For years, you've heard me bitching and moaning about the death of vinyl and the ungodly shittiness of digital music. When I hear that, in the past year, CD sales plummeted another 20 percent and vinyl rose by 14 percent, it gives me hope. When I walk into Best Buy and see hundreds of records, I am even further encouraged. There may be a light at the end of a decades long tunnel.
Let me recount a few of the innumerable reasons vinyl is better. I know I've said all this before, but it's time for a refresher...
1. Analog sounds better than digital. Just ask the Foo Fighters who just recorded a fully analog LP. It's a warmer, fuller, more organic sound. When it's played at a high volume on a great stereo, there's simply no comparison to digital. It's like crappy Van Helsing level CGI vs. live action. One is just sterile and fake, the other is the real deal.
2. Album art is miles better on a record. The canvas is bigger with vinyl; whereas the canvas on a CD is drink coaster size, and with mp3 is nonexistent.
3. Vinyl is tangible. You're more likely to purchase something you can hold in your hand, and possibly keep for years, versus something that is as insubstantial as air.
OK. One thing vinyl is not is "portable". As mobile devices become exponentially more and more a part of our lives, the more important the mp3 becomes. I get that. You will never get rid of digital music - the genie is out of the bottle. However, the writing on the wall says that, ultimately, no one will pay money for digital music. It's an unstoppable flood - the shut down of Napster years back was a hilarious joke. It may have made Lars Ulrich feel better, but everyone knew it was nothing more than a temporary victory.
4. Vinyl lasts longer. Vinyl may get scratched, but it's rarely a fatal injury. More often than not, there's just a brief crackle. Pour bongwater on a CD and it's ruined; pour it on a record and it's cleaned.
5. Buy a Sabbath record and you've got something special. Download a Sabbath album on iTunes and you're just another asshole who actually paid money for Sabbath songs.
6. Albums were cohesive pieces of art - you didn't always purchase them for one song. You listened to the whole damned thing because it was too much effort to skip to the next track, and you grew to appreciate every song. CDs and mp3s are all about the one or two songs that make big piles of cash; the rest are throwaway fillers.
7. You can collect vinyl; collecting CDs is about as ridiculous as collecting cassette tapes.
No, the only way people are ever going to pay for music is if the format changes. Digital music is too easily swiped, too sterile and lifeless, and feels too much like you're buying nothing. There will always be a place for it, but artists and record companies will never get rich off it. Is there a single chain music store in your entire city that's still open? Tower Records, Turtles, Camelot, Sam Goody all went bye-bye; FYE bought many out, but sales have been steadily slipping.
And, frankly, the amount spent on iTunes doesn't nearly account for the losses in chain music store sales. In fact, the iTunes impact has been vastly overrated. Amazon still sells more CDs than Apple sells downloads. Paying hard earned money for an iTunes download will just never catch on like the media thought it would. It's a rip off any way you slice it. We don't want the recording artists to get shafted, but in this day and age when no one gives half a shit about the "art", I wouldn't bank on the populace forking over cash to help out "artists" like Lil' Wayne and Lady Gaga.
Most people simply have just stopped buying music altogether. So, if you were a record company in the year 2000, you basically had two choices: (1) adapt to the new world or (2) hire an expensive legal team and start suing. We all know what option they chose, and thus all are either dead, dying or swallowed by Viacom.
So, if you're going to start making money selling music, it's probably not the best strategy in the world to close your eyes and pray for digital music to go away. Perhaps, it's time to hype up another format - a format that is far far different than digital. One that you can hold in your hands, collect, and even grow attached to. That format is vinyl.... and it seems like the record companies and retail chains are finally starting to catch on.
If only they had been reading Retrospace, they would have found out sooner.