There is a lot of over-generalization in the article, not to mention outright misinformation (the writer is obviously unaware of Chad Kassem and his trio of LP businesses, as well as those of Speakers Corner, Blue Note, Intervention, VMP, dozens of other labels doing fantastic reissues and new releases). I can’t speak to the world-wide situation, but at Portland’’s oldest record store (Music Millennium, continuously open since 1969) LP’s (everyone is calling them "vinyls", which is not just silly, but inaccurate. LP’s are NOT made of vinyl, but rather Poly Vinyl Chloride---PVC. Am I being too literal? ;-) are selling very well.
I was a customer at MM in 1976-8, when the store inventory was predominantly LP’s (remember, this was pre-CD). By the time I briefly returned to Portland (2009-10), LP’s had been relegated to the mezzanine level of the store, the entire ground floor filled with CD’s. Today the mezzanine is all LP’s---the Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Country, Folk/Bluegrass, International, and Classical genres. The ground floor is now about 2/3 LP’s---Rock, Oldies, Soul/R & B, etc. genres, the other 1/3 CD’s.
Whenever I’m in the store (I was there just this afternoon, to watch Freedy Johnson do a live performance on the mezzanine, and have him autograph my copy of his new album he was promoting. Everyone in line was buying the LP, not a single CD.) the CD aisles are almost empty, all the customers in the LP aisles. Lots of parents and their kids---and of course youngish hipsters, all flipping through the LP’s in the bins.
In addition to Freedy’s latest, I bought the new Del McCoury (the Bluegrass singer who hit the big time when he joined Bill Monroe’s band in 1963. It was The Del McCoury band whom Steve Earle did his Bluegrass album with, and then toured. One of the best live shows I’ve seen & heard; Steve and the DMB, all playing acoustic instruments and singing into one large capsule mic, at The House Of Blues in Hollywood. Fantastic!), and used albums by J.J. Cale (Troubadour, 1st pressing on Shelter Records, $20), The Secret Sisters---produced by T Bone Burnett ($10, still in plastic bag), and for $5 each albums by Larry McNeely---a former sideman to Glen Campbell, Jerry Reed, John Denver, Roger Miller, Mac Davis, and Tennessee Ernie Ford, Kate & Anna McGarrigle---produced by Joe Boyd (Carthage Records), Kinky Friedman, Cheap Trick, The Rowans (a white label promo on Asylum Records!), Gary & Randy Scruggs---Earl’s sons, and a couple of Joe Ely’s (on Hightone Records---the greatly missed out-of-business Roots music label). In addition, in the mail on their way to me are the 4-LP Bootleg Volume 17 boxset by Dylan and a dozen new releases, ordered from various online LP retailers.
You Tube is full of videos by LP buyers sharing their passion for LP’s. As the old expression goes, don’t believe everything you read.
@bdp24 Hey -- I saw that Steve Earle/Del McCoury Band show in West Hollywood! My brain, though, can't quite remember if it indeed happened at The House of Blues. I keep thinking it was either the Roxy or the Troub. But I'll take your word for it. I just went searching for the LP or CD, too. No luck.
@bdp24, I also saw that McCoury/Earle lineup in Madison, WI and it was transcendent.
I mainly buy Vinyl today, as a 'Merch' direct from a New Performer trying to become established. It is the only method I see to be used, to assist with them getting a worthwhile remuneration from their work.
In many cases the Tracks can be acquired by much more affordable means, but I don't see any great remunerative value in this route of purchasing for the performers.
If vinyl were more affordable I would spend similar monies annually and assist a further range of New Performers, through buying 'Merch' in the form of the Vinyl LP.
At present the Independent New Performers are in general, needing to play live venues to keep themselves fed and pay for the time spent being creative.
The resurgence was always going to end as the baby boomers fade out into history. Young people for the most part are only interested in music if they can play it on their telephone. They may progress to a streaming system as they get older, but I have a very hard time seeing them go for vinyl. There is absolutely no real benefit and a lot of expense and fiddling.
The majors certainly are not interested. The few records they produce have been of low quality meaning they are not interested in investing in new equipment or facilities.
@mijostyn I believe you are spot on with the reference to the Boomer generation. Being part of that group myself, I am well aware to the huge impact this demographic has had on a number of industries. Anyone remember the Racket Ball craze? The tremendous wealth of the Boomers and desire to enjoy everything from our youth (how else does a 68 Camaro RS demand $150K), I agree the interest in LPs will die with us. It's just one of many items my children and grand kids have zero interest in. But while I'm still here I'm going to enjoy LPs as much as I can.
@edcyn: Yeah, The Mountain LP is getting hard to find. The album was released on both CD and LP in 1999 on E-Squared Records (the label started by Earle and music businessman Jack Emerson)---I have both, and reissued on CD and LP in 2017 on Warner Brothers Records.
Music Millennium shows a copy of the WB CD in stock, but their website data and in-store stock often differ. I’ll give them a call after they open today (Sunday), and have them check the bin. I’ll let you know, and if you’re in luck you can order it online.
The show was definitely at The House Of Blues on Sunset, I remember it very well. Steve and all the Del McCoury Band members stood in a semi-circle around the single mic; when Steve was singing the verses he would move in closer to the mic; when the band sang harmonies (they are excellent harmonizers) he would move back in line with them. When an instrumentalist took a solo that player would move closer to the mic, returning to the line at it’s conclusion. Bluegrass players start young; by the time they are 12 years old they are playing at professional level. Marty Stuart joined Lester Flatt’s band when he was 14 tears old! That’s about the age when a lot of Rockers pick up a guitar for the first time, and aren't fully developed players for another ten years after that, if ever.
I don’t know why this thread went off the rails so early but since it did, I am a Steve Earle fan and yet I find The Mountain unlistenable. I don’t claim to be a blue grass cognoscenti but I do appreciate good blue grass and The Mountain is not good. For those who will say "that's just your opinion, man", ask twenty blue grass fans who travel to see blue grass shows and I bet not one will say The Mountain is more than an utter failure.
“I don’t know why this thread went off the rails so early but since it did,”
It appears to be the nature of the Audiogon beast nowadays. One asks a question regarding cd players and gets 50 replies regarding streamers.…. Good times.
@edcyn, at the risk of further inflaming the ire of fsonicsmith1 and wturkey, I have good news for you: Music Millennium has a copy of The Mountain (the title of the utter disaster that is the Steve Earle/Del McCoury Band album). It's a used copy, available for $5.00. I had them put it on hold (under my last name, message me for it). The clerk told me you can call and order it over the phone, their number being (503)231-8926.
How much can it cost to break out the old equipment and press a new copy of a record a company already has the rights to and masters for? I’d love to buy some new reissues on vinyl, but the prices are arbitrarily ridiculous. Even used CD prices seem to be rising of late. I'm surprised someone in China hasn't figured this out and taken over the market. With their cheap labor, and pvc vinyl and cardboard costing zilch, they could probably manufacture and sell old records reissues for considerably less than a dollar. including shiipping.
I agree with @bdp24 that the article is poorly researched and draws dubious conclusions.
However, the vinyl resurgence will peak and start heading down soon. Yes, the boomers passing away will make a big difference. But it is also about technological progress in digital. CDs or even stored files were not remotely competitive on a sound quality / cost effective basis. That has been rapidly changing over the last five years.
Right now, in general, analog still wins in the budget and ultra high end categories. But in the, say, the $50K - $200K category, it is very competitive SQ-wise… and if you do only one and put your money on streaming, then the sound quality is better and the cost of music goes to almost zero, and you have access to millions of albums. That is such a value proposition that folks new to the high end would be crazy to ignor.
So the writing is on the wall. It’s over… except for nostalgia buffs… the guys that do Ham radio. There are still a few around… but not many.
Time will tell. But even if LP's return to a niche product level (even more so than some think they already are), so what? As long as they are available, those who want them will be able to get them. And there will ALWAYS be millions of used LP's, many containing music never made available on CD. As a side note: there are also plenty of albums which have NEVER been available on LP, CD only. Rodney Crowell's masterpiece The Houston Kid and he and Vince Gill's wonderful album The Notorious Cherry Bombs being two examples.
@mijostyn @bigtwin I go to a used record store every week and I never see anyone there over 40. It’s full of Millennials.
I just turned 70 and I am listing all my records on eBay. My collection is from 1969 - 2016 or so, rock, smooth jazz & jazz. I have about 500 albums and I averaging $20.00 per record.
@dill I would love to look at it. What’s your ebay name?
Who cares, it's not the medium, it's the music. Just watching Rihanna at SB half time. Horrendous, no matter the medium.
Thanks grisly, check it out, I am always adding new ones so keep checking. Thanks
grahamiba on ebay
Rihanna put on a great show at the SB! Who would you rather see, 80 year old Bob Dylan singing Blowing in the Wind? I am a big Dylan fan and I still wouldn't want to see that. It's 2023! Not the 60's or 70's.
Anyway, I have two nieces under 30 that are both into records, I was in a record store last week and saw a 20 year old, they are far and few between, but they exist. As for records peaking, I would say they are leveling off, the classics will always be worth something. Some of the new stuff will become classics (Taylor Swift for one) and others will be in the cut-out bin.
So...vinyl and cassette sales both grew but the market for physical media overall is shrinking.The vinyl revival has always been niche in the context of overall music consumption. If the figures quoted are accurate, it hasn't hit a brick wall. Just the growth of uptake has slowed.
That's hardly a surprise. It's a very expensive way to reproduce what are now mainly digital files originally. And now that those files are available streamed in their original format - which is increasingly high resolution digital - the usp of vintyl decreases.
As a final negative, vinyl is environmentally unfriendly and the recent state of oil prices will have done nothing to improve pricing of vinyl releases.
Despite all that, sales are still growing.
The issue may be that the LP is being sold as a premium product that is worth a high price. If the market has softened I would think the manufacturers have a lot of room to cut the price, pocketing their profits from the flush times and picking up what lesser profits remaining to be had. If, as I believe, the vinyl market is primarily driven by some listeners' distaste for the digital sound, I think there would always be a hard core to support it.
@grislybutter , my kids are millennials and grew up listening to everything and the only one interested in a turntable is my son in law. You see hardly any interest in Zoomers. A record store will give you a false impression because you have isolated record buyers from the rest of the population who are obviously not represented in the record store. You'll never find me in a used record store. I have records dating from the late 50's onwards that I purchased new. I have all the old records I need.
@yoyoyaya , sales may be growing for the time being but this is only a snapshot. You have to watch the trend over time. Right now they are growing because old guys like me need something to spend their money on and there is a modest interest in young adults. Both populations will decline over time and take the record sales with them. Zoomers are quite happy locked in a closet with their telephone and computer.
I last saw Dylan live in 2001, and he was fantastic, far better than he been when I saw him 10 years earlier. But then he was playing better music, and had a far, far better band. Of course, that was 22 years ago now. But he still has great material, and a great band. Um, yeah, I’d rather see him at 80 than Rihanna, whatever her age. But that’s just me.
I consider my fortunate in getting to see and hear Big Joe Turner in the mid-80’s---when he was in his mid-70’s, shortly before his death. By far the greatest male singer I’ve ever heard live. And backing him were The Blasters, with the great Lee Allen blowing tenor sax. Awesome!
I do not understand what you just wrote. It made no sense to me. I did not separate anyone. I deal with statistics every day. I know what representation means.
A used record store is a perfect representation of its buyers since THEY ARE the buyers. It has nothing to do with who is outside. My point was about the age of the people. Young people buy records. Period. All my kids, Gen Zs listen to vinyl.
Your second point made even less sense. I won't find you in used record stores? How is that relevant to my point? Is it below you because you only buy new records? So you are representative of rich old men? Does it cause young people not to buy records? NO it does not. There is 0 correlation between what you do and Millennials and Gen Zs do. (They buy used records because of how much money they have, unlike you who only buys new records) I understand I won't be able to find a representative sample in a USED record store because you won't be there and you need to be counted but that is exactly my point: the people who ARE there.
Was your point to just brag? I am not ashamed to go to used record stores, all I can afford is 5-10 dollars for a record. You have been privileged and wealthy to only buy new records, good for you. But that proves nothing about the demographics that are interested in vinyl.
In my city it is all good
Rihanna put on a great show at the SB! Who would you rather see, 80 year old Bob Dylan singing Blowing in the Wind? I am a big Dylan fan and I still wouldn’t want to see that. It’s 2023! Not the 60’s or 70’s.
I would really like to see the halftime show, all the other hoopla and the stupid commercials done away with, and just have an NFL Championship game played like any other regular season game. But I know that’s never going to happen, so I just start watching about an hour late and fast forward through all the junk..
I’ve never seen Steve Earl but I saw Canned Heat in the early 1970’s. Anyway, the article is like an editorial page, what I tend to believe is true based on my limited scope or understanding. Every time I check the website for The Electric Recording Company, each one of the $800.00 editions have sold out and that’s because of the work and money that goes into them. MOFI and AnalogueProductions are committed to remastering and rereleasing titles with audiophile quality at realistic prices. There’s Analogphonic, Pure Pleasure, Speakers Corner, Universal, Rhino, etc.. who are doing the same. The reason why technology hasn’t changed radically is because the process that’s worked extremely well over the past twenty plus years still works extremely well today. I will agree however that it’s hard to make money in the music industry but it’s always had it’s troubles and frustrations, just of a different nature.
You're right Grisly. A lot of millennials and younger are buying vinyl and labels are cutting records of material they like. In fact some of them are buying more vinyl than I buy as I have most of what I want and I'm not much interested in the noise and bling that passes for popular music these days. As for classical, how many versions of Beethoven's Fifth do you need? I have about 7.
It is difficult to prove a negative. Some here are saying young people don't buy vinyl. Where is their evidence?
We oldtimers who love records can still purchase them on Ebay and from used record stores. By the time the interest and availability of vinyl records peters out, so will most of us anyway, so why worry about it. Instead enjoy what records we already have at home or can still purchase used.
I don’t, or won’t, stream music and probably never will. But I do stream Paramount Plus on television to catch or rewatch all the many Star Trek programs. I’ve seen most all of them, and have yet to see a single vinyl record on any episode. So the handwriting is on the wall.
My current plan is to outlive my peers and scarf up their record collections as they become available. It’s only out of politeness I’ve not contacted those of you who say you’re getting rid of your vinyl, while switching to streaming.. And the vast majority of kids I’ve spoken to haven’t a clue about good audio equipment, much less vinyl records, so what’s the difference if records disappear after we’re gone?
Vinyl did die once already, and then it came back. Whatever brought it back could do so again. Now let’s all keep our mouths shut (less they catch on) so prices can come down again as everybody unloads their collections. 2000ish was a great time to be buying music.
@mojistyn - the revival of yinyl sales was not driven by an older demographic. While a proportion of older listeners have undoubtedly come back to vinyl, having previously switched over to CD, a cursory glance at the racks of any store selling new records will reflect the fact that there is a huge proportion of music which is not targeted at an older demographic.
Contrary to what you say about phones and computers, it's precisely because so much of the modern world is virtual that younger people are attracted to a physical format, especially one that is both visually and aurally rich.
Cassettes …..wow. I don’t know about everyone else but I’m not going back there.
@yoyoyaya , That would be wonderful but that is not what I have seen and as a family doc I spoke with a lot of young people. Record sales were bound to pick up as boomers got wealthy. The children of boomers had some exposure so there is some interest there.
@grislybutter , The population of a used record store is not representative of the population as a whole. You may see younger record buyers at a used store because us rich old guys do not go there, or any other number of reasons. The point is as far as the overall popularity of records is concerned your observation gives us absolutely zero insite. What will are the demographic popularity of records over a period of 10 years. If interest does not pick up in the Zoomers then vinyl will die. The other problem with vinyl is that it is not the greenest of industries.
Physical music requires an investment. For the most part it is a fairly expensive investment relatively speaking. To listen to online or streaming you only need your phone and earbuds.
What drove the vinyl resurgence was mostly an upper middle class / affluent segment that is aging and fairly limited. The other segment were the collectors who mostly deal in the used market. The authors questioning why the record companies don’t expand manufacturing and drive prices lower...why would they do that? This market doesn’t reward spending money on R&D or expanding manufacturing. The masses are NOT buying vinyl. This is a relatively small market and doesn’t justify spending the money. Best to take as much profit for as cheaply as possible.
I own vinyl, CD (SACD), and streaming (saved locally) of a number of albums. I don’t buy vinyl to collect, though many do. I buy for the listening quality. To that end, CD (SACD) offers me the best sound quality. This is especially true tor the Original Master Recordings on SACD format. Next would be one of the high quality streaming services I have over some high end headphones. These even rival the limited edition vinyl half-speed master recordings I have like Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms", which on my system the vinyl does sound very good.
Sadly, streaming is getting better and better. The people buying physical music just aren’t a large enough segment to keep it going to any great extent. Producing limited numbers of vinyl the old way actually serves the best purpose, scarcity with higher demand pricing.
Stupidly i got rid of my vinyl in the late 80's. I decided to get back into audio about three years ago and about two years ago back into vinyl. I am retired and it was something I really enjoyed. I thought I would focus on about 50 to 100 albums I really liked. That was 300 albums ago....!
Regarding the trend of LP sales - The increase in sales has gone on long enough to remove any doubt that this is a fad. That doesn't mean that sales won't level out or even decline somewhat but to say that the industry is killing vinyl is absolutely laughable.
Regarding the manufacturing issues of vinyl - LPs are far more difficult and costly to manufacture than CDs. Watch a couple videos from a record plant and you can see that there is a lot of labor involved. Each machine can only stamp one record at a time and it is an agonizingly slow process. The stampers are expensive and mechanically fussy. The steps to make the metal master are also labor intensive and each unit must be carefully inspected by a carbon based life form. LPs are made with an inherently expensive, labor intensive, and difficult-to-automate process. I didn't even mention the cost of the album sleeve.
Artist & Label Revenue - Yes, LPs are a premium product. It is extremely difficult to make money in today's music environment and even a fairly popular band will only receive a pittance from streaming. LPs are a major source of income for the band and the label needs to make money too. When you buy a new LP you are saying to the artist that you value their work and that you are willing to pay them a little bit of money for it. It irritates me that people like the article's author expect everything for minimal or free cost. Except for the rarefied upper level of artists (Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, et al.) the bands and performers we love don't make a lot of money. Please don't begrudge them a few dollars from an LP.
The author of the article has a poor understanding of manufacturing and a worse understanding of the music industry. The LP business has nothing to with the mass market strategy he espouses. Nobody expects the volume of LP sales to grow to hundreds of millions of units per year. It's a boutique business catering to enthusiasts. It's like saying that Ferrari should mass produce its cars, lower the price to $20,000 per vehicle, and increase sales to a million cars per year. In other words, Ted Gioia is an idiot when it comes to business. I would not trust him to tell me how to run a coffee stand, let alone the entire music industry.
Love the ridiculous notion that this fad will fade as all the baby boomers fade away(die). I have several large record stores within a 20 minutes or less drive from my house in North Dallas, most 90% of the patrons are 30 to 45 years old and these stores are always busy. Talking to one of the principals of the business he said that their stores in Denver and KC are tcontinuing to grow at double digit rates and the demographic is similar. Also their e-commerce business is off the charts.
The notion that young people want to listen to music on their “telephones” (man you’re old “devices”) is valid to a point, portability is key and we are more active. Once these 20 something’s have some disposable income they may come learn more about higher end audio.
To understand the nature of recorded music consumption one needs to break it down into endpoints and the drivers associated with them. Consumption endpoints characteristics include fixed vs mobile and solo vs shared. Mobile further breaks down into portable, e.g. earbuds, ANC headphones, and automotive. Fixed subcategories include HiFi, distributed (e.g. smart speakers), and commercial (e.g. supermarkets and dentist offices). Records are limited to, borrowing a term from aviation, fixed base operations, whether personal (headphones) or shared (speakers). Mobile personal requires a device and earbuds or headphones; mobile shared requires a vehicle. Vinyl was and is a niche requiring a fixed base but offers a unique physically engaging experience many find more enjoyable. Streaming will succeed as it can be fixed, or portable, but requires an internet connection. The final mode, now struggling, is broadcast, which can be enjoyed across all endpoints, but lacks the granular personal choice of other media. It’s real strength in forming a cohort has largely been subsumed by social media - disk jockeys were the influencers of their day. Picking one age group or one consumption endpoint, or worse one metric, and generalizing out of context from there is faulty logic at best.
@mijostyn we agree to disagree. Yes, it's not green. Partly why I feel better buying used.
I would say vinyl does when hifi dies. We'll have lemon groves in Minnesota before that happens.
@bdp24 Hey, thanks for reserving a copy of the LP for me but I'm a lazy guy and just cued it up on Qobuz. Yeah, I know. I'm piteous. A disgrace to my advancing age and audiophiliosis. The stream is maybe a bit more thuddy and midrangey than I remember it, but the music still cuts through.
as for the Rhianna thing, blech except for the last song... plus, was she lip synching? if so, that would add further to the sleek but shallow artificiality of the whole thing: circus. jus sayin At least Dylan elevates the culture... grrrr... and yes Blowin In the Wind is quite relevant to this day, but then most of the Super Bowl crowd most likely doesn’t care about such things, being enamored of spectacle: bread and circus...
as for the LP question: LPs are a nostalgia item. Cool to listen to and spin, but are they worth the hassle? Not to me, and I’m an audiophile, let alone to casual listeners... But, I also do understand the pleasures of physicality, and LPs do offer that more than does streaming or even CDs. I’m not surprised to see their oft-touted new sales growth slamming on the brakes; it’ll go down from here, I’d posit the guess...
...I bought some vinyl recently, but she refuses to wear it....
Half-time @ the SB....*yawn* At least the 4th Q was a nice surprise....one bobble will blow you out, and wake up the crowd... ;)
Actually bought an LP recently, tho'...."I am not opposed..."
@edcyn: No problem, I was in Music Millennium again today (oh no, I'm going to record stores every day now ;-) and bought the disc. But it's a CD, not an LP (like I said, the album is getting hard to find on LP. If they had the LP I'm sure it would have been priced at maybe 20 bucks). I know, my post didn't make that clear. Anywho, now I have a copy for the car (2000 Chevy Tahoe Ltd., lowered 4 inches front and rear).
@skyscraper Noting your remarks on longevity and acquiring record collections, many years ago I used to buy a lot of used classical records at a shop in London run by a guy who was around 25 years older than me. He used to say 'I'll get your collection one day". This amused me. The shop hasn't been there around 10 years now, but I don't know if he is.
Could I make the case that all the "popular" classic records have all been reissued on vinyl (audiophile versions too) and people interested have already purchased them? Thus slower sales of vinyl are the result? Blue Note is now reissuing more obscure or less famous titles that probably do not appeal to nonjazz diehards. Plus, I actually think the whole MoFi controversy has made some buyers much pickier in the audiophile release area (not buying everything that comes out). Many of the younger buyers are generally more into the colored vinyl, special edition thing. More like a comic book thing. I’m not certain sound quality has anything to do with their purchase.
How many more "Kind of Blue" reissues can one have?
I always thought the vinyl resurgence was due to cheap, used vinyl. Now that the once-used $1 bin Journey ESCAPE LP is now $35 +, Vinyl popularity is bound to wain a little.