New vinyl jukebox business opens waiting list ahead of production in May

The Rocket can play just 140 songs and costs £8,000 but demand is so high that aficionados are queueing to express an interest

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A young couple dancing by a jukebox with television in a coffee bar in the 1960s. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In an era where nigh on every song ever recorded can be summoned at the click of a button, you would be forgiven for thinking jukeboxes had gone the way of the mangle.

Yet business is booming at one Yorkshire-based firm, which is about to bring out what it claims is the world’s only new vinyl jukebox.

The Rocket can play just 140 songs (70 seven-inch singles with an A and B side), compared with Spotify’s millions and it will cost around £8,000 rather than a few pounds a month.

Yet demand is so high for this re-engineered model that the manufacturers in Leeds have had to open a pre-waiting list waiting list in order for aficionados to express their interest ahead of production in May.

Engineers at Sound Leisure spent the past three years trying to figure out how to make a vinyl jukebox when many of the key parts, notably the cartridge for the stylus, were no longer available anywhere in the world.

Managing director Chris Black drafted in his dad, Alan, 71, along with two of his friends, Dave and Phil. All three, who worked on the company’s first vinyl jukebox in the late 1970s, and collaborated with the firm’s young apprenticeships to meld traditional mechanics with modern electrical engineering. “It’s their swan song, if you like,” said Black. “They started the business in 1978 with vinyl and now they have been showing the young lads how to work with records rather than just CDs.”

The company tried to launch the Rocket quietly at a classic car show in London. “But the reaction was incredible,” said Black. “For days I had to stay up each night until 3am answering emails and tweets from people all over the world. Most days since we’ve had people coming to Leeds to look at the prototype. I’m picking up a guy from Austria from the airport on Tuesday. The Swiss are in today and we had some Danes in yesterday.”

Business is up 75% year-on-year, said Black, with a waiting list of five months for the CD and digital models. Despite their hefty price tag, jukeboxes were not just bought by the super rich, he insisted. “We’ve delivered them to council houses as well as castles,” he said. “Sometimes interior designers working for the super rich get in touch, saying that they are installing wireless sound systems costing £40,000 or £50,000 but there’s nothing to show for it because it’s all hidden. They ask us to sell them a jukebox cabinet so that there’s something to show for all the money they’ve spent.”

Pension changes which allow retirees to take out a lump sum on retirement have also been a boon for jukebox industry, he said: “We get a lot of people who have just finished work, saying ‘we thought we might as well treat ourselves’.”

Black has been in the jukebox business for 30 years, having plied his trade going from pub to club fixing broken machines. He never saw the vinyl revival coming. “If you’d told me 20 years ago that we’d be going back to vinyl, I’d have thought you were crazy. But you can never get the same sound from digital as you can from a record.”

Via the Guardian

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