We asked three big record stores what young people are buying – surprisingly it’s not just Taylor Swift

Casbah Records store front
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

All signs suggest vinyl is reaching ever-younger audiences. Go into any record shop and the sea of fresh-faced customers rummaging through crates makes this fact obvious.

But what are they buying? Are they flocking to new releases from pop artists like the seemingly unstoppable Taylor Swift, or are they after something a little older? 

We interviewed the owners of three independent record stores to find out, as a part of our ongoing Vinyl Week special event leading up to Record Store Day 2024 this Saturday 20th April.

Swift dominates, but it’s not just the new stuff

Record Store Day

(Image credit: Record Store Day)

Flashback Records CEO, Mark Burgess, reported a massive uptick in young customers visiting his stores. But interestingly, while he said most young people buy new albums, he’s seen a surprising increase in the number of young people crate digging for older records.

“We have seen a massive increase in younger buyers of all genders. Often they will go for current pop artists, but they also have a greater knowledge than one might expect of popular music of the last 60 years. So they will want to have a copy of Sergeant Pepper's, or [Aphex Twin's] Selected Ambient Works or [Nas'] Illmatic,” he told What Hi-Fi?.

“The longevity of popular music since the 1960s is astonishing. When I was growing up, any pop music more than 15 years old was considered grandad’s music to be avoided. Now a pop record from 60 years ago or more can seem almost current.”

Sister Ray owner, Phil Barton, agrees citing the resurgence of genres like hardcore and shoegazing as key factors helping drive vinyl sales, but added that Taylor Swift is the biggest seller among younger buyers.

“Lots of younger customers are coming in, which is great because they are the future lifeblood not only of this shop but all record stores. They have as varied a taste as anyone else. From screaming bloody hardcore – both types – to whimsical folk and all points in between. Shoegaze seems to be in vogue right now, helped by a superb album from Slowdive a few months back,” he said.

“We are full-service and sell Abba to ZZ Top and everything in between. But, like with everyone else, Taylor Swift is massive and dwarfs everyone at the moment.”

Price is a roadblock

Casbah Records shop inside

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Casbah Records owner Graham Davis added that while young people are getting more and more interested in vinyl, price remains a roadblock for many of them.

“We’d sell a whole lot more records if the price was right! Sadly, it excludes some our younger customers. When I was a teenager I could afford to buy two or three albums a month with my pocket money. And still have money for chips and the last tram home! I don’t think that’s the case now.”

Davis added that this is a key reason he thinks many younger buyers are pivoting to buying CDs instead of records.

“We’ve noticed a trend with younger people going for CDs, which may have something to do with them still wanting the physical product but not having the cash all the time for records,” he said.

Davis’ thoughts mirror those of many hi-fi professionals. Former Cambridge Audio CEO, Stuart George, listed the price of vinyl as a key reason young people may pivot to buying CDs in an interview with What Hi-Fi? last year.

The future of vinyl 

Crates of vinyl records on sale at the Australian Hi-fi Show 2023

(Image credit: Future)

Despite this, all three record store owners remain optimistic about vinyl’s longevity, reporting they don’t see the revival ending any time soon.

Flashback’s Mark Burgess flagged the format’s popularity with “discerning” listeners as a key reason he expects the format to continue to flourish.

“It is still the best format for listening to music and that has been true for the last 75 years. Where there have been ups and downs in vinyl’s popularity, it has largely been led by the industry trying to sell newer formats rather than there being anything wrong with the old format,” he told What Hi-Fi?.

“I think vinyl will continue to be the format of choice for discerning music lovers, whether it be for the sound quality, the collectability, the ritual, the cover art, the cool factor or the preservation of the artistic vision of the creator of the music.”

Sister Ray’s Phil Barton agrees but added that sales will likely peak at some point.

“Sales across the industry would suggest it is still growing. Ask me in five years, as I think we have to reach a peak soon,” he said.

Do you agree with the record store owners’ thoughts on the future of vinyl? Let us know on social media or our forums!


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Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time. 

  • Yergo
    As one of the "kids" (24) who buys CDs, one of the biggest problems for me is that vinyl takes up so much space. My favorite releases are the sparse minidiscs that some labels I follow still put out, and if it were up to me MD would have totally replaced CDs. Also yes, the price of vinyl is a major factor as well.