No. 17: The “Vinyl Is Back” Trend Story Keeps Coming Back

In 2008 it was hard to find feel-good stories about the music industry—you know, the type that populate your local trade rags and second-tier business sections, or at least did until the world economy went kerplooey—which was probably why the popularity of the “vinyl is back” piece, in which a somewhat statistically significant jump in the sales of vinyl got turned into the latest harebrained scheme to save the music industry, remained high throughout most of the year.

After all, what wasn’t to love about these stories? Not only were they easy to write, and not only did they slap a happy face on the increasingly rough times faced by the music industry, they allowed boomer-exceptionalist types, slightly confused audiophiles, and those people in need of interior-design elements for their homes to come together as one and say, “yes, we can… try to find a turntable at our local Best Buy.” Not that doing so was always successful (never mind actually finding LPs in that store’s music-averse layout)!

Perhaps predictably, the nadir of this phenomenon came via the New York Times‘ Sunday Styles section, which turned format fetishism into something that could make you look almost as cute as the $200 long underwear advertised on the facing page. (Actual quote: “Collecting expensive, unwieldy LPs is a conspicuous way for the superfans to advertise their cognoscenti status.”)

So, please, a request: For 2009, let’s have a moratorium on these sorts of stories until some enterprising band out there (cough cough) brings back the vinyl-embedded video game. Just think: Doing so can finally unite the vinyl-related stories and their almost-as-annoying cousins in verbiage, which enthuse over Guitar Hero and Rock Band as if they’re thousand-dollar iTunes Store gift cards handed out to every man, woman, and ADD-addled teenager in America!

80 ’08 (and heartbreak)

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  • Marth

    Whether it’s “back” or not, I finally jumped on the vinyl bandwagon this year, and couldn’t be happier in my decision.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a double edged sword for someone like me who’s been consistently buying vinyl records since junior high (about 12 years). On one hand, more things are available. On the other hand, prices seem to be going through the roof. I can’t find The Hold Steady for under $27 or The Night Marchers for under $30. Standard prices look to have gone from $8-$12 to $15-$23. That’s a big jump.

  • janine

    @tim_loves_cats: I’ve been collecting for 8 years, and it used to be this great secret where the product was cheaper and you got loads of free stuff. In any case, the DRM can’t be beaten.

    Who would buy their turntable at a Best Buy? Yikes.

  • Anonymous

    @janine: You’re right, I forgot. More money = more authentic/cool.

  • KikoJones

    Wait for “some enterprising band out there” to ditch CDs completely and release their music on vinyl only, catering to those unwilling to spend on downloads but readily eager to spend $20+ on the turntable-only format. (Wasn’t that Elvis Costello’s plan for his most recent release, anyway?)

  • janine

    @2ironic4u: I get the impression that you’re in your early to mid 20s. I’m in my 30s; I have not been cool in years. I stay in on Fridays and watch TiVo’d episodes of Big Love, and listen to records and practice classical guitar. Your assertion makes no sense.

    If you mean my point about buying turntables at Best Buy, it’s not a matter of authenticity or coolness. It’s not a product category they do well. Get your HDMI cables there, buy a wireless router or printer, but don’t get your turntable there. That’s basic sense.

  • Audif Jackson Winters III

    @janine: Well, you shouldn’t get your HDMI cables there either. They gouge you on those! :)

  • Anonymous

    I was really surprised that buying vinyl wasn’t in the book version of “Stuff White People Like.”