Spin me around
In the early and middle 90s, while, it seemed that everyone on the planet was looking to dump their vinyl record collections in favour of CDs because we all bought the line about “perfect sound, forever.”
Music stores couldn’t phase out their vinyl sections fast enough and fans feared that turntables and styli would go the way of the 8-track. Used record stores were swamped and every garage sale had milk crates full of LPs going for a penny apiece.
Even the radio station I worked at was going digital along with our move into a new building. Almost two decades’ worth of vinyl was going to be just thrown away. (It’s OK, though, because the staff came to the rescue. I literally backed up a Ryder truck and took home about 5,000 pieces. They’re safely and lovingly stored in my basement.)
But that was 1995. Despite the industry’s best attempts to kill it off, vinyl did not become extinct. Collectors kept collecting. DJs preferred the tactile feel and action of vinyl on turntables. And manufacturers kept making vinyl records and turntables, including for audiophiles who never believed the hype of CDs in the first place. And while vinyl’s share of the market for pre-recorded music dropped to almost zero, it never became extinct.
Today, strange things are happening in the vinyl market. Manufacturing plants are having a hard time keeping up with orders. Major labels are expanding the number of vinyl releases (Check out Warner’s becausesoundmatters.com). Vinyl sections are reappearing in both bricks-and-mortar stores and in special sections in places like Amazon. Sales numbers are still small — only 1.3 million records were sold in the U.S. last year — but that represents a 37 per cent increase over 2006.
And it’s not older people driving the market — it’s the iPod Generation.
The sheer inconvenience of vinyl — its size, cost, poor portability, fragility, rarity, etc. — is being embraced by young fans as a way of showing how much they care about music. Anyone can download an MP3 for free — but to search for, purchase and then consume music through something as ancient and anachronistic as a record on a turntable? Now that’s love. That’s dedication. That’s downright exotic.
The prospects for more vinyl releases are very good. Now if I could only remember where I packed away my turntable …
More on vinyl’s second life today at www.ongoinghistory.com
– The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read the daily Music Geek blog at www.ongoinghistory.com