“New York Times” Offers Yet Another Lesson In How To Write A “Vinyl Is Back” Trend Piece

noah | September 2, 2008 2:00 am

This week, the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times took on the “vinyl is back” trend, thus becoming the 1,495th publication in the United States to do so in the past year. Of course, the editors of the fashion-conscious Styles put their own imprimatur on the trend piece that so many other publications have tackled over the past year–and in doing so, they inadvertently provided yet another bend on the angle, one that assures countless pieces about the refound vogue of the LP in fashion magazines, where the pieces will be paired with catsuit-heavy fashion spreads instead of pictures depicting N-E-R-D-S. After the jump, the template provided by the Times for any other consumption-conscious publications who want to hop on this creaky, increasingly pricey bandwagon. (Those of you toiling on Fashion Rocks, take notes now so you’ll be ready for the big “vinyl is back” expose that you’ll run come 2010!)

1. Start with a lede that could just as easily be repurposed for another regular column in your publication–in this case, the “romance among the whiteys” Styles staple known as the “Modern Love” column.

During his freshman year at Point Park University in Pittsburgh a couple years ago, James Acklin, now 20, felt lost among the social cliques on his new campus until he got to talking with a student who was in some of his classes. She seemed unusual, and it wasn’t just her look: thick-framed eyeglasses, bangs and vintage dresses. Then, one rainy day in February, the two skipped class and went to her apartment. As soon as she opened her door his instincts were confirmed: she had a turntable. So did he. They both spoke the language of vinyl.

Their bond was sealed as soon as she placed the stylus on an LP by the band Broken Social Scene, he said in an e-mail message.

2. Tie the “vinyl resurgence” trend to another yuppie hobby that’s gone from “retro cuteness” to “current, better-for-you hotness.” Like growing your own veggies!

“It’s almost a back-to-nature approach,” Mr. Gagnon said. “It’s the difference between growing your own vegetables and purchasing them frozen in the supermarket.”

3. Numbers, numbers, numbers! Especially out-of-context ones that merely gloss over larger issues like dwindling shelf space for albums, the increasing price of producing vinyl, etc.

The industry had shipments of 3.4 million LPs and EPs in 1998 and just over 900,000 in 2006, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

But shipments jumped about 37 percent in 2007, to nearly 1.3 million records. Three years ago Warner Bros. Records returned to the format when it opened becausesoundmatters.com, an online vinyl store stocked with reissues and new releases. At first, any vinyl release that sold 3,000 copies was considered a success, said Tom Biery, who oversees vinyl sales for the company. By comparison, the 2007 Wilco album, “Sky Blue Sky,” surpassed 14,000 copies.

Mass-market retailers like Virgin Megastore and smaller record stores like Mondo Kim’s in Manhattan are devoting more floor space to the antiquarian 12-inch disc of late. Newbury Comics, a chain of 29 music and merchandise stores in New England, has sold 400 turntables since it started selling them in June, Duncan Browne, a company executive, said.

4. Make sure to note that the vinyl resurgence has the potential to be something on which one can plunk down an absurd chunk of change.

Deluxe editions are trophies of sorts for passionate fans, Mr. Biery said. In September, for example, Warner Bros. Records will release a new Metallica album, “Death Magnetic,” in a five-record box version — each of 10 songs will get its own side — for about $115.

5. And by spending all that money, your reader can stand out in a crowd! If she doesn’t mind toting around a DJ bag all the time, that is.

In an era when “everybody’s music collection is the same” thanks to file swapping, collecting expensive, unwieldy LPs is a conspicuous way for the superfans to advertise their cognoscenti status, he said.

“It’s a customer who wants to have vinyl in their home the same way they want books in their home,” Mr. Wishnow said. For such a customer, he added, the message is, ” ‘When I can have all the music in the world in the palm of my hand, what does it say about me that I spend $15 to $20 for this format that is a pain to store and move and is easily damaged?’ “

6. Close out the piece by soothing the reader, telling her that embracing this trend will not only expand her consumeristic horizons, it’ll make her smart.

“I have a ton of music on iTunes,” Mr. Karoly said, “but with that music I get A.D.D. really quick. With my LPs, it’s like reading a book as opposed to clicking through articles on Yahoo.”

“When you put on a record,” he added, “it’s an event.”

Another Spin For Vinyl [NYT]