It’s no secret that vinyl sales have been making a massive comeback recently. The classic format was presumed dead by many after digital music became mainstream around 2000, apparently overtaking all other types of music. However, those who remained true to vinyl have recently seen their patience rewarded. The success of vinyl lies in the specific appeal it has to certain genres and fans. Although a vinyl release is an expensive and difficult endeavour, it seems that more and more artists, labels, and fans believe that it’s worth every penny.
Dance MusicMixmag recently wrote an article entitled The New Kings of Vinyl, illustrating how the underground house and techno artists ItaloJohnson have consistently made progress with vinyl only releases. DJs and fans buy their records across Europe, because that is the only way to hear them. Instead of the superstar DJ status that many modern EDM acts profit from, these artists are committed to creating music that is “analogue-heavy” and “timeless”. Alongside UK acts like Paranoid London and Dungeon Meat, ItaloJohnson’s music appeals to audiophiles and old school techno fans, and collectors.
The personality behind their releases demonstrates a power that other innovations directed towards audiophiles like Neil Young’s Pono Player might never reach. In a modern music industry dominated by new streaming services and a thousand ways to hear a song, it can be a good idea to exercise some restraint in what you make available to the public.
RarityVinyl releases can be useful to artists even alongside digital distribution because they are inherently rare. Fans know that artists or labels releasing music on vinyl will only be able to produce a limited amount of records. LPs have always been collectors’ items, appealing to a fiercely loyal part of any band’s fanbase. This doesn’t mean that all bands need to imitate the Wu-Tang Clan and make a single copy of their album! However, producing limited merchandise is a modern and smart response to the new challenges the music industry is presenting to artists.
FunctionalityVinyl is the original DJ format. Although DJs now use all sorts of digital tools, there is a sense of legitimacy surrounding those who stick to the original method of spinning tunes. The explosion of vinyl releases in dance music also means that people who can’t afford increasingly high vinyl prices can still hear new records at nightclubs, on high quality speakers. Vinyl was created for people to hear music together in public or sat around a record player – the individualised and tailored experience that the MP3 brings to our generation has a completely different feeling to the act of any DJ or person at a party putting a record on for everyone to hear!
On the flip side of the coin, critics have argued that labels who refuse to release music digitally due to fear of stolen files are merely making things difficult. They might alienate fans who genuinely want to hear the songs in question, but can’t afford vinyl, don’t want to use that format, or don’t want to go out dancing. This argument does make sense to some extent, as vinyl only releases mean that there is literally no legitimate way to hear the tracks unless your friend buys it, or you find an illegal copy. That is why a combination of rare physical products, digital distribution and touring is so effective and appealing to many artists and smaller labels these days.
ConclusionBrawther (a deep house/techno artist) argues in Mixmag that the expense and rarity of vinyl releases can prove a fan’s dedication, and an artist’s determination: “On vinyl it feels like you’re contributing something real to the world… and when someone says they bought your record, it really means something.” Perhaps we’ve got too used to having everything we want immediately. There is a certain pleasure in the anticipation of hearing a track that you had to wait for, or actively hunt down.
The important thing to remember is that it comes down to individual choice and preference. The beauty of the record industry today is that artists and labels have the power to express themselves and give music to their fans in whichever format they feel is most appropriate. Not every band needs to make exclusive vinyl records. You can make equally relevant and exclusive offers in digital formats too. The important thing is to think carefully about what kind of artist you are, and which formats suit you most.
What do you think? Is it good that bands are making vinyl only releases, or do you feel that all music should be available in as many different formats as possible these days? Let us know your thoughts!
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