Will The Music Industry Pin Its Hopes On Vinyl Records (Or Player Piano Rolls)?
Wired thinks that vinyl is about to “re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary” thanks to the “uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market” in the “vital indie and DJ scenes.” So why is this trend set to rock retailers across the country? Oh wait, it’s because vinyl sounds better, right?
Portability is no longer any reason to stick with CDs, and neither is audio quality. Although vinyl purists are ripe for parody, they’re right about one thing: Records can sound better than CDs.
Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It’s the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can’t be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound.
Okay, so there’s no way we want to have that argument again. But even leaving aside vinyl’s renowned ear-pleasing qualities, you may wonder exactly what part of the “mainstream” we’re talking about here, as there’s not a lot of evidence on Wired’s part to support the contention that vinyl is set to “hasten the long-predicted death of the CD” any time soon, at least among the hundreds of thousands of people who still (occasionally) fork out for piece of physical music. It’s hard to imagine all those folks buying High School Musical 2 or a Rod Stewart standards CD suddenly switching to LPs.
Even within the indie world–already home to a healthy number of non-audiophile vinyl fans with a longstanding attachment to the format–vinyl’s sales uptick, while certainly a relief for indie labels, needs to be looked at in contrast with the sharp drop in CD sales among a younger demographic in the same fanbase. (Dance fans have generally had no other choice than buying vinyl, though that’s changed somewhat with the rise of MP3 vendors like Bleep.com.) It’s doubtful that new vinyl buyers will somehow outpace (or even out) the number of CD buyers the industry is losing, even in the indie sector. A spike in turntable-owning New Pornographers fans or semi-pro DJs isn’t necessarily the best indicator of a viable trend, though it may be a sneak peek at future definitions of what will constitute the “mainsteam,” at least when it comes to buying non-digital music.