News : Vinyl is dying

 Friday, February 2nd 2007, 6:30 pm

Vinyl pressing plant

After posting about my studio a guy called JAW had some things to say about my comments that vinyl are dying:

I can’t say I agree with the vinyl transitions after seeing some of the most incredible DJ performances. The movement from record to record and the finesse of the timing was part of the appreciation and “oos” and “aahhs” of the observers. Of course you’ll get me to admit that I was one of those DJs that said I would never buy a tape 20 years ago and now I’m CDS, vinyl and occassional tape (really only for recording).

I was going to answer this in the comments section but I thought that it warranted a blog post reply instead as I had a lot to say.

My opinion is this. Vinyl is definitely dying.

Firstly I have my own anecdotal evidence from the promotional tracks that I receive. Over the past ten years I have received many vinyl promos from record and promotions companies. Then from 2005 to 2007 this has gone from around 15-20 records per week and no CDs to 10-15 CDs and plenty of MP3 links but almost no vinyl. So it appears that the record companies are no longer sending over vinyl copies to the promotions companies or DJs.

Secondly, it doesn’t make financial sense for record companies to send vinyl promos any more. Just think of the costs involved. It would have cost them a minimum of £500 for a run of 500 12″ records. From my own knowledge of artist promotion this is probably a fair estimate of the number of copies of a track that get sent out to DJs. Let’s then compare that to the price of a run of 1000 CDs which will cost you a fraction of that price, probably around £200 if you don’t want any inlays. Alternatively, the company could burn their own CDs and I have seen that happen (but perhaps not for a run of 1000 copies). So the company will halve their costs to see whether a track or set of remixes work and this money can then help to promote the artists instead. The other alternative is to supply MP3 links with password protected server access. This is happening a lot more and the cost of this sort of promotion must be pretty negligble as file hosting is so cheap now.

So do the public care if vinyl dies? Well, there have been reports from September 2006 that vinyl was making a comeback. While the shops may be seeing some increase in sales of 7″ singles (note: this is a video link) I personally think this is a niche market which is fueled by the indie labels and kids who like to be different from their CD buying and MP3 downloading friends. For DJs I think that the death of vinyl is a sad time but we’re moving onto new technologies like the CDJ1000 (yes, I know CD turntables aren’t particulary new!), Final Scratch or Ableton Live.

I’ve been DJ’ing since 1988 and I got into DJ’ing because I loved scratching so I agree that seeing the performance of a DJ manipulating vinyl is amazing. I would watch hours and hours of the DMC World Championship scratching videos to see people like Aladdin, Cash Money, The X-Men, DJ Craze and the Invisible Scratch Pickles doing amazing body tricks while cutting and scratching. I’m sure that this will continue for many years to come but I believe that it has little bearing on a DJs performance in a club. I think that the advent of a usable CD turntable (i.e. the Pioneer CDJ 1000) has pushed DJ’ing in a different direction. Now DJs are thinking more about programming (i.e. tune selection) and how they can manipulate the tunes using the available technology for a better experience for clubbers. I agree that seeing a DJ running Ableton Live in a club isn’t going to be as memorable experience as the old days but if their tune selection is amazing then who cares? Some DJs, for example Pete Tong, aren’t particularly strong technical DJs but their track selection is generally amazing.

So is vinyl dying? Yes.
Does it matter? It’s sad but life moves on and we’ll get over it eventually!

8 comments about this post

  1. Yes, vinyl is dying. Anybody who hasn’t seen it coming is either blind or doesn’t want to see. The times when labels could earn good money selling 5000 records are over. Nowadays, innovative labels release music on a USB stick ( e.g.), have an on-demand “create your own CD” service ( e.g.), MP3 shops have proven to triple sales within a few months… and partly they have to stop releasing vinyl, because the production of a vinyl record has become ridiculously expensive.
    Vinyl has become a kind of expensive collector’s item niche market IMO.

    Then again, all digital media are lacking a huge show and manipulation aspect.

    And to be honest, a CD sounds less good in a club than a well manufactured vinyl record. Ever tried to play Urban Shakedown’s original “Some Justice” from a CD on a club’s nicely adjusted PA? Try the vinyl record… instant subbass mayhem, technically not possible in the CD format.
    And an MP3 sounds even worse.

    I once asked a friend of mine, who happens to be one of the best-sounding producers I know, what he thought was the perfect archival format for music. His stunning answer was “vinyl”. He based his answer on the fact that a record well taken care of will easily survive 50 years of storage, it has a superior frequency spectrum compared to CD plus nobody knows how long CDs really last – the first CD from about 20 years ago are literally starting to dissolve.

    Alas, I will never part with my vinyl… 😉

  2. me too – still have my big vinyl collection and the sound quality is awesome compared to CD or digital formats – the tracks seem to have more room to breathe. its odd and hard to describe. vinyl just has this “warmer” sound , especially in the bass department.

    but dj cruze is right – to send off promos on vinyl is crazy – an mp3 will do. DJs nowadays can always boost the EQ and enhance the sound of an mp3 via a laptop. then if its a success, press it on vinyl for the collectors (and djs) out there.

  3. “Alas, I will never part with my vinyl…”

    i have a mint copy of Sergeant Pepper from 1967. says it all about the format. you can beat analog. its the same in music production – digital synths and VST synths will always sound sub-standard compared to analog synths. (hence aphex twin using analog bass lines , while the rest of his mix is digital)

  4. Sure that may vinyl sounds better …
    but i think with the 320kbps MP3 you can download from Beatport it sounds quite similar to a real vinyl, even if you play it with FinalScratch, SSL or Torq.

    So … yes, vinyl is dying, and it’s okay, cause as Marc wrote, Life is going on, technic is going on, and we need to save money where we can.

    And if i have the choice to buy a vinyl record for about 8 euros or the MP3 for 1.99 .. what should i do ?! ..

    sad but true .. vinyl is going to its end…

  5. Some good comments here guys and I’m glad I got people talking about it.

    Vinyl will sound warmer but you’ll need a good sound system to tell the difference. There are few people in the world who have a good enough record player to be able to tell! You definitely won’t hear the difference on a Technics 1210 as it isn’t designed for audio clarity. And as for a club… most sound systems aren’t great (from my 18 years of DJ’ing experience) so I think that most clubbers won’t hear the difference.

    Sad but true!

  6. Justin – I think that you’ll find a lot of VST emulation of analogue synths is comparable to the original. With the processing power that we have on modern PCs you can pretty much emulate any DSP chip that sits within an analogue synth. Stick it through a warm compressor and EQ and I’m not sure that most people will notice the difference. Most of the big producers that I know are downsizing their studios even though they have many, many analogue synths.

  7. Hi
    i run two northern soul venues in nottingham we only play vinyl no other kit is allowed vinyl will and does sound great our dancers do know the sounds even if a dj plays a pressing northern soul will never die

    Keep the faith


  8. Hey Malcolm,

    Thanks for your comments. Yes, obviously Northern Soul nights are always going to have vinyl played at them because all of the tunes are from the 60s and 70s! I agree that vinyl will sound better (as discussed in the post and comments above) but I’d argue that most people can’t tell the difference between CD and vinyl with modern dance music which is mostly a digitally produced media.