Rupert Chill’s World

Featured

Welcome to Rupert Chill’s world. Here you can see films, and hear tracks, featuring my music. You can also catch up on relevant news, see pictures or a CV and get in contact.

Please feel free to leave comments

otherwise,

Turn on, Tune in, Chill out.

Advertisements

Shop to pop: listening to chart music will help Brits save money this Black Friday

  • Retailers use slow ambling music to keep shoppers in-store
  • Up-tempo background tunes get customers out of the door quickly
  • Down-tempo music is most soothing for older shoppers who bore easily

With the biggest shopping day of the year coming up, a new study has been carried out, looking into the impact music can have on shoppers.

With Brits having spent a cool £1.2billion last year during Black Friday alone,[1] money-saving website Voucherbox.co.uk has teamed up with Prof. Rupert Till, Professor of Music at the University of Huddersfield, who explored how those having in-store shopping experiences might have had their spending habits altered by the background music.

Dr. Till who reveals that, even with Christmas tunes aplenty, retailers can use specifically curated playlists to encourage shoppers to amble through stores. This creates extra opportunity for them to browse – and buy – items.

The Professor of Music has worked with Voucherbox.co.uk to curate five clef-er music playlists, designed to put the power ‘Bach’ in shoppers’ hands this Black Friday. Thanks to the playlists, those hitting the shops or shopping online can pop in some earphones and select a pitch-perfect playlist to suit their mood and provide a seamless shopping experience.

Dr Rupert Till commented, “Retailers often use music in sophisticated ways to manipulate the moods and behaviours of their customers. Shoppers though can take control and set their own mood, based on their situation by listening to music on their own personal devices.

“Whether people get easily distracted and buy items they don’t need or perhaps they need help overcoming the pressures of buying gifts for others, we have looked to provide a solution for a range of issues faced by shoppers.”

He reveals listening to the up-tempo beats of Calvin Harris, Zara Larson and Maroon 5 keeps shoppers moving and gets them out of the store quickly– leaving less time to make purchases.

Chart music in a major key – especially when played loud – is most useful for under 25s as research found that this style got young shoppers moving to the beat and out of stores quicker than any other genre.

Dr Till, who both researches and composes music, has provided some money-saving music tips to help overcome the ‘treble’ of buying Christmas gifts and wading through the seemingly endless deals on offer. Whether playing music while browsing online or listening through headphones in-store, here are his top-tips:

  • For an efficient money-saving shop, up-tempo music gets shoppers through their task quickly, which reduces the likelihood of sticking around, browsing the store and spending money – artists include Calvin Harris, Zara Larson and Maroon 5
  • Slow ‘background’ music is recommended to sooth those who get anxious while shopping – artists include Dido, Groove Armada and William Orbit
  • Down-tempo music is ideal for older Brits who bore easily as it sooths the shopper and provides the perception that the shopping duration is shorter than in reality – artists include Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and Dean Martin
  • Match the music genre to the product you are buying to get in the right frame-of-mind and to ‘cymbalise’ the culture of the purchase item – artists for buying cutting edge gadgets include break-through artists, such as Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Nadia Rose and Temples
  • A Classical Music Playlist might suit high cost aspirational purchases

Voucherbox.co.uk is currently hosting these five individual playlists to address common issues experienced by shoppers, including stress, boredom and lack of focus, to help aid a smooth Black Friday and Cyber Monday experience.

To access the Black Friday playlists, visit: Voucherbox.co.uk.

Or Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/fm5l3sf3lvggopk2p7lwo21tp

 

Playlists

Dr Till’s top songs to help keep calm under pressure, when shopping stresses you out:

Song Artist
Daydream in Blue I Monster
I Remember Johnny Bent
Song of Life Leftfield
Teardrop Massive Attack
Weightless Marconi Union
At the River Groove Armada
Mustt Mustt Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Massive Attack Remix)
Water from a Vine Leaf William Orbit
Thank You Dido
The Great Gig in the Sky Pink Floyd

 

Dr Till’s top songs for a fast, focused and fun money-saving shop:

Song Artist
Shape of You Ed Sheeran
Despacito (Remix) Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber
You Don’t Know Me Jax Jones ft. Zara Larsson
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back Shawn Mendes
Call on Me Starley
Feels Calvin Harris
Chained to the Rhythm Katy Perry ft. Skip Marley
Big for your Boots Stormzy
Sun Comes Up Rudimental
What Lovers Do Maroon 5

 

Dr. Till’s top songs to help pass the time for those who don’t enjoy shopping:

Song Artist
The Good Life Tony Bennett
Beyond the Sea Bobby Darin
Wishin’ and Hopin’ Dusty Springfield
Wichita Lineman Glenn Campbell
That’s Amore Dean Martin
Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay Otis Redding
Lovely Day Bill Withers
Songbird Fleetwood Mac
Over the Rainbow Eva Cassidy
She Peter Skellern

 

Dr Till’s top classical choices when shopping for elite, aspirational, high quality products:

Song Artist
Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor: 4. Adagietto. Mahler – Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly
Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat, Op. 9 No. 2. Chopin – Ji Liu
Adagio for Strings and Organ Albinoni – I Musici
Symphony No. 3 “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”: II. Lento e Largo Gorecki – Joanna Koslowska, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Kazimierz Kord
Bolero Ravel – Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa
Requiem in D Minor: Lacrimosa Mozart – Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner
Spem in Alium – Tallis I Fagiolini and Robert Hollingworth
O Euchari Gothic Voices, Christopher Page and Emily Van Evera
Flower Duet (from Lakme) Delibes – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Serenade to Music Vaughan Williams – Adrian Boult

 

Dr Till’s top songs for buying cutting edge gifts:

Song Artist
Glitter & Gold Barns Courtney
I Need a Connection Jane Weaver
There’s a Honey Pale Waves
Human Rag’n’Bone Man
Keep in the Dark Temples
Let’s Go to the Beach Sophie Longshaw
Anita Smino
Belle Wahalla Kondi Band
Makeba Jain
Skwod Nadia Rose

For more information, contact the Voucherbox.co.uk press office on 0203 897 0333 or at voucherbox@ready10.media.

References:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38157560

About Dr Rupert Till

Dr. Rupert Till is Professor of Music in the Department of Music and Drama, having worked at the University of Huddersfield since 2002. He is also Associate Dean International in the School of Music, Humanities and Media, responsible for overseeing international development and recruitment.

He has appeared on TV and Radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC News, the Sky at Night, Mystery Quest, ARTE, the Travel Channel, BBC Radio 2, 4, 5, 6 and World Service, LBC, various international radio stations, and speaks regularly on BBC Radio Leeds and Sheffield on popular music subjects. His research has been featured widely in national and international press and on numerous websites.

 

Study Like A Pro – Music To Keep You Motivated

My first Huffington Post article is up.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-rupert-till/studying-music_b_17319774.html

This morning I was supposed to be writing about how music can help you work, but instead I found myself distracted, wandering around the kitchen, looking in the fridge and checking Facebook, somehow, I just couldn’t get started. Suddenly the irony of the situation hit me, I reached for some music, and with the Cuckoo Clocks’ new single playing in the background, as if by magic, the words just started to flow.

This isn’t the first time I’ve faced this problem, as a student I’d often work through the night on an assignment and struggle to stay focused in the early hours. The trouble is that my only-too-human brain can typically only concentrate for about 20 minutes before struggling. Stress, noise, hunger and tiredness all shorten how long I can stay focused for. At worst, I zigzag from drowsy to wired, and produce work that is far below what I’m capable of. But when I was in the zone I’d work for hours without a break, in a flow state, as computer games theorists call it.

To stay awake, a first instinct is caffeine. So I was pleased when I found out that Pro Plus has unveiled a playlist specially designed to help students study, based on research they commissioned that explores whether music helps or hinders studying success. Even though today’s students are spending on average 2 hours less per week in the library than their parent’s generation, almost three times as many students achieve first class degrees. So, what’s the secret? A powerful playlist would appear to be one answer, with three quarters of today’s student population listening to music when studying to aid concentration and motivation.

I grew up learning in stony silence, my schoolteachers aiming for pin drop silence and only allowing talking occasionally. It turns out that they were missing out on the role music can play in helping us to achieve our best. For many years, educational researchers in Australia have used music to aid the concentration of students of all ages. They need something to help them, Pro Plus also found our fixation with social media to be the number 1 distraction, closely followed by Netflix box set bingeing and playing computer games. Their parents’ generation – I’m talking about my generation here – were mostly distracted by a night out on the town, which I still think is more fun!

Whereas, their parents had to cope with the humble cassette mixtape, today’s young nighthawk study sessions are sound-tracked by custom curated music playlists to keep on task. 24 to 34 year olds are more likely to listen to an artist’s album, and over 55s will listen to whatever appears on the wireless. So, what does research say music can do to help turn you into a working genius (well at least to keep you awake)?

It seems it’s a ‘horses for courses’ case here, with the perfect playlist being dependent on the task in hand. For an all-night study session, the music needs to turn up the pace to keep your blood coursing through the veins, boosting natural stimulants in the body. But you must avoid anything too fast, otherwise you can get too hyped up, and stressed. Music with lyrics can keep you sharp, helping avoid your brain slowing to an alpha or theta brainwave state, in which you can feel drowsy. It’s important to choose music that particularly appeals to you, everyone’s perfect playlist is different. For something that involves complex thinking at a higher level, like a dissertation, you should listen to instrumental music, as you need the intellectual space that lyrics might take up.

Lower tempo music can achieve something quite different, reducing tension, entraining your body, even your heartbeat, to a lower speed when listening to chilled out music. For anything mathematical, calming background music seems to work, as do lyrics, so choosing songs can be good. Extroverts it seems respond better to familiar music, introverts might want something new. The research shows that silence is worse than vocal or instrumental music when working with pictures, so for art homework or graphic design music is a must. If for your music is distracting, turn it off, but it’s at least worth trying working with music playing. The work might take longer, but you might get more done, and be happier while you are doing it.

Streaming hits the top 40 but is this the end of the chart itself?

Check out an article I wrote a little while ago on the Conversation

https://theconversation.com/streaming-hits-the-top-40-but-is-this-the-end-of-the-chart-itself-28370

Music streaming is soon to be counted within the charts, a reflection of a major shift in the music industry. Spotify and other sites like it make access to their vaults of recordings free – if you don’t mind advertising. This shifts the focus of music consumption from ownership to always available rental-like streaming. Because of this, terms that were once significant, such as “single”, “album” and indeed “chart”, are slowly being deconstructed.

Ambient Music

Rupert has a new book chapter out called ambient music. Although focused on ambient music, spirituality and religion, it gives an interesting overview of the history of the genre. It is available to down load at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318563122_Ambient_Music

Pop Cults: Differences and Similarities Between Fandom and Religious Devotion

Burmese punk fans

[This is the text from an interview by Professor Rupert Till with Der Falter Magazine in Vienna, Austra]

What is the difference between Fandom and religion in your opinion/in your definition?

It all depends how you define religion really. For some people religion is about believing in a God, that’s the sort of definition often used by people involved in religion, so it’s a bit of a circular argument. In this case the main difference between fandom and religion is that fans worship someone who does not claim to be a God, and that fans would define what they do as different to religion. In the same way religious people would say that what they do is different to fandom, because they worship figures who they believe are beyond human.

But that definition of religion doesn’t work in some cases, as there are religions that don’t have Gods, like types of Buddhism. A more useful definition of religion describes it as those things related to our ultimate concerns, to what is so important to us we feel we have to behave in a particular way. Using this second definition, religion and fandom are less different from one another, and when we look at the two side by sides you can see a lot of similarities between them.

Where are the parallels among them in your opinion/in your definition?                      

They both involve a passionate commitment to someone or something. They also both involve worship, usually of an individual, whose behaviour is beyond question. Both involve people doing things religiously, in a way that seems almost a compulsion. Large amounts of people’s time, effort and money are committed in both cases. Music and ritualised behaviours such as dance, theatre or unusual clothing are often involved. These help to create experiences which involve some kind of ecstatic experience, of being transported to another state of consciousness, a sort of escape from or alternative to day to day life. Sexuality is often involved one way or another, whether fans being attracted to stars who model particular forms of sexual epression, or religions providing other models of sexual behaviour, through rules, practices or instructions.

Beatles fans

Is a pop star someone like a Messiah or even God for his fans?

People copy what Gods and Messiahs do, their iconic status provide role models, individuals base their behaviour on them. These relationships help people to define themselves, help them to decide how they might act, and how they fit in with their communities. Some people today have lost faith in traditional religious figures, and look elsewhere for examples to look up to. Fans often base their appearance on their idols, just as many religious communities have typical ways of looking. They also read interviews with them, and copy their behaviour. A God is someone to look to for inspiration, and to guide us on how to behave, pop stars are certainly treated like a God by many people. Stars collect fanatics in large groups at concerts, they wear special costumes, and stand raised up on stages with lighting and video screens making them seem larger than life, more than human, with special (musical) powers that make them different to ordinary people.

Are there existing „real“ and „fake“ religions in your opinion?

It is difficult to logically separate one religion from another. Some religions start as a cult, based on the teaching of one living person who demands absolute loyalty from their disciples, who have to give up their money and jobs to follow a radical set of beliefs that are a distortion of an established religion. Some of these cults require members to believe in the magical powers of some living God, and to follow the instructions of leaders unquestioningly. But this could be a description of Christianty, as well as of new religious movements like Scientology and Unitarianism. A cult is just a four letter word for a religion you don’t like. All gods are real, brought into existence by those who believe in them.

For me fake religions are the ones that clearly do harm to their members, or that encourage participants to harm other people. Some religions have encouraged people to kill themselves or attack others, and these are the ones that one might warn against as “fake”, as not being things anyone should take part in. But then again, many major religions have advocated holy wars or crusades in the past, have encouraged their members to kill and be killed in the name of their God. What is real to one person is fake to another, and vice versa. Sadly these more dangerous beliefs are just as real as any other.

Metal Fans 2

What are the reasons and motivations when a person becomes a „hard“ fan or even a fanatic? Are there parallels to a person who lives a devout life?

This seems to be tied up in how people develop their characters, and how they fit into societies. When very young, or very immature, we all tend to believe what we are told. When we reach adolescence, we have a number of different social circles that we need somehow to integrate, amongst families, friends and in school for example, and we look for some kind of organisation that can make sense of these competing pressures. Many people look at this turbulant stage in their lives for something very specific and unchanging, something that provides a sense of belonging. What can also appeal is a set of hard and fast rules, that are laid out in black and white, an alternative to the confusing and messy reality of grey uncertainties we experience as we begin to fear that the truths we were told as children are not as simple as we thought.

So fanatics and devout followers of both pop stars and religions, are looking for something that has solid boundaries, a type of belonging that is theirs and not inherited from their families. It provides a structure within which they can live without having to try to work eveything out themselves. It is a relief from having to build a personality from scratch individually; it provides a whole system of behaviours that comes as a package, whether that’s being a hardcore metal fan or a member of a fundamentalist religious group. It also sets one aside as different from the rest of the world, and yet provides belonging and a sense of identity. It tends to focus on someone to look up to, who the fanatic identifies with, someone who other people worship, the devout follower trying to be as much like them as possible.

Perhaps the other thing that characterises the fanatic from someone less committed, is the degree of effect on the person’s life. Often for the more extreme enthusiast this is something that takes over their lives somewhat, that they are involved with all the time, every day, rather than just once in a while. They act in a somewhat obsessive manner, rather than their interests being a balanced part of their lives.

Metal fans

Does the “fan religion” replace the “church-related”-religion in history in your opinion?

Feeling part of a social group, developing identity amongst adolescents, understanding your place in the world, exploring ones emotions and the way you relate to other people, are fundamental needs within human culture. They are the glue that sticks communities together, and has allowed humanity to work in teams to achieve remarkable things. They are a social technology every bit as important to human development as fire, the wheel or farming. In the past these social functions were usually met by religions, but many of these have fallen out of favour, whether due to scandals, or people turning to science for our understanding of the world. Pop cults operate like a religion; many young people have used participation in popular music scenes or fandom to replace the social functions formally fulfilled by religions, such as community belonging, provision of heroic figures to look up to, and development of an individual’s identity. As well as that, whereas in the past people would go to churches and temples to dance, sing and have transcendent experiences, now these often happen in commercial popular music contexts, such as clubs, gigs and music festivals.

In an interview with the Guardian, Lady Gaga refers to her Monster Ball tour as “a religious experience”, becoming for many an alternative to organised faith. What do you think about the Lady Gaga „movement“? Is this already religion?

There is a term academics use call “liminal”, which is a place that is outside of normal life, where the usual rules don’t apply, and where people go to experience something different in a highly ritualised setting. This is the central section of any ritual, and it is usually facilitated by someone who knows how to guide people into, through and out of the liminal space. Priests and religious leaders of many kinds are often highly skilled at using music and elements of theatre to create a sense of otherness that helps people to let go of their day to day lives and alter their state of consciousness, to be free of their normal limits. Lady Gaga is also really good at this. Her Monster tour used stage sets, costumes and themes of sin, demons, sexuality and rebirth, to create an otherworldly atmosphere, where many normal social conventions are broken. Here people can feel free to imagine themselves in Gaga’s alternative universe, led into something new, but safe in their seats, within a set of rules and boundaries that make them feel safe. Just as Madonna understood how to make her music act like a religion, drawing upon religious imagery and content as in Like a Prayer or Like a Virigin, Gaga understands how to draw upon the same methods that are used by religions, to transport her audiences to another place. Gaga is not a religion, but she is like a religion, she uses many of the same techniques as religion, and fulfils many of the functions formally met by religions.

Gaga Fans

Do you understand your book „Pop Cult“ as a scientific book?

My work follows solid scientific principals, such as that it is based on logic, evidence and rationality, proposes a hypothesis that it provides evidence for. But I also understand that science is a form of religion. Science is the prevailing system we use today to understand our world. Most people don’t really understand a lot of what scientists tell us, we trust that things like Higgs Boson particles, dark matter, superstrings and universal field theory are real and not just made up. We have faith in what science says because of the miraculous things it is able to do. In reality some scientific concepts are terms for things we do not fully understand, a useful shorthand to fill a space that lacks evidence, and theories that are offered up as fact.

On the experimental edges of science, we start to understand a world that is not so different from religion. At the time of the big bang, none of what we think of as the laws of physics work any more. Dark matter is a term used to describe a massive hole in our understanding of the universe, we have no evidence it exists, but scientists believe it exists as otherwise a lot of their calculations make no sense. Similarly superstrings are an idea suggested as a way to explain something we don’t understand. Things we take for granted, like gravity, time, energy and mass, are in reality complex subjects that we don’t fully understand, although scientists know enough about how they work most of the time, to use that understanding to harness their powers in machines and engineered solutions.

Scientists, along with the devoutly religious and fanatical worshippers of pop stars, all present the things they focus on as unchallengable, as things that should be trusted without question. My research suggests one way of looking at things that might be useful to other people, acknowledging that nothing is absolutely certain or useful in all contexts. This is an approach that is the antithesis of the dogmatic fanatic, and a perspective I share with the most advanced scientists, alongside sophisticated appreciators of music, and those with mature spiritual beliefs. Fanaticism allows you to ignore flaws in your argument, and can be very powerful, as it gives great focus and energy to a cause. But generally as you become older, this zealous focus on one thing diffuses as you start to understand how little you know, and how much there is to gain from looking further afield and learning from a wider spread of interests. My work draws upon scientific principles but I oppose the idea that scientific approaches are all that is valid. Just as I am more interested in spritualities and cosmology than dogmatic religion. For fanatics interested in science, music and religion, their narrow focus is the most important thing that exists. For me it is the way people relate to one another that is important, which is a subject that has no right and wrong answers.

PopCultCover_photo

Roland MX1 Mix Performer and BOSS RC505 Loopstation USB Link Works

I asked Roland if you can plug the Boss RC505 Loopstation into the USB inputs of the Roland MX1 Mix Performer. The answer was “unfortunately no”, but they are wrong, it works!

roland-mx1-front

The Roland MX1 Mix performer has 4 USB inputs, designed for the Aira series, so you can have audio and MIDI input and output with just one cable. I wanted to use one of these inputs for Roland’s desktop looping machine, the BOSS RC505 Loopstation, so I could ditch the laptop and do a whole set computer free, and improvise electronic music on the fly. I was disappointed to hear that despite Roland making both bits of gear (BOSS is a Roland company), that the USBs were not compatible. Then I found a reference in Italian on a website from someone who seemed to be using this kind of connection. I couldn’t get anyone to say it would work, but bought the gear anyway, thinking I could use analogue connections if needs be, but hoping randomly that when I plugged the USB in it would work. I rang Roland support and they told me quite clearly that this would not work. No.

I now  have the two pieces of equipment, and I plugged them in, AND THEY WORKED!!! Sort of….

rc-505_top_gal

I connected the USB and set USB to Audio and MIDI. Audio out of the RC505 will flow into the Roland MX1, I had it on USB channel 4. And the factory demo built into the RC505 appeared in the MX1 and played sound. Yippie!! Success I though. I then pressed play on the MX1, expecting everything to sync in time, I had a Roland drum machine, a TR8 on USB channel 1. No, that didn’t work. Drat and double drat, so I can’t sync the two. However when I connected a midi cable from the MX1 to the RC505 it jumped into time and synced nicely.

I then tried to record a loop on the RC505 from the drum machine. Nothing. And I was using the auxiliary send on the MX1 to send sound to a RE20 tape delay pedal. Still, I was doing this in stereo, I figured this could be in mono, and I could use one channel of the auxiliary send to the RE20 and one to the RC505, using the aux send from the MX1 and the input to the RC505. This worked fine, although it does generate a bit of noise. I do wish the USB input worked, as I would be noise free, but at least it is possible.

I had to turn off the function that outputs the input to the RC505 to its output, but that was not really a problem. Within 30 minutes I had worked it all out and had pretty much worked out the Loopstation, which is incredibly easy to use.

I used midi to clock the RC505, and the output from the Roland TR8, which is connected via USB, clocked the Volca via MIDI. I used minijack clock cables to clock the other two Volcas to the first one. The TB3 is connected via USB. Before I got the MX1 I couldn’t get the TB3 and TR8 to synchronise, now they play nicely with each other, everything syncs up well.

Roland led set up.jpg

Conclusions? A USB connection out of the BOSS RC505 into the Roland MX1 Mix Performer will output sound from the RC505 into the MX1. You will need to use MIDI to sync the two together. You cannot send MIDI or audio from the MX1 to the RC505 as far as I can tell. I suppose because you need a driver. I will contact Roland and try to convince them to make it work in future upgrades.

The MX1 manual says “Do not connect any other USB devices to the MX1 USB input”, and I have to say I offer only evidence that this has so far worked for me, there is no guarantee it won’t blow up your valuable equipment. But so far, it seems to me that Roland are being somewhat risk averse, and I am pleased to say these two pieces of kit work for me. Could the future of mixers be USB connections on everyone No more multiple sockets,

So come on Roland, sort out your digital interfacing, get your gear to talk to each other.

Vinyl Sales Overtake Digital Downloads: the Truth but not the Whole Truth

“Vinyl Sales Overtake Digital Downloads” was the headline in the Guardian this week “Tables turned as vinyl sales overtake digital sales for first time in UK”, £2.5 million for vinyl album sales in the first week of December 2016 as opposed to £2.1 million for digital downloads. So what is wrong with this story, why is it true, and why is it absolutely not true?

Firstly, why is the headline wrong? Well it is gross income from vinyl album sales that has gone to £2.5 million, so that is how much cash has come in from vinyl album sales. But of course vinyl albums are much more expensive than downloads, Kate Bush’s new live album coming in at an eye watering £60, the download is much cheaper. If you looked at the profit made on sales of albums it may be different, as the vinyl record requires manufacture, you have to play for the plastic; it needs a cover printing; it needs shipping; it needs people in shops to sell it and take a cut; whereas a digital download skips all of those costs, so may actually make more money for record companies.

IMG_7393.JPG

Next up is actual sales, not money made from sales. There were more digital downloads of albums than vinyl album sales in the last week, 120,000 albums were sold, whereas 295,000 digital albums were downloaded. So vinyl album sales have not overtaken digital downloads which are three times larger.

You will notice I keep saying vinyl albums. Of course many people no longer buy albums, it is increasingly common for people to buy individual tracks. You might argue that that is not the same thing, but then the vinyl album sales are boosted by compilation album sales, which are just collections of individual tracks, they are not an album in the conventional sense, and indeed things like Now That’s What I Call Music didn’t use to count in album charts. So if you include all sales of recordings, albums, singles, tracks, then you see a different picture.

Why is the headline right? Well it’s hard to love a download, it is “invisible music”, you can’t hold it, you often don’t have the artwork, and you have so many downloads your love is spread across them so thin you can’t really obsess over them. Vinyl records have many aspects that make them loveable. They are impermanent, they are fragile beauties that will break, scratch and hiss in time, start getting cranky like people do when they get older! The young people who are buying them don’t know that, as their parents had CDs, which are more robust. They might feel in 10 years when their precious vinyl is unlistenable that they wish they had cashed in the download codes. But you have to look after vinyl, you have to protect it, clean it, change your needles, have a record player. And you own it, you can hold it, touch it, and recognise it from the slightest glance at a small corner of the label or cover. It has a large piece of artwork on the front, it is artwork itself. It is something that can be fetishised, it is proper consumerism. It is also more expensive, so the mark of a proper music fan, who cares about their music, who wants a few, carefully selected pieces of music that excellent, not a million tracks on mp3.

This makes the vinyl record an increasingly popular item on santa’s wishlists, Christmas is the most important time of the year for the music industry as much as other types of shopping, and the inflated price of vinyl helps to feed the whole of the starving music industry. Vinyl sales however are still a small part of the music industry.

Even if you say “gross income from sales of vinyl albums have overtaken gross income from digital downloads of albums”, then there is another more important story here. That is that although vinyl sales are increasing, the bigger story is that digital downloads are decreasing quicker. It’s not so much that vinyl is up, but that digital downloads are down.

In fact downloads look to be on a straight line trajectory that would see them all but disappear in a few years. The real story is streaming.

There are several stories about streaming out there. You regularly hear about record companies complaining about streaming, that there is too much piracy and that they don’t get paid enough. Well when the music industry claimed that home taping is killing music (and yes, cassettes are making a lo-fi comeback too if you want to out-geek the vinyl collectors), they were wrong. They had no evidence and were just railing against new technology in a luddite fashion. In fact the evidence now shows that home taping boosted music sales, increased them. As we all knew, what happened was that a home tape meant your mates got to hear your music, and then liked it so much they ended up going out and buying it themselves. Well it seems that free streamed music and even illegal digital downloads have the same effect. Sales income from recordings has gone up, and it seems that piracy just gives people a taste for music, which they eventually buy. Even better, what seems to happen is that people hear music on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music and then collect their favourites on vinyl. So there’s the real story, increased vinyl sales are coming from streaming.

IMG_7395 (1).jpg

And the industry stuff about “we are not making any money from streaming” seems to be another myth. The big big news is that streaming music sales income looks like it has outstripped digital downloads (in some territories), and of course downloads and streaming are together bigger than physical media (CDs and vinyl). Streaming is the future, if you are not listening to your music on Spotify and YouTube get with the programme. These two big players are dominating, and they control the incomes, one stream might pay about half a pence to an artist. And the usual cuts to record companies are reduced. Their profits are down, as they are no longer the distributer, and they can’t so easily control publishing rights. And sales are spreading, instead of their megastars selling most of the music, there are huge numbers of artists accounting for a little bit each, many of them completely independent of record companies. The big record companies don’t like upstarts like Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music raking in the money and controlling the industry. They like vinyl because it works for their business model, but they are fighting a losing battle.

Superfast broadband rolled out by the government, along with better cloud storage and wireless charging of iPhones are all coming soon, and will make streaming increasingly popular. 2.1 million vinyl albums were sold in 2015, there were 53.7 billion streams. So about 2500 times as many tracks were streamed as were bought on vinyl (assuming 10 tracks on a vinyl album). 2.1 million albums were sold in 2015, Adele sold 2.5 million copies of her album 25 in that year in just 6 weeks. That puts vinyl sales into perspective. Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” on its own was streamed 65 million times.

So you have a choice this Christmas, buy vinyl for your beard-growing would be hipster loved one, or get a Spotify gift card. Either way, we have access to so much more music today than 20 years ago, the music industry might not like it, but for music audiences, we have never had it so good.

Dr Rupert Till is Reader in Music and Director of International, in the School of Music, Humanities and Media at the University of Huddersfield, UK.