Vinyl: The Music Industry’s Messiah?

by | Mar 7, 2011

The music industry’s shit is hitting the fan, at least according to data anyway. Album sales dropped 12.8% last year in the US, the fourth year in a row where sales declined nearly 20%, reveal Nielsen SoundScan numbers. Tour business revenues from the top 100 tours in 2010 dropped 13%, reports Pollstar. And sales of individual digital tracks increased by an oh-so-promising 1% last year. It’s stats like these that have industry execs wondering just how long they can stay suited-up, and if there is any saving grace to a business in turmoil. Despite the apocalyptic premonitions that foresee the industry’s demise, there may in fact be a Messiah: vinyl records. That’s right, those gargantuan cup coasters once beloved only by elite music collectors, DJs, and thrift store shelves may in fact bring the second coming to the music industry. Something Barney Stinson would call legen…wait for it…

According to Rolling Stone, vinyl sales in 2010 increased 14% over the previous year, with 2.8 million units sold. While vinyl revenue only accounts for a small percentage of overall music sales, one thing is for sure: vinyl is in the public’s demand, even if they don’t know it yet. Amazon has even caught wind of the record resurgence, now carrying over 250,000 LPs in its catalogue. With the proper push and positioning, vinyl could be the future of the music industry. How does one go about seducing the public into buying a prehistoric music format endorsed by grandparents everywhere, you ask? It begins with food.

Now I’m no Anthony Bourdain, but I know good food when I see it, like Wendy’s French fries — the fries prior to last November, that is, before the company went “Natural-Cut” to appeal to an organic-conscious public. Those French fries were the shit! But of course, in order to compete with McDonalds, the fries had to change. See, McDonalds acknowledged the organic movement back in 2003, which seemingly has been a good move. In January, when McDonalds introduced oatmeal to its menu, the company saw a 3.1% growth in shares.

Says the Organic Trade Association, organic food and beverage revenue in the US has grown from $1 billion in 1990 to over $25 billion today. Walmart has been forced to adopt an organic business model. Even the government has been pushing the organic movement, with the USDA announcing the third year of the Organic Initiative, a program making up to $50 million available to small/medium-sized farmers, hoping to increase the number of US organic producers. The facts are clear: organic food is in.

A secret between you and me: even my inner metrosexual has caught the organic fever. My recent fetish? Organic shampoo, like those TV commercials where the chicks are getting off to Herbal Essences. Apparently the public has a massive crush on organic goods too; organic non-food sales have jumped almost 10% over the past two years. Have you noticed the increased supply of Burt’s Bees and other natural products at places like Target and Walgreens? A 2010 Hartman Group study confirms that three-fourths of US consumers purchase organic products on a monthly basis.

The fact is, the public has been — and is being — conditioned to think organically. And what is the most organic way a human being can experience recorded music? Vinyl.

Vinyl is the organic format. Why? Because it’s real, it’s genuine, it’s authentic. In words ex-girlfriends use to describe me: Vinyl, “you have the perfect package.” It’s the artwork, the lyrics, the recording — the overall experience. A record doesn’t sound good, it feels good. A record shows that the music was created by a human being. 

The people who bought the 2.8 million units of vinyl last year know what’s up, but still, that number is small in comparison to overall music sales. The key for upping revenue? Getting the public hip to how badass the vinyl experience is, to where even passive music listeners want it. But how?

The Safety Fire Interview: Derya “Dez” Nagle on Setting the Music Scene Ablaze

Just weeks before The Safety Fire’s sophomore album, Mouth Of Swords, came out in September, guitarist Derya “Dez” Nagle was involved in a cycling accident and had to undergo surgery. “Few weeks of rest and all will be well,” he said back in late July about the...

Circa Survive: An Exclusive Ryan’s Rock Show Interview with Anthony Green

The sun calmly sets over Southern California’s vast land, while security escorts me to Circa Survive’s green room. The dim silhouettes of transplanted palm trees against the starbust sun, gently swaying with arid Santa Ana winds, bid me farewell like...