CD? Vinyl? That’s so last year!

It’s an interesting thought that since the days of Edison’s Gramophone and Phonograph in 1888 the Music Industry has grown and changed so much. There are now more record labels than ever before and the ways we, the audience, purchase our favourite songs and albums have grown along with them.

We are now spoilt by the various ways to listen to music; the most recent of course being music downloads in the mp3 format. The days of the 8-track cassette player seem almost prehistoric in the wake of such technology, giving listeners crisp digital sound and a large stereo field. ITunes is now the most popular way to buy music, and it also seems to be the most convenient. You get passers-by jogging down the street with the latest iPod nano holder strapped round their arm and you instantly think you know where they purchase their music from, the ITunes online store. The songs aren’t too pricey either, 79p for a track 8 minutes long (as is the case with Prog Metal band Dream Theater) seems a lot more eye catching than a £50 collectable vinyl. There is something about being able to get music so easily that is very appealing to everyone, however this may not be any better than its predecessors. Sure, people who have a large ITunes library will be proud of it and show off to their friends their immense collection of ‘tunes’.

But there is something missing from this, Vinyl and CD collectors will say that this method of collecting music is hollow; you do not have the album sleeves and artwork that accompany such records. Any regular Vinyl will have a level of impressive artwork, although some collectables go over the top and include a level of art that would mirror work by any famous painter. This is just one reason why some people prefer the old school style of Vinyl, not to mention the strange coolness that comes with listening to the scratch of the needle. Old Jazz records from the 40’s just wouldn’t sound the same being listened to in Dolby Digital would they? Or would they? We asked members of the public and many music fans for their thoughts on this subject, as it surely affects everyone.

DrownedInSound is a popular music forum where many new bands, fans and older collectors share their thoughts on the ever growing industry. We posted a series of questions up on the forum, engaging with how often, where and how they purchase their music. Overall it appears that most people had brought a song or album within the last week or few days, and these were either CD or Vinyl. Interestingly many believe downloads to be the easiest and most effective way to buy music, though still purchase CD and Vinyl more. It’s clear that this is a relevant topic to everyone that loves music, for example the forum goers proceeded to argue over who was right and wrong immediately after we posted those questions. The following are some quotes taken from various replies during the forum war –

I prefer to own a CD, always, but recently I’ve found I can’t justify it anymore. Much cheaper on emusic, and then recently the Franz album was £5 on 7digital for the first week, so why would I go to HMV and buy it for double that?”

I prefer to buy a CD, every time. Admittedly I immediately rip it to MP3 then listen to it on my computer, but I love having the artwork and something tangible.”

So with all this in mind, we can hear you readers wondering how the famous ‘corporate’ companies like HMV are taking to this debate. Are downloads also affecting their welfare? They neglected to speak to us, however the evidence is there that they are being affected, in the past two years we have seen many high street names close due to problems with their profit margins. HMV, Zavi and many local stores are among the few that have closed in the UK, not to mention overseas – Tower Records and Sam Goody to name a few have also been axed. As all of these stores mainly sold hard copies of CD’s as their basis of profit, as a result the increase of downloads will have affected these sales. There is however a recent case of popularity that may just save the heritage of the CD. Wal-Mart was the largest retailer of music last year, with ITunes a close second. Wal-Mart made a deal with the Eagles to sell their new album, ‘Long Road out of Eden’, exclusively. It sold 711,000 copies in its first week alone, and the album was released as Double-Disc CD set. A very surprising case at a time when CD sales were in massive decline, so maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for ‘old school’ styles of music consumption?

Moving back to Vinyl, favoured by many as the most entertaining way to listen to music, we’re sure almost everyone reading this owns at least one. Vinyl are still around today, despite all this new technology, surely that stands for something right? Well – it sure does, Vinyl may never die. I was first given a Vinyl as a hand-me-down from my Grandad, and my collection has grown over the years. Many of my colleagues and friends have also done the same, and we all notice that when your Vinyl display is out, you’re instantly the talk of the town. People seem to be drawn to the classic style of listening to music, the artwork, the look of the Vinyl itself and also the players. Small collectable stores still mainly sell Vinyl in their stores, and they are still up and running. It could also be down to many artists seemingly trying to ‘revive’ the prestige and popularity of Vinyl itself. Alternative Rock Trio Placebo is releasing their new album on download, CD and Vinyl. The reason why this is worth a mention is because the ‘limited addition’ set only comes with Vinyl, as opposed to being able to download the extras as an option on ITunes. This makes the Vinyl the most attractive option to purchase out of the 3, not to mention the CD having extended artwork inside, something you do not get with a downloaded mp3 version. Examples like this are a refreshing thing in the digital age; Vinyl and CD still battle on to be a regular standard of music consumption, although they could be fighting a losing battle in the long run.

Whilst many believe CD and Vinyl to be a popular choice because of its history, it still remains hazy as to whether they will be around in years to come. With so many people now referring to mp3 downloads as their source of music, why would we want a hard copy you have to carry around with you everywhere? You would look rather stupid carrying a record player around with you on the way to work.  There is also another important factor in this music standoff, the role the industry plays. Here is a fact you may not have known about it – The major label deal ONLY gives artist between 10% – 18% of the retail selling price AFTER deductions. Not too surprising then that many artists are releasing their music free of charge or on self-release. The easiest way then for artists to get their music ‘out there’ is to make it available as a download; word spreads faster over the internet nowadays than actual word of mouth! Younger ages growing up now will be used to downloads as the main way to download the latest tunes to their computers and mp3 players, and up-coming artists are no different. Why would the new generation of musicians go to the effort of selecting packaging, labelling, licensing and red tape that comes with official releases when they could be signed and released either on their own or to smaller labels?

All of the issues in the article are indeed up for strong debate, we imagine that those of you reading this in groups have already begun arguing over what is better, however it is hard to tell. There is something about a CD or Vinyl that gives a sense of satisfaction when purchased, the roll up and hype to a release date used to be satisfied by the wait in the queue at the retailer before you finally got home and played the tracks on your player. Now it’s the countdown on a website for a download link to be put up, linking you to Amazon, ITunes or Napster to name a few, where you can download the whole album to your computer. Is this just another convenient way to purchase your music? Will people still be interested in Vinyl or CD in 10 years time? Or will they fight back when the downloading industry goes downhill (if it ever does)? It’s a matter of taste and individuality at the end of the day, some people prefer the crackly sound of a Vinyl spinning around, and many people like the pure digital format and easy downloading of an mp3. Vinyl, CD or Download, it’s your choice, though I’m a bit old school I think, Vinyl Megastore here I come!


SaveTheVinyl.jpg save the vinyl image by lady-chaos


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