Monday, December 29, 2008

The end of vinyl records

Vinyl records have been there for ages. My dad still has a couple of old records but he has no turntable anymore to play them. This is because _I_ claimed his turntable a long time ago, which he thought had become old fashioned.
I started buying vinyl records about 12 years ago. I remember saving all my pocket money and buying the latest records with it, instead of visiting pubs with friends. I remember everyone thinking vinyl records belonged to the past and MP3's and CD's were taking over. In fact, this was not true. DJ's playing at parties and clubs never stopped buying records and from my experience, about 80% of their music came from plain old vinyl and a tiny 20% from other media like CD's or MP3's.
The reasoning behind this is simple, if you wanted something new, something not popular (yet), you bought it on vinyl. If it became popular, some record company would probably be so kind to put it on some CD and sell it. But then again, ages, if not decades ( :) ) could pass between the song only being available on vinyl and the song being available to the public on CD (or MP3).
From my experience, playing vinyl records was also much easier then playing CD's or other media. The CD disappears in a box, if you're playing it, and there's no way you can touch it or fiddle with it unless you're using some stupid buttons which can do fancy stuff, like bending the pitch, or playing it reverse.
Companies building CD players for the DJ market (like Pioneer, Denon and others) have done their very best to build something that comes very close to a vinyl experience. Pioneer's CDJ-1000, for example, comes very close, but people used to vinyl know this is just fake.
Serato and Traktor have looked at this from a different perspective. Suppose we have a record playing a wave only understood by software (called time-coded vinyl), running on a PC or Apple, and then this software would sync an MP3 or any other media to this wave then we could bring together the best of both worlds. DJ's can still use vinyl records and they could use time-coded vinyl together with their collection of MP3's (which saves your back if you can't find someone to carry your cases).
I used this software the other night and I must say, even though it is not real vinyl, it feels very much the same. The only thing I missed were 400 large and heavy records I used to browse through, in search of the next great song to play. Instead, I just had to type in parts of the name of the artist or parts of the name of the song, and then select it.
This, my dear friends, could mean the end of true vinyl records. Lots of small shops, that survived on selling vinyl, already had to close down and go bankrupt. Only the larger and online stores like juno seem to be able to survive for now, but I wonder how long it will take.
If you want something new today, something not popular (yet), chances are that this song won't be available on vinyl, but available on MP3 instead.
I like buying records and I like spending a whole afternoon in a record shop, sniffing through a large collection just to find some great song I don't already have. I guess I am becoming old fashioned now, getting old, being surpassed by young people with fancy software. Is this a midlife crisis?

EDIT: As seen in a comment by someone reading this blog, one of Belgium's biggest dance stores (USA Import) is closing down. You can read all about it here.
This hurts :(


musicobsession said...

I don't think that vinyl records are about to end

JDB said...

Hey Kenny, I just read an article in "De Standaard" about the famous Antwerp Vinyl store "USA Import". They also feel the pain of the download and CD mania and they decided to close the store. Tomorrow is the start of the SELL OUT! Maybe you can scoop up some more classic Vinyls.

zappa said...

Hey, no problem, after all it's just a medium. A more down-to-earth and touchable medium, sure, but the success of binaries is place, grep and transportability.

Remember loading your car when you were DJ? :p

And, well, maybe having a drink with your friends isn't all that bad!