people like a library. It’s something that’s there and physical and permanent,” Mr Burgess said.

He expanded his chain with a second Crouch End branch in 2006 and a third in Shoreditch in 2014.

Over the years he has watched various formats come and go, from tapes to CDs to iPods, and, later, streaming services like Spotify.

However, Mr Burgess has been largely untroubled by the changing technology, preferring to take the long view. And it has paid off: the British Phonographic Industry recently reported on a sustained growth in vinyl sales, with purchases of vinyl records at their highest in over three decades.

“A good acid test is: ‘what was the first record you bought?’ Everyone has a story about the first record they bought. No one asks: ‘what was the first MP3 you downloaded’? No one cares,” Mr Burgess said.

Vinyl records stand the test of time because they are imprinted with robust “physical grooves,” he said. “You’ve got records from the 1920s that still sound as fresh as the day they were cut.”

The last two years have been tough for Flashback Records, Mr Burgess has said, with Covid restrictions compounding the effects of Brexit.

He said extortionate customs charges have decimated his European customer base, meaning “people are actually coming over [to the UK] to the record shop rather than buy online because of Brexit.”

However, the future is bright, Mr Burgess said. “We’re starting to bounce back – it didn’t happen immediately, but we’re building back up.”

Tomorrow (Saturday), Flashback Records will be joining over 260 independent record shops across the UK to celebrate “Record Store Day.”

The day is a highlight in the calendar for many vinyl enthusiasts because major labels like Universal, Warners and Sony release limited-edition titles only available to buy in independent bricks-and-mortar record shops.

On offer this year is David Bowie’s Toy EP, a 7-inch Taylor Swift record of fan favourite The Lakes, and a record by underground hip-hop supergroup Czarface, among others.

“You can’t buy these records in HMV, you can’t buy them on Amazon,” he said. “The only way you can get them [is by coming in-store]. We will sell out on the day,” said Mr Burgess.

On Saturday Mr Burgess expects a “very busy weekend,” with “people queuing up from about six o’clock in the morning” to get into the shop. On the same day, Flashback Records will also be hosting acclaimed rapper Goya Gumbani for a live set at their Shoreditch shop.

Amid the excitement, Mr Burgess hopes fans will continue to support the shop every day of the year. “A record shop is not just for Record Store Day, it’s for life,” he said.

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