Monday, November 17, 2008

State Of The Vinyl Nation

I've been yappin' my theories in the shop for the last few months and think now, I should probably get this down and out so you can all chew on this for a bit....The vinyl comeback...? What exactly does this entail? When I opened this shop in 1991 people thought I was nuts! Firstly, I opened in "tough economic times" (gee... sound familiar?). Secondly I was damn determined to carry NO mainstream crap and flog mostly vinyl and its the second half of this that could of had me "certified"! Back in 91' there were still lots of indie labels releasing lots of vinyl around the globe but it was the major labels with all the "classic" and "vaulted" stuff that had really tightened the noose on a well rounded selection of wax. European major releases were hard to come by and really expensive and many "casual" music consumers were making the switch even if unwillingly to cd. Why on earth would you pay $30 or more for Tom Waits "The Black Rider" on vinyl, when you could get the cd for $10 or less?. Even the indies who normally released a fair amount of vinyl would sometimes not put the wax out and only offer the digital format. I guess each full length release would merit pre-thought..."does this artist have a market on vinyl, now, anymore or in the future". On hindsight I think this "process" was smart in some cases and for sure, economically driven. In any event, the "comeback" of the 12" petroleum based format has been ongoing for about 6 years now near as I can estimate and "comeback" is little more than a catchphrase to get interest up. There's no doubt however that over the last few year ends that the LP has figured in a small percentage of total year end results in terms of mass consumption numbers. I think I prefer the term "resurgence" to the format for a number of reasons. There are alot more records getting released the last 2 or 3 years and this past year in particular, both on the new release front and the reissue front. The key factors pertain to the demographics. "Kids" 13-20 are buying wax it seems and of course not all, but they seem to vocally express their interest and the word "cool" is also often attached when making a purchase. Even a number of them echo the "sounds better than cd" claim and whether this is simple parroting or in the scientific comparison category, remains to be seen. In the end, it in fact, matters not! Believe me, this age group were NOT, by and large buying vinyl when I opened in 91'! The other demo is the return of the45-60 year olds to vinyl. Common scenario's are "set up the in storage turntable" and "got my records out of the attic." This demographic also now have the time and some money to spend cuz the "kids are all but growed up or at the very least teens (and likely plundering Mom and Dad's Dylan and Clash records"!'s another circle.....! Sadly this crowd all to commonly express their sorrow at "dumping" their records back in the day and many feel rrather silly for it at the same time. Oh well, some lessons are learned the hard way. I should point out as well that no matter the age, those that bought wax pre-88" and maintained the love of music have never stopped buying. The lp was never totally just went into hiding.
Look, there's no shortage of used turntables, new or used in all manors and cost and if ya dig music there's still ton's of relatively cheap used wax out there and as I've said no shortage of new pressings either. Right now the major labels are flooding the record pressing plants with tons of orders and creating large traffic jams (a real drag on the indies who never gave up the cause to begin with), with release delays a plenty! I don't think there's a person around that could have predicted the amount of vinyl that has or will be released as of late and I tell you there is no sign of it slowing down.
One thing to keep in mind though is that no matter what gets put out it's all pretty limited by any standard and you still have to remember..."you snooze you loose"... in very many cases. When tracking down records from the used bins, particularly out of print titles, the fun or thrill is in the hunt and many releases once common are now truly getting scarce. You have to go shopping often to get what you want, records do not grow on trees. I highly except that the majors don't have freakin' clue though on what they should actually be re-releasing...a few truly classic albums have been done but so far there's some really seriously large voids that need to be filled and many are as obvious as the nose on the face! Given the fact that the majors since the early 80's have bitched about "bad business" does not reassure me of the right choices that will be made for reinventing the 12" wheel so to speak.....I got a great idea...give me a call...I can tell you what to do and where to go! No matter what though, happy hunting, there's tons of amazing music out there and all yours to discover!

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