Records - the genuine article, pressed on vinyl with proper artwork and printed sleeve notes to pore over - ‘never died’, Mark Richardson is fond of telling visitors to his shop on Sheffield’s Arundel Street.
“They just had a rest,” he says, casting a glance at the racks of vinyl which line the walls of LP Records, which he unabashedly admits is his ‘passion and his life’,
But despite all genres of music being only a few mouse clicks away online - downloaded legally or otherwise - whatever slump physical records might have experienced is well and truly over.
Last year sales of LPs passed the one million mark for the first time since 1996, a milestone figure which confirmed the format’s unexpected resurgence in the digital age, and just this week an official weekly chart started, ranking the UK’s best-selling vinyl albums.
The once waning market is also becoming an increasingly significant earner, too. The total vinyl album market was worth £3.3 million in 2009, increasing to £25.9 million in 2014.
And on Saturday the tills will be ringing again at Sheffield’s independent music shops for the annual Record Store Day - when fans flock to stores to snap up specially-produced, limited edition releases by hundreds of artists.
I think they will still be pressing records in years to come. I’m quite proud to be here 20 years down the line because it’s been a bit of a rough ride.Mark Richardson, LP Records
Performances by live bands and DJ sets are also part of the attraction for those who queue up to secure their collectors’ items on the third Saturday in April every year.
Mark ordered his stock from Record Store Day HQ weeks ago, and has his fingers crossed for success in 2015.
“Last year it clashed with Easter, and it did make a difference in the footfall, but in 2013 it was colossal,” he said.
“All the spare cash I’d got I’d put it into it, and from what I bought I sold around 85 per cent.”
Mark said he first noticed a fresh wave of interest in vinyl around five years ago.
“I just think a lot of people - not solely young people - have latched on to the idea that to have something physical is better, and especially if it’s a record. They’ve got something that has a gatefold sleeve possibly, or on occasion a coloured vinyl - they’ve got something that looks great.
“I’m not one of these people who will say ‘It’s got better sound’, but I do think it has a nice, warm, rich sound, with a few crackles and pops which is quite nostalgic... or a bad pressing!”
He added: “Kids of 14, 15, 16 onwards have realised you can cherish it and build a collection. There is no comparison to any other format.”
Classic rock releases - by the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones - remain big sellers, said Mark, but there’s also a thriving trade in electronic music and sought-after Northern Soul discs.
His own collection, started with 60p chart singles bought as a nine-year-old growing up in Lowedges, numbers around 10,000 records - most of which is meticulously categorised and catalogued - and his most lucrative find was a demo pressing of Pink Floyd’s Apples and Oranges, which he sold for £700.
“In 1983 CDs started to filter in, and by 1985 companies were still pressing on vinyl but less and less,” said Mark. “It was quite a sad time for me. But I knew it would come back - I didn’t know when, but I knew it would.”
Elsewhere in Sheffield, Barry Everard is all set for ‘another bumper day’ at his shop, Record Collector, in Broomhill, where the doors will open at 8am sharp on Saturday.
In previous years up to 400 customers have lined up outside for opening time, with some committed souls waiting from 11pm the night before.
“The record side of things is going from strength to strength,” said Barry, whose business is Sheffield’s oldest surviving shop of its kind, approaching a 40th anniversary.
“It’s a grassroots movement that has got the record companies putting more and more releases out on vinyl. You can burn a CD on a computer but you can’t make a vinyl album at home.”
At 3pm on a quiet midweek afternoon there were around 10 customers - a seemingly impressive turnout - browsing in Record Collector, but Barry maintains that footfall is down in shops generally.
“People don’t go out as much as they used to – they’re stuck in front of computers and tablets for a decent chunk of the day. It’s true that you can pick up some things cheaper on the internet, but you can also buy things from more specialist music markets, stuff that doesn’t sell shedloads, less expensively in record shops.
“A lot of people don’t understand there has to be some connection between shops and shopping. The reason why artists put out limited editions on Record Store Day is that a lot of them feel some degree of gratitude towards shops.
“Most of the artists from the pre-internet era would be broken by a combination of radio and shops. Whether it’s the Arctic Monkeys, Blur or the Beatles, without shops getting behind them they wouldn’t have the careers they have had.”
Back on Arundel Street, Mark is looking to the future with optimism.
“I think they will still be pressing records in years to come. I think the resurgence will probably stop at a certain level, it may peak, but I think there will always be interest. I’m quite proud to be here 20 years down the line because it’s been a bit of a rough ride.”
Highlights of Record Store Day 2015 in Sheffield
At 5pm on Saturday LP Records will be decamping to the Green Room on Devonshire Street for a free event, Record Store Day Live. The line-up features Ryan Young, Dead Slow Hoot, The Fontaines, BABIES and Little Brother Eli. Tonearm Vinyl - on South Road, Walkley - is teaming up with its neighbours at Walkley Beer Company for an afternoon of records, live music and craft ales, midday to 5pm. Artists on the bill include Neil McSweeney, Nat Johnson, John T. Angle & the Spirit Levels and Robberie. Record Store Day’s official cartoonist - Sheffield’s James Whitworth - has merchandise for sale featuring his drawings at www.recordstoreday.co.uk, while local artist Pete McKee has designed a unique turntable which will be auctioned on eBay in aid of the War Child charity. Other shops open on Record Store Day include Spinning Discs on Chesterfield Road, Meersbrook, and Vinyl Demand in Charter Square in the city centre.