Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In My Eyes, Vinyl As I See It - Soda Bill

I was asked to write an article and give my views of vinyl today. I was quoted over here (in French). First a little history on me. I was born in the mid 70's. By time I was old enough to understand and comprehend things, I got into music. My house had a ton of vinyl in it, mostly my Mom's old 45's and a handful of other late 70's/early 80's albums. The first album that was bought for me was Michael Jackson's Thriller. It was a picture disc. I managed to wear it out because I played it so much. I got in and out of music over the years moving away from vinyl and into cassettes and eventually CD. CDs were the main format I bought even as mp3s were born and slowly started to take over. After many years away from vinyl, I've gotten back into vinyl.

Even though many years back vinyl was all but declared dead, there were still bands producing their albums and singles on wax. Smaller independent bands seemed to be the majority but larger and well known bands such as Pearl Jam were putting them out as well. The last decade has been good for vinyl. Vinyl sales have increased with each year and it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. 

I've been writing about music for awhile now and the majority of people that I've met since, either personally or online, have some type of respect for vinyl. I've even watched a few friends go from purchasing cds only to buying vinyl only, myself included. 

So who's buying vinyl? Well it appears to be lots of different people from all walks of life. I can go into any local record store on any given day and see metal heads, hipsters, stoners, preppy, and business people all come in and browse the records no matter what their taste in music is. If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you own some vinyl. There's also a good chance that anyone you know that is into music has a collection of vinyl as well. 

What is it that draws people to vinyl? There's a lot of different reasons. Some people just never stopped getting vinyl. Some prefer the ability it hold and own something, a feeling that is lost with digital downloads. Others prefer that nostalgic feeling with them now as it brings up memories from when they were younger, perhaps a time when the choice was vinyl or 8 track. Personally I like the nostalgic feeling but I also prefer the deeper and warmer sound of vinyl over a CD. 

Wait? Vinyl sounds better? Without getting into details (Google it if you want to know more), yes. But that also depends on the label/band. CDs and vinyl have different audio ranges in which they output. CDs have compressed sound compared to the more more open sound of vinyl. With that said, it's not always true. It all depends on the band/label. When they record their music and it's mixed and mastered, if it's going to be on vinyl, there will be two master copies. One for CD and one for vinyl. Sometimes bands are guilty of submitting a CD master for both CD and vinyl. I was skeptical of the better sound until I listened to Graveyard's self titled. When it was released I bought the CD. I listened to it over and over and over. I had every note, vocal, and chord memorized. I held off on buying the vinyl until it was about a year or so old. When I listened to it with my headphones on, I was hearing things that I never heard with the cd press of the album. 

With the gain in popularity in vinyl, more and more labels are putting out vinyl side by side with the CD and digital counterparts. You can see evidence of that just by watching late night TV. You can turn on Letterman, Leno, Fallon, etc, and whenever a musical guest is there promoting their new album, 9 times out of 10, the host will introduce them while holding up a copy of the vinyl.

Just because larger labels are doing it doesn't mean the smaller labels are left in the dark. The minds behind Ripple-Music are vinyl junkies and started putting their releases out on vinyl as soon as their first release was published. Small Stone Records got into the vinyl game a few years ago and the plan is to eventually have most of their back catalog on vinyl. Labels such as STB Records and Easy Rider Records have been getting very creative with some of their releases including leather bound covers, glow in the dark print, etching and more.

Recently I made a status update on my Facebook account that said "Nuclear Blast is milking the cash cow again." It was in response to the labels announcement that they were going to reissue a remastered version of Orchid's first two albums. The albums are no more than 3 and 4 years old respectively. From a business standpoint I'm sure it makes sense. The band is hot right now, why not make the money while you can. The label did something similar with Graveyard's Hisingin Blues. They released a 5 LP box set. Each song had one entire side of a 10" record to itself. When Relapse Records announced the details of the new Red Fang album, they stirred up quote a few emotions about it. The album is on a single LP but they have an edition on 2 Lps that costs a bit more. One guy even went as far as making and posting a video on YouTube encouraging people not to buy it. If you haven't seem it yet, watch it.

The man does make a valid point. I'm sure though that there are many collectors and die hard fans that are giving that guy the proverbial middle finger. After this video was made, Relapse announced a different Halloween themed package for the new Red Fang that costs $99 USD. Ouch. If I had the disposable income I'd certainly pick them up and I'm sure that there are many people who will. There's people out there who own a copy of every color variation of every album by their favorite bands. Ghost and Orchid are two bands that come to mind.

Vinyl may not be the sales juggernaut that it once. Cassettes, then CDs and now digital have taken over. Vinyl has increased its market share more and more over the years. Perhaps the increase in sales is a sign of the times. The consumer wants something, something that digital can't provide. Something that CDs can't provide. Whatever the reason is, whatever new technologies emerge, vinyl will stick it out and be around for a long long time.

-Soda Bill

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not a vinyl nut even though I grew up with it. I just wish that bands and mastering engineers would TURN THE LEVELS DOWN (and compression) on their digital masters. There is no worse sounding distortion than clipping distortion. Digital doesn't have to sound worse than vinyl. That is all.

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