I follow several record collecting groups and pages on Facebook, and one topic that comes up occasionally is: do we think that vinyl is ever going to “come back” at the level it did in the pre-digital days?
My answer is always the same.
As I posted in reply to the latest iteration of this yesterday…
Most pop music consumers are wed to digital, and a true “comeback” of any physical format would require them to not only change their listening habits but to invest financially in all sorts of technology that simply isn’t compatible with their lifestyle-current tech.
Translated: in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, most kids (or at least most homes) had a home stereo with a turntable-CD player-tape deck. Those physical devices were not only wed to the “music as object,” but they required a physical place to use them. Portability (car stereo, walkman, boombox, etc) was always a goal but took a long time to integrate into the “music as physical object” system.
Today, most kids either download music (by purchase or fileshare) or skip the acquisition and stream music without buying it. And they can take that music anywhere without adding in a tape deck or CD burner or whatever. So the problem of portability has been solved.
We should just be happy that 45s and albums have not been deepsixed altogether. They’re a boutique item now, and that’s OK.
A little bit further down the thread, someone commented that “I would like to thank RSD (Record Store Day) for ruining the 7″ single, just because of the ridiculous prices. What seemed like a good idea when they started. Ended up in a giant cash grab.”
I’m not sure how Record Store Day “ruined” the 7 inch single. As I replied to this person, Record Store Day hasn’t ruined anything for me. I still go to the same places I always went to find records: flea markets, yard sales, thrift shops, library book sales. Usually, I find stuff I didn’t even know I wanted for less than I would have paid if I’d proactively sought it. And when I proactively seek something, the internet gives me far more options than I had even 20 years ago. I’ve never participated in RSD, although –tying into what I typed above– I’ve found several great RSD releases marked down after the dust cleared.
“So,” I concluded, “I guess I’m happy with the way things are.”
Here’s a further case in point:
Recently, on one of the jazz stations I listen to online, they played “Misty” by Richard Groove Holmes.
Thirty years ago, my only option would have been to go to a record store and either pay full price for a new LP or cassette, or go to Goldmine (a record collector’s magazine which in its heyday was the best place to find used records) or some other source (flea market, used record store) hoping to score a used copy (at who knows what price?).
However, NOW I had these options:
* Download album or individual track from Amazon or iTunes (30 years ago, I would have had to buy the whole album)
* Stream the album or track online
* Order a new or used CD online
* Order a new or used LP online
* Download illegally via a fileshare site.
If I’d wanted, I could have gotten an MP3 of the whole album immediately … free, if my conscience permitted. For slightly more, I could have scored a physical disc (and not expensive, either: a mono original press in VG condition was listed on eBay for $3.99 plus shipping). If I didn’t want to buy, I could stream it free on multiple sites (which I did via YouTube).
And now, here’s the kicker:
After all that, I DISCOVERED THAT I ALREADY HAD THE ALBUM IN MY MEDIA LIBRARY!!!!
When I was a DJ a couple years back, I downloaded via fileshare a TON of classic jazz for airplay, including a zip file of a dozen Richard Groove Holmes albums in 320 kbps MP3 format!!! I own so much music that I lost track of it.
I’m eventually going to buy a used vinyl of it on eBay, but my point is… why do we pretend that the current system and the options it affords us isn’t better than anything we could have designed deliberately?
So really, the question is not “will vinyl ever ‘come back'”?
The question is “Why would we WANT it to?”