Oh, sweet, sweet irony. Remember in the mid-'80s when major labels crowed about how the advent of compact discs would hasten the death of vinyl? A quarter century later, it looks like the (turn)tables are reversed: vinyl's popularity is resurgent while the CD's fortunes are looking as bleak as Iraq's, according to this article in Wired by Eliot Van Buskirk.
Vinyl's sonic superiority long has been an axiom among audiophiles and Neil Young; now the format's popularity is rising, along with sales of turntables. Buskirk writes:
Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today's music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.
"For many of us, and certainly for many of our artists, the vinyl is the true version of the release," said Matador's Patrick Amory. "The size and presence of the artwork, the division into sides, the better sound quality, above all the involvement and work the listener has to put in, all make it the format of choice for people who really care about music."
Matador and other labels have been including coupons in their vinyl releases that can be used to download MP3 versions of the songs. Amory says the coupon stratagem is "hugely popular."
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Buskirk sounds a familiar refrain with this sentence: “Big labels still aren't buying the vinyl comeback, but it wouldn't be the first time the industry failed to identify a new trend in the music biz.”
And the boom times for fans of major-label schadenfreude continue apace...
While I hope vinyl continues to gain favor among all sorts of demographics, and not just with graying audiophiles and analog-purist DJs, I'm skeptical that it will happen in significant enough numbers to revive the music industry at a time when millions of people think they're "entitled" to get music for free.
Whatever the case, I do have a request: As someone who's moved thousands of records six times over the last five years, I sincerely hope somebody will start manufacturing quality wax that's not so damned heavy.