Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vinyl Up, CDs Down? Time to Shake Your Body Down to the Ground!

I still buy Vinyl when it is used and CDs less and less... turns out I am part of a larger trend...
Vinyl is again becoming the format of choice for serious music collection and ‘full focus of attention’ music consumption. The rise in record sales is not being reflected particularly well in the international literature, because counting systems such as Soundscan don’t factor in the smaller independent record stores, where most of the vinyl is being purchased.

In fact, according to this article in the Billings Gazette, a growing number of labels are choosing to release as digital downloads for the general consumer and as vinyl records for the DJ and connoisseur. They’re starting to skip the CD all together.

Some people, though a diminishing amount, still insist on the compact disc as their preferred music entertainment platform, but its popularity is starting to wane in the face of the convenience of downloads and the richness of the physical experience and collectibility of vinyl.
Well, I like the way it sounds but I hate moving it. So, in that sense, I do plan on placing all of my LPs on CD one of these days (particularly LPs released as part of local and regional scenes that could simply be lost and forgotten). But the CD was never a special experience like an LP. Even when I started buying them, it had to do with convenience and it still does. The experience of an LP has its own delights which are well known by collectors and older generations. For instance, last night I purchased a used LP of Rush's Exit Stage Left simply because I loved the jacket and the gatefold sleeve... plus it was $1. That said, I play mainly CDs and MP3s because they are convenient and I am tied to my computer. And there is a reason for this... There is something about the LP that has to do with "leisure time" that was far more distinct than it is today. Part of this is due to the fact that the LP was originally developed as a concert-substitute, something that should be played one side at a time. Of course, may saw this as an opportunity to playing albums only on "one side" (when I worked in record stores it was not uncommon to get albums that had one whole side simply dulled, while the flip side was pristine simply because it had been played maybe twice). Anyways, the fact is that you had to put on the album, often clean the album, place the needle on the record and you had to do this at home. You didn't take your music to work, you didn't even take it in the car. Albums were, for the most part, a domestic experience that was separate from non-domestic labors. And, yes, domestic labor could enjoy their albums, but the demands made on the listener to enjoy the record as an object with art and as a cohesive unit worked against the constant demands for attention that are part of cleaning, cooking and children.

For many of us, leisure time and work time are one in the same. I spend quite a bit of my time not tied to a clock, but to deadlines and how I reach them is up to me. I also spend a lot of my time writing. The result is that as computers have become more and more "musical", it has become simply more convenient to purchase downloads and burn CDs when needed. I mean, I wish I had the time purchase all of my new music on vinyl, but with my commute, constant preparation of papers, presentations and grading going to a record store becomes less and less of an option. Like I noted a couple days ago, it makes more and more sense why people buy more and more of their music at spaces like Starbucks. Heck, the last 40 pieces of vinyl I have purchased have all come from a used record store that is located in a local coffee shop in Columbus that I hit when I need to pour through exam after exam. And, heck, as much as I love those records, I still play them once or twice a year tops. Truth is, if it wasn't for MP3s I would be much further removed from music than I am already. And, yes, I understand how the computer is the device that mucks together work and leisure time for a longer Postfordist extension of the workday. Oh, I understand this all too well...

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