But I now see firsthand how the music industry is fumbling this huge opportunity to revitalize its business
I recently got a few new LPs. They sound amazing - except for the inner groove distortion! I have a nice Dual turntable, and I realize that this type of distortion is just an inherent flaw of vinyl. But it bothers me so much that I don't know if I'll keep buying records or just save up for a fancy streaming box to hook up to my stereo...
What a wonderful piece (and what a crazy world). Thanks.
I am with you Ted. I never thought I would be getting back into vinyl. My fiancée (now wife) bought me a turntable a few years ago with a couple of records. She thought it would be something fun. She created a monster. I am all in and it has gotten me back into listening to music, listening while reading, listening while watching sports...all the things I used to do. I forgot how much I loved whole albums.
Your ideas are spot on. Tangible music is how a human falls in love with something. We love our sense of touch and a vinyl record can be touched, read through, the art can be appreciated. It is the perfect delivery system.
Welcome back to LPs.
A few notes:
Indie labels have been picking up some of the slack as far as R&D: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been reviving and refining some of the mastering and pressing techniques they developed in the 80s. New vinyl formulas and formats have made some difference in sound quality. Acoustic Sounds is another niche producer. Unfortunately they are strictly reissue labels.
Super Audio CD and DVD Audio were attempts at providing higher quality digital delivery, but neither was supported outside of a niche market.
For me, buying indie vinyl from BandCamp provides the most satisfaction. I get the physical medium, plus a digital (sometimes high resolution) download.
Also, with regards to price: an inflation calculator will show that the $9.98 LP of yesterday is about the same as a $27 LP now.
Ted, in Brazil we have only one factory that survived the 90s. So, all our LPs are more expensive than in the USA, compared to our income (the price is equivalent to 40 dollars, but we can pay even 200 reais, wich, for us, is like the equivalent for you in the USA paying 200 dollars for a new vinyl). And we have also a lot of buyers forced to buy old records in antique shops, flea markets, or in discogs or ebay- because is cheaper to import from Europe than buy here (pardon my english, maybe is not all that clear, but you got the picture - is the same here, but worse).
But the industry *did* finally release the better digital format - SACDs and 24 bit lossless downloads of the type you can get from HDtracks. Even those who weren't persuaded by CDs should find 24 bit better than vinyl in fidelity and convenience.
I know of several collectors who have either abandoned their cache of LPs or find it impossible to let go of 50+ years worth of time & money taking up all that space in their home. Is there a resource out there that could help someone who started buying vinyl in 1960 and never stopped?
I have never backed away from vinyl and have always had a turntable. True, my CD library remains larger at this point, as records stores were for many years hard to find in the hinterland. Now my record purchases are either via online (artists, or amazon), and now also Barnes and Noble. I have recently purchased a new, relatively inexpensive high end CD player (Rotel Tribute) that really does provide more depth and separation than my older Yamaha. I also use my old ipod with the Bose portable and Sony sonos depending on where I am listening. While in high school I live in Japan and spent a good bit of my high school part time job earnings on Japanese vinyl, that really does sound better than the releases in USA. Was once told, perhaps just a hoary story, that the vinyl was better simply because the pressing machines were cleaned much more frequently. Btw Cory, if you read this, thanks for taking inflation into account vis a vis new album prices. Now I can justify more new LPs. Oh, and Yes, I do have a first vinyl pressing of Rumours bought new on its release. And come on, who doesn't just love the tactile and visual stimulation of a great cover, esp when terrific liner notes are included!? Ted, just finishing your Delta Blues book and have ordered a book noted in your list of books worth reading. So thanks both for the book itself which is terrific, and for your care.
I was glad to see the back of vinyl. Dreadful things: clicks and pops; plagued by dust. The only good thing was that I couldn’t afford to buy many so I really got to know the ones I had. (And I knew exactly where the clicks were - they became part of the music). The bad things about modern technology are the loss of the sleeves and associated notes and the fact that it’s too easy to skip around. Maybe if they sold me the sleeves with a digital download code that would be best for me.
re: "It’s almost as if the people behind these streaming platforms don’t really care about music." Almost? Two word response: Joe Rogan. Once the "audio" streaming platforms figured out that there was no money in giving away music for free, and publishers figured out how to exact royalty payments from the services without bankrupting them, the services had to give up on music and find another path to profitability. Given that circumstance, It's disappointing but unsurprising that they have no budget for curating their music catalogs.
But it's not impossible. I subscribe to the Criterion cinema streaming service and they do a great job of curating the collection. Hopefully, they're profitable. Maybe someone will figure out a way to operate a curated music platform. Both the technology and people are there to make it happen.
I still have about 3,000 of a collection that once totaled more than 8,000 LPs. I have ripped all my CDs to iTunes - probably 5,000 (I have been reviewing music for 40 years for a variety of outlets, so I got most of the CDs sent to me by record labels). I am now ripping my favorite LPs and 45s to iTunes, because finding specific songs or making playlists is so much easier in iTunes than with vinyl. And I have a Mac Mini hooked up to my dad's vintage Sony receiver, so I can blast my iTunes stuff through the big boy floor speakers. (Only now instead of dad telling me to turn it down, it's my own teenagers ...)
Having said all that, I do occasionally enjoy all the rituals of listening to an LP over the stereo: Finding the record, carefully pulling it out of the sleeve, cleaning it with the Discwasher velour pad and rubbing alcohol. I even power up the Tandberg reel to reel from time to time - a whole other set of rituals - threading the tape through the rollers and head.
And holding an LP cover is a tactile experience that CDs and, certainly, digital purchases never equaled. Even reel to reel covers were much smaller.
Still, most of the time, I want to put on some music and not have to flip a record or tape over after 20 minutes. The convenience of iTunes and its equivalents simply can't be matched.
Great piece! Being just a bit too young to have any nostalgia for vinyl, the thing I REALLY miss are liner notes. For example, discovering Loreena McKennitt's music in the mid 90s and listening to it while reading the thick mini-book-length liner notes, with several paragraphs of backstory on each song was an absolute delight. I mean, these exist somewhere online if you really dig, but it's not the same.
Wait…you’d been buying vinyl for decades and you needed a turntable for your birthday? Had you got rid of all those records?
"(2) With few exceptions, record labels have tried to avoid investing any money into manufacturing. So they outsource production of vinyl records whenever possible. This is serious mistake, and it’s driven by bad analytics and pure laziness."
I was looking with Google Maps at the neighborhood of my old elementary school where I started third grade in 1957. I discovered that there was a LP pressing plant about a quarter mile away from the school that had been there for 24 years. https://www.furnacemfg.com/about-us/ If you look at the reviews of the products (the finished LPs) from the music artists, its an amazing mix of satisfaction and less than satisfaction.
One of my sons pointed out the better listening quality of vinyl decades ago. Now, over the last four or so years I have bought and continue to buy more and more vinyl. I have CDs but only buy now if I can’t obtain a particularly wanted album, e.g. Tony Kofi Plays Monk. Streaming MP3 has never been really my thing though I do have a Christian Scott album on my computer and on Sound Cloud. …..but the joy of vinyl is not only the sound quality but the visual aspect and feel, taking the disc out of the cover. Plus, there is with some vinyl the use of other than black. All round I’m much happier.
I am on both sides of the cd-vinyl fence. Most of the cd's I listen to are on a Denon dual well. I have a Rega Saturn cd player which is for serious cd listening. I recently bought a Rega P3 turntable and upgraded my audio stage. If and when you look to upgrade your audio gear audiogon.com is a good place to start. Everything in my system has been purchased through this site except the Rega turntable. Rega was the last turntable manufacturer to produce cd players. Initially there were software problems with the Saturn but they were fixed for a somewhat discounted fee. Lastvestige.com is another good resource for used vinyl.