| The Lessons of Vinyl
Paul Resnikoff, Publisher
Digital Music News, August 4,
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It won't save the recording industry. And it won't bring back the
booming, CD-fueled 90s. But the recent resurgence in vinyl is
happening for a reason.
The numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but
they are difficult to ignore. Just recently, Boston-based Newbury
Comics pointed to monthly vinyl sales of more than $100,000, and other
independent stores are also reporting gains.
Majors are also
taking notice. That includes EMI, which recently started offering
vinyl versions on a select number of titles. The major pointed to an
80 percent jump in vinyl sales last year. And the RIAA pegged 2007
sales at 1.3 million, a 36.6 percent increase from 2006.
of the increase comes from simple nostalgia. Buyers either experienced
vinyl the first time around, or caught the tail end of the format
through their parents. And we all like to fantasize about a simpler,
earlier era, whether it maps to reality or not.
prefer the warmer sound of vinyl, which is arguably richer than newer,
digitized formats. Perhaps the crackle-and-hiss also adds an antique
element to the experience. And decades later, this is still a nice
format to hold, spin, and put on the shelf.
But outside of those
factors, vinyl actually offers a few things that modern-day formats
lack. The platter demands far more real estate, and that is the
perfect canvas for great artwork, magazine-style inserts, lyrics, and
plenty of photos.
Sure, downloads offer far more convenience,
portability, immediacy and durability than the age-old vinyl
predecessor. But jump onto the iTunes Store, and 99-cents basically
buys an audio download and some accompanying cover art. And an album
is really just a collection of a-la-carte songs.
Sure, iTunes offers some context around the song during playback,
including tour dates and related releases, but the bundled, vinyl
experience is so much more satisfying.
Is it just a physical
thing? Consumers sometimes like to hold something, but this is no CD.
Price tags on a disc are frequently in the teens, with minimal
trimmings. And the wow-factor on discs ended more than ten years ago.
any wow-factor on paid downloads is also dimming. Why? Instead of
getting a package of audio, lyrics, ringtones, artwork, and rich
metadata for 99-cents, users basically get a file - one that never
updates, and one that can just as easily be downloaded for free.
number of label executives want better bundling, though the licensing,
bureaucracy and negotiations involved are almost insurmountable. This
is a business famous for its disharmony, and for that matter, total
But from the quick-shot consumer perspective,
99-cents just feels expensive, just like the CD. And when it comes to
stuffing an iPod, the cost structure is simply unworkable.
that consumer frame of mind, can a letter-writing campaign save the
British industry? Can the RIAA frighten music fans back to legal
playing fields? Not when competing media industries are stuffing their
products, and playing a super-competitive pricing game. Grand Theft
Auto IV offers an entire world for $60, and Warner Home Video is now
wholesaling select Blu-ray discs for $11. And the most rabid
demographic, younger buyers, are almost always playing with a limited
amount of disposable income.
Of course, a well-bundled download
is easy bait for file-swapping networks, though a well-priced, legal
version could attract some surprisingly-strong revenues - especially if
it feels like a good deal.
And the pricing on vinyl seems
right. Jump onto newburycomics.com, and you'll find titles starting at
$9.99, ramping upward into the low-teens - and higher for imports and
rarer titles. And somehow, that feels okay - worth the money, worth
the trip, and worth the special experience that a well-packaged product
Paul Resnikoff is the founder and publisher of Digital Music
News (www.digitalmusicnews.com), a premier industry source for news,
information, and analysis. Digital Music News has quickly grown from its humble
roots as a small, executive news service to the most widely read information
source in the field.
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