Vinyl Is Making A Comeback!
Lost Highway, Sub Pop, and even EMI are few of the labels that i've noticed offering the CD/Vinyl choice. Browsing Amazon's upcoming releases recently, i found that most of the albums on the list are re-issues of older albums in the analog format. Waterloo Records in Austin, as i'm sure is true with many stores around the nation, now have larger sections of new vinyls than that of the used, original pressings. Best Buy and other major retailers are tossing around the idea of adding Vinyl records (in a limited, carefully chosen selection, mind you) to their music departments.
Vinyl records enhance every aspect of the experience one has with their music. The artwork becomes not just an album cover, but a true work of art to be to be carefully studied as the sounds are magically transferred from a small needle through to giant speakers. Playing a vinyl record requires much more work than, say... a click of a mouse does - meticulous removal of the album from its sleeve followed by the steady-handed placing of the needle along the outermost groove. And then you're required to repeat this procedure halfway through the listening process. All this extra effort allows for a ceremonious display of respect for the artists' work, and a higher appreciation for the fidelity of the music.Perhaps just as exciting as finding that perfect, although slightly worn, copy of Blonde On Blonde, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, or Our Mother The Mountain in the used section of the store is carefully removing the plastic on the 12x12 cardboard encasing your newest favorite album deemed worthy of a vinyl immortality. Maybe there will be a fold out poster. Maybe extra liner notes. Ultimately there's the holy grail of bonuses - the vinyl-only bonus track...
And then there's that sound.....
No matter how our digital technology grows, the simple fact is that the quantity and quality of sounds present on an LP can never truly be transferred to CD or mp3. The desire for increased volume on CD's only lessens the dynamic quality of the sound captured. It puts a fuzzy, warm feeling inside you to hear that fuzzy, warm sound that comes from an LP. Records capture every sound that went into the microphones and play them back without losing any of the grandeur. This sound can transport you (often back in time) into that fabled studio the musicians holed up in for days at a time and created their art. Hell, i even enjoy the pops and static you often come across - it's genuine.
Of course, saying that vinyl is the next big thing again is just as relative as saying that the artists i talk about here are popular. Sure, they've remained preferred in small circles (DJ's and fellow Audiophiles), but the popularity will never again compete with that of the quickly accessed, readily available, and easily pirated mp3. But there is some hope in the numbers.... Vinyl revenues were up 46.2% from the last year in 2007, while CD sales dropped 20.5% - following a 10.9% drop between '05-'06. LP sales don't even make a dent in the overall layout of sales in the music industry - CD's still reign, for now - but the numbers that are reported don't include small indie record shops, or the sale of used albums in stores and on eBay. (sales figures are from RIAA via Wired.com)
And let's be honest - you wouldn't be here, nor would this blog, if it weren't for the mp3. It has dramatically changed the way we listen, collect, and share our music. But many of these hip labels releasing the vinyls fully understand that. To compensate, many offer supply a code with the purchase of the record that allows the customer to go online and download mp3's of the tracks for portable use.
So, what's in store for the CD? i believe the only thing keeping the Compact Disc hanging on is the need for music in the vehicle. Satellite radio and the FM transmitters for iPods have tried to phase out the Auto CD player, but still haven't matched it. XM and Sirius are revolutionary, but you still aren't able to pick a certain track or skip through to songs of your choice. And although many new vehicles are offering direct iPod docking stations, too many still only have the option of the FM transmitter - which simply does not produce the same sound as an mp3 file. Moreover, unless you're on a long trip with little radio interference along the way, it's just too much trouble to find an empty station to transmit your tunes through. Once the majority of car radios have auxiliary plugs on the face, or even USB ports, the CD will finally have seen it's days.
The same was most likely said about the vinyl upon the introduction of the CD, but as we've seen, that big black disc has not only hung on, but thrived. There's a nostalgia, a deeper connection to the music you get with a vinyl record that never existed with the CD and exists far less with the mp3. Long Live Vinyl.
If there is one ray of hope for the compact disc, this has to be it - Optical Media Productions is testing the idea of a Vinyl/CD hybrid. Old school on the top, digital on the bottom. The vinyl side will only fit about 31/2 minutes of music - a perfect place for a bonus track. Read the story....
Here's a couple of tunes picked especially for this occasion:
Ryan Adams - If I Am A Stranger (vinyl rip)
Todd Snider - Vinyl Records
And these just scream vinyl to me:
Bill Withers - Use Me
Bob Dylan - Talkin' World War III Blues
John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillen'
Ray Charles - What'd I Say
Check out Amazon's Vinyl catalog.