Let’s not get carried away with the rise of vinyl

Sales of vinyl records is rising. Yes, it really does, so what? We are listening to this mantra for years now and what actually happened? Did the music business recover? It does not seam so.

People like vinyl and this is probably the reason why the sales increased a bit in the last decade. But, do you need vinyl to play music? No, you don’t and you will never in the future have vinyl as the only source of music. This is the main reason why things  will never go back to the previous state. It is almost unbelievable how rare it is to find this fact among all those articles around the internet.

There is a difference of course If you look at the vinyl sales chart in the last two decades comparing to situation in the seventies.

We all like to blame CDs and digital revolution for killing the vinyl record, but is it really so? Sales of records was still booming in the seventies and if we look at the chart, there is quite obvious change in the end of the same decade.

Can we really blame digital medium for the fall of vinyl?

Audio CDs and audio CD players have been commercially available since October 1982, and the MP3 came around mid nineties. How could those two formats possibly decrease the sales of vinyl records in the late seventies?

Between the early 1970s and the early 2000s, cassette was one of the two most common formats for prerecorded music, first alongside the LP record and later the compact disc (CD).

The cassette was far more practical for everyday use than vinyl record; it was recordable, cheap and came much earlier than CD. Basically, the only thing that could damage sales of vinyl in that  stage was the beloved tape. By the time the era of cassette ended it was already too late to save vinyl. 

Even if you look strictly from the electronic music point of view and somehow manage to keep the DJs still playing vinyl, it will probably not make much of a difference. Music professionals do not purchase enough medium. No matter if underground or commercial music, vinyl is a product and it’s driven by sales. Like any other product, if it can’t sell – it wont be made. Unfortunately or not, when the cassette player replaced the turntable in the households, the end of vinyl era slowly came in.

How digital format decreased the value of music

On the other hand, digitalisation completely changed perception of music in the eye of an everyday consumer. Nowadays a song or an album is something invisible, stored on the hard drive and very often free. Feeling of having a medium in the hand, enjoying the artwork, material from which the cover is made –  totally vanished. No wonder music lost its value.

If we are talking about the consumers’ perspective, a few years ago,  I experienced quite an eye opener at one of the private parties in the city. The usual mix of people you can find in Berlin; among some random crew it is just inevitable not to have some DJs, producers or label owners around. And yes, sooner or later, home made music will start to play and yes, people will provide their opinions. In this case conversation led to a very interesting direction of music piracy. On one side there were people whose income is music, on the other – just the usual party goers.

As the conversation was progressing musicians where bitching about the current situation on the music market explaining the problem of illegal download :“Yeah, if the situation is shit you just need to adapt”. Unfortunately, our dear friends, the usual party people, the ones we expect to buy our music, had a bit different opinion. If you look at the past, we always did piracy with music by recording the tapes. However, today you don’t even have to buy an empty medium. Everything is on a click of a mouse, fast, free and the amount is brutal.  So, our party people made it clear by stating “Sorry man, I’m not going back”.   

Is the situation really that bad is waiting to be seen, but you can’t deny the fact: we buy our iPhones and get our broadband internet thinking that music comes free with that, nobody thinks of paying the artist making the music.



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