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An empirical study of vinyl consumers and their motives
„Is it so wrong, wanting to be at home with your record collection? It’s not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beer mats, or antique thimbles. There’s a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colourful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in.” Nick Hornby, Author
Since digital media like the CD and MP3 play the dominant roles in today’s music business, talking about vinyl always seems to have a touch of nostalgia. And indeed, from an economic perspective vinyl has been dead since at least 1989 when CD sales topped the number of sold records for the first time. Today, vinyl is a niche product with a market share of about 0.3 percent1 in Germany (Bundesverband der Phonographischen Wirtschaft, 2007, p.20) and 0.6 percent in the US (RIAA, 2007). The music industry calls it a „sunset business [...] just big enough to feed a couple of small suppliers“ (Bruckmaier, 2001, p.17). Although digital music media certainly has a lot of benefits compared to records, some people still seem to have a very emotional relationship to that ‘good, old vinyl’. The term “Black Gold” – often used as a synonym for records – speaks for itself. The vinyl-phenomenon is also often a topic in Magazines and Newspaper articles, which refer to it as a cultural phenomenon. These stories usually are full of legends, myths and clichés. For example, it says each vinyl record would “tell its own story, each one got its individual face and - above all – they have character.” (Farkas, 1998, p.11). Especially the sound is much more „intense and personal“ than the one of CD´s (Stock, 2005, p.64). Also the consumers of vinyl records are often stereotyped as “a bunch of anonymous melancholics, who admire the record like a cult” (Platzen, 2003, p.38), or as “deniers of (technical) progress, who refuse new technologies like a defiant child” (“Vinyl-Zeitalter adieu?”, 1994, p.15). This ‘analogue counter movement’ we’re talking about is relatively small as record sales represent less than 1 percent of all record sales in the US and in Germany (see above). But on the other hand sales seem to be relatively stable since about ten years (Bundesverband der Phonographischen Wirtschaft, 2006, p.24; RIAA, 2007). In the UK vinyl accounted even 14.7% of all physical singles sales in 2005 (“Back in the groove”, 2006). Looking at the sales numbers, there still seems to be some reason why music fans chose vinyl. Dealing with this subject one will find different explanations very soon. For some vinyl consumers, the analogue sound might be the ‚USP’, others – especially Hip Hop DJ´s – use records as a tool for
Base: Total music sales in 2006, Germany, including music-downloads, ring tones etc.
scratching. Some others might even see some sort of a political statement in their consumption of vinyl, because it stands for a lifestyle, which is not driven by the latest technology. So obviously there seems to be a lot of reasons why people still buy vinyl. But there has been less scientific attempt to prove how much all the clichés and stereotypes can be found in reality. Besides the motives of vinyl consumption, we also want to find out who these people are that still use record players instead of digital devices like MP3- or CD-Player. That’s why attitudes and behaviour also have to be considered in the following survey. At the end it will be necessary to check out if we can identify different types of vinyl buyers that are different in regard to their usage and their attitude towards vinyl. Summarized the following questions are put in the centre of this paper: Why do music consumers still buy vinyl records these days? Is it reasonable to differentiate vinyl consumers by their motives? If yes, what kind of ‘motive’clusters can we identify and what are their specific characteristics? The relevance of these questions is given by a variety of reasons. As we all know technology is rapidly changing and the competition between old and new media probably has never been as hard as in these days. At least there seems to be a consensus that all media become digital, sooner or later. Usually all the eyes of analysts and researchers are on the new media. But this research shall make a contribution to answer the questions of how the rise of new media influences the use and the attitude towards an old, widely replaced medium. The consumer’s perspective becomes very important in this context. Music fans don’t only chose what music to listen to, but also how to listen to it. That means they have to choose between a whole lot of different devices and data carriers, which can be practical but also confusing. Research that goes along with digital change tends to focus on the technical feasibility of a new medium. The following research instead puts the needs of the user in its centre. We should also not forget, that vinyl records are a cultural good that has been used since for one hundred years. Today, its meaning for a mainstream audience is totally marginalized. Therefore one should take a closer look at those people who keep vinyl alive. 3
Last, but not least, there is an interest to fill an academic void. Although an extraordinary amount of research exists about music and media, the comparison between analogue and digital music consumption is widely unknown so far (Behne, 2003, p.28). In the second chapter we will take a closer look at the theory of media change and what its basic principles are. In chapter three we will specify several characteristics of the vinyl record, before we explain our methodology (chapter four). The results of our survey are presented in chapter five. Conclusions deriving from that are explained in the final chapter six.
2. Basic principles of media change
At least since the middle of the 1990’s, the debate on how the rise of new media influences the usage patterns of the old media has been an inherent part of communication research conventions (cp. Stipp, 2000). In this connection several theoretical approaches have established. In the following we will discuss the so called Riepl’s law, the principle of leisure displacement and the niche theory. In 1913, Wolfgang Riepl formulated a hypothesis (Riepls’s law) that says that even the most simple and primitive media can never be completely replaced or permanently substituted by a new one, as long as it’s been found useful once and people got used it. What might happen is that the old media is constrained to find new functions and ways of utilization (p.5). Riepl assumes that different types of media do have different profiles with their very own functions and benefits. Thus all media will ‚survive’ the upcoming of new media. Though this has been a very prototypical scenario for many situations in the past of media business, some communication researchers critizise Riepl. Neuberger (2003) says that the law is hard to disprove and therefore quite trivial. Just the survival of one provider or even one device would be enough, that a medium in Riepl’s sense has not been completely replaced. Other approaches take a more different look at the competitive relation between old and new media. They point out that media rival for the attention of the users and emphasize the individual function of usage. The principle of leisure displacement says that the time spent on using new media compensates or even substitutes the usage of other activities. It can be assumed, that media compete especially 4
when they have from a consumer’s perspective the same or similar functionalities (Himmelweit et al., 1958; Scherer & Schluetz, 2004; cp. Berg, 1981). According to this principle, digital music carrier must be seen as a functional substitute for vinyl, because their main benefit is to carry (and to play) music. The reason why vinyl exists can be found in Dimmick’s niche theory (1993). It says that every medium covers certain gratifications. The niches of different media are overlapping. Through the upcoming of new media the profiles of the traditional media are changing and becoming more narrow. If the old media are not able to compensate the benefits of the new media, the balance of power will be readjusted. As digital music carriers have a lot of benefits to vinyl records – better sound, more practical, mobile use is possible etc. – the niche for vinyl becomes very narrow. But according to the niche theory, vinyl must be superior to CDs and MP3s in some ways. The fact that vinyl still exists suggests that there must be vinyl-exclusive benefits, relevant only to few, however. Refering to the individually perceived benefits of a certain medium, the niche theory is established very close to the Uses and Gratifications approach (Katz et al., 1974), which will complete the theoretical basics of this survey. The theme of uses and gratifications is the idea that people use the media to get specific gratifications. The basic tenet of Uses and Gratifications is that people are not helpless victims of the powerful media, but use media to fulfil their various needs. These needs serve as motivations (gratifications sought) for using media. Gratifications obtained should correspond with gratifications sought for the media to be able to meet the needs of the users. Because we want to analyze the motives for record use from an consumer’s point of view, the theoretical approaches described above match perfectly together. The combination of the two leads us to following assumptions: Media use is goal-oriented. People chose a certain music carrier, because they sought certain gratifications from that. As long as the usage of vinyl records brings a benefit that other music carriers can not offer, records will not replaced completely by other music media. Now we are going to find out what kind of unique benefits vinyl records can offer.
3. Dimensions of the survey
3.1. Potential functions and meanings of vinyl records
It seems clear that the main reason for vinyl use simply is ‚listening to music’. But obviously this could be done with any other music carrier, too. As described above, we have to find out how vinyl records distinguish themselves from other music media. So, the question is, what are vinyl’s exclusive characteristics (see illustration 1)?
Illustration 1: Gratification profiles of music media according to niche theory
Unique Benefits of Vinyl Records
Unique Benefits of Other Music Media like CD & MP3 Example: Mobile Use
Example: Listening to Music
Source: Author’s own.
After dealing with the subject by reading literature and speaking with people who fancy vinyl, we found a set of potential stand-alone benefits, which are categorized by four dimensions: Aesthetics, Usability, Offer and Choice & Denial of alternative sound carriers. Aesthetics Already Gruber (1995) found out that favoring vinyl is often due to aesthetic criteria2 (p.244f). And as a matter of fact it is quite reasonable that vinyl offers more than CDs in a aesthetic way: The album cover is bigger, so it is much easier to enjoy the details of the art work. Gruber also diagnosed that haptic experience – which means the feeling of holding a record in your hands – plays an important role for the consumers.
Gruber’s research is restricted to consumer behaviour of Independent Fans. His results refer to qualitative interviews and have not yet been proven on a wide empirical base.
Of course, the most discussed difference between vinyl and digial carriers is the quality of sound. This is an issue, people really are divided by their opinions, since the Compact Disc was new in the middle of the 1980’s. Supporters of the record appreciate the ostensible „warmer and more direct“ sound of the vinyl discs (Goebel, 1999, p.20), some also like the crackling sound as indispensable side effect. The sound of digital carriers instead are often judged by vinyl consumer as „cold and unnatural“ (Tsakiridou, 1999, S.9). As we focus in our survey on a consumer’s point of view, sound definitely must be seen as a potential benefit of vinyl records. Operation People who are used to the use of CD and MP3 might find the handling of a record player rather unpractical. Record users have to remove the dust from the discs regularly, they have to adjust the pick-up and also must turn the discs around after the first of their playing time. It is not possible to chose a certain song by any buttons or remote control. But some users might see this intricate procedure as a natural ritual they actually enjoy („Schwarze Magie“, 1997). The specific way to operate a record player also enables another important vinyl benefit: The instrumentality. For DJ’s records are not just an option for playing music, but also an essential tool for doing their job. Since special techniques of scratching and mixing have been established in several musical genres, the record player must also be seen as an instrument (Poschhardt, 1997, p.368). In this context the use of records becomes a whole new meaning than just being another music medium (Raml, 1997, p.36). Offer and Choice Another advantage one can take from using vinyl is the overwhelming variety of offered music – especially considering record exchange markets and flea markets. Rob Aberamson, the owner America’s biggest record store Mooncurser Records, puts it in a nutshell when he says: „About 90 percent of what’s been made is not available on CD. You get a group like the Chi-Lites that made 42 albums; two of them are on CD. The other 40, we have.” (Partlow, 2002). Another aspect of buying records deriving from this variety material is ‘Collectability’. For some people digging through piles of vinyl searching rare records is a hobby just as for others collecting 7
stamps or match boxes. Sometimes people even spend a couple of hundred euros just for one single record. Some records have extraordinary high prices only because for an example they’ve been pressed in Africa and not somewhere else. For these people, actually listening to the music might become less important than owning the music. Therefore we consider ‚Collectability’ as another special benefit of the vinyl record, we will have a look at. Besides the high-priced rarities there is also a big selection of second hand material, which is actually quite cheap. We will see, if pricing has an impact on consumer’s choice. Denial of alternative sound carrier All the benefits described above have in common that they derive from certain characteristics of vinyl records. But there are also many aspects that suggest that buying records is not just a decision ‚pro’ vinyl but also a decision ‚against’ other music media. We assume that desire for self-expression could play a big role when people refuse to buy mainstream media like CDs. Many People are interested in developing an individual identity and try to figure out ways how they can distinguish themselves from other people. Being something special becomes a key need in a post-modern society (cp. Bolz, 1999, p.27) refer to the ambivalent character of social distinction: „On the one hand people try to distinguish themselves from others in order to a establish a border between them and other people. On the other hand they do it to integrate themselves in certain social groups.“ (p. 25). The differentiation of these social groups become manifest in a complex system of meanings and codes, which also finds its expression in consumer behaviour. Especially the development of certain preferences in art and culture are very qualified to legitimization social differences, which means to accumulate symbolic capital (Froehlich, 1994, S.46). Many studies have shown that musical taste plays a very important role as a sociocultural criterion (cp. Mueller et al., 2002; Schramm, 2005). With this survey we want to find out if the choice of the medium that carries a certain kind of music can also make a relevant social difference. There are a lot of arguments for that. Gross (2000) for example describes the supporters of vinyl as a male dominated and highly sophisticated culture. They have developed a complicated system of knowledge and meanings, which acts as a protective barrier between them and the outer world (p.55). We assume, that
for some people buying records is reasoned by a need for distinction (distinguishing from mainstream) as well as by a need for integration in a social group (vinyl subculture). But denying CD’s and MP3’s might also have other causes than that. As Rademacher (1997) says some people have an engrained fear for everything that new. In his opinion consumer choices and behaviour are often led by „indifference, emotional-nostalgic bonds and acts of defiance“ (p.143). Rademacher calls these people „the group of tenacious“ (p.142). The record is likely to qualify the needs of these groups very well. It became almost an icon of old times, when technologies did not change as fast and things in general ostensibly were less complicated. Today, many consumer seem to be quite confused by all the new technological innovations that compete for a buying public. At the end this can produce reluctance in consumer’s minds that leads to denial of buying or with some sort of ‚rebellious consumption’. As people buy products not only for what they can do, but also for what they mean, some people might buy vinyl records because for them it is like making a statement. By buying records they express their unease with rapidly changing technologies, they don’t want to use as a matter of principle. The following scheme summarizes the potential motive-dimensions of vinyl use and the sub motives derived from them. Aesthetics • • • Visual Qualities Haptic Qualities Sound
Usability • • Handling Instrumentality
Offer and Choice • • • Variety Status/’Collectability’ Pricing 9
Denial of alternative sound carriers • • • • Distinction Integration in a social group Nostalgia Expression of protest
3.2. Consumer characteristics
As we think that an isolated analysis of motives is not enough to explore the nature of record buyers, we also want to take a look at some other aspects. The selection and intensity of media use is determined in large part to consumer characteristics like demographics or psychological predispositions (Drabczynski, 1982, S.21). Considering those things will help us make more accurate interpretations. In connection with our object of research following dimensions can be seen as expedient: Music Consumption, Music Involvement, Self-perceived competence in music, DJ-Status, Social reference groups, Open Mindedness towards new technologies, Demographics. First of all there, is a great interest in Music Consumption, because the needs and expectations of every individual recipient not only determines if he uses a certain medium, but also how he uses it (Bonfadelli, 1999, p.160). This includes the intensity of purchase, the way of purchasing (place to buy), the use of other music media and preferences in music genres. The dimension Music Involvement describes the personal relevance of music in the subject’s life. It refers to interest for music in general and to the willingness for taking an effort to get information about music and artists. This dimension quite interrelates with Self-perceived competence in music, which describes how much of a music expert someone is – based on self-report. The dimension Social reference groups determines the influence of other record buyers in one’s social environment. Also DJ-Status might have an impact on music consumption behaviour as described above. Open Mindedness towards new technologies includes attitudes towards new music carriers in particular. Finally we assume that the Demographics – especially age – will have an enormous impact on the motives of vinyl use. Following illustration summarizes the dimensions of the survey: 10
Illustration 2: Dimensions of vinyl use
I. Motives of Vinyl Use: Aesthetics Usability Offer and Choice Denial of alternative sound carrier II. Consumer’s characteristics: Music Consumption Music Involvement Self-perceived competence in music DJ-Status Social reference groups Open Mindedness towards new technologies Demographics
Vinyl use Source: Author’s own
For our survey we chose a self-administered questionnaire. 27 Items were created to measure the motive dimensions (27 overall)3. The respondents could answer on a five point scale how much they agree or disagree with a given statement. Every sub motive is covered by one to four items. The dimensions concerning consumer characteristics were operationalized into open questions, multichoice questions and scales. The questionnaire was pretested before the main survey (n = 4). Only slight changes were necessary. At the end the questionnaire were four DIN A4 pages long; process time was about 10 minutes average. The survey took place over a period of 19 days starting 4th of June, 2005. Questionnaires were distributed at two records exchange markets, at a HipHop concert and in 15 record stores. Additionally, a couple of questionnaires were given to friends and relatives. We chose to question people at the ‘point of sale’ mainly. So we could make sure that these people actually still buy records. We were not interested in vinyl users, who still listen to their old records, but who wouldn’t buy them anymore. We also made sure that we have a wide selection of record stores with regard to musical genres. The staff was asked to keep questionnaires at their counter and
For the complete operationalization please see appendix.
distribute them to their (vinyl) customers. Rate of return at the record stores was 46.1%; overall rate of return was 54.3%. The following table shows the final statistics: Table 1: Overview of survey
All people buying records at least occasionally Visitors of record exchange markets in Hannover and Muenster, Germany (33%) Customers of 15 different record stores in Hannover and Hamburg, Germany (53%) Visitors of a HipHop-Concert in Hannover, Germany (4%) Friends and relatives (8%) Other (1%) Written, standardized self-administered questionnaire Methodology 06/04/2005 - 06/19/2005 Period 217 valid cases Sample * Divergence from 100% is caused by roundings. Population Respondents*
5. Representation of the results
5.1. Description of the sample Overall, we received 217 completed questionnaires. The results will show the wide spectrum of different people that participated at the survey. As results will show we could reach a very wide spectrum of different people. Nevertheless one should consider that we can results not necessarily draw conclusions from our sample to the whole population, because we deal with a self-selective sample. So, when we talk about record buyers, one has to keep in mind that the generalization of the results is limited. Demographics Representing 10 percent4, female respondents are clearly a minority among the sample. Consumption of vinyl records seems to be – not surprisingly – a male dominated hobby. The sample covers people from 15 to 63 years. The mean is 32. Half of respondents are between 25 and 40; one quarter is younger than 25 years; one quarter older than 40 years. The survey confirms that there are a lot of young people who discover the record for themselves. 49 percent of the sample is 29 years old or younger. That means that about half of record buyers were not necessarily socialized with records in their youth5. For comparison: Only 6 percent of the sample is 50 years plus. Furthermore record buyers are educated
All indicated percentages are valid percentages, i. e. percentages having been evaluated to the exclusion of missing values. The missing values were always beneath eight percent, mostly even significantly lower. Discrepancies of 100 percent are due to roundings. 5 Again: CD sales topped the number of sold records for the first time in the year 1989.
above-average: 53 percent have (Fach-) Hochschulreife. About every fifth respondent is student (21%), but majority is people with full-time jobs (49%). Music Consumption Vinyl Consumers spend a lot of money on music. More than half of the respondents (61%) have bought at least 30 music carriers within the last three months, 25 percent even bought at least 50 carriers within the same period. Half of sample size spends at least 85 euro per month; one quarter spends even 150 Euro or more. For one single record „I really want to own“ half of the sample would spend 50 Euro or more6. A few respondents even mentioned amounts between 1,000 and 1,500 Euro – for one single record. People buy their records by far mostly in record stores. 80 percent said they do purchase in record stores ‚often’ or ‚very often’. But still almost three fourth stated they buy records on the internet at least occasionally. On average, vinyl supporters listen to music for 4.8 hours a day, which is much more than the average person (ard.de, 2005). Besides records, the respondents also use CD’s (91%) Music Cassettes (44%), MP3 (43%) and MiniDiscs (22%). Only three percent stated they would listen to vinyl records exlusively. Most popular music genres are Rock/Alternative/Independent (50%), HipHop/Rap (41%); Trance/House/Techno and Soul/R´n B/Funk (both 39%). DJ-Status There is an astonishing share of professional Disc jockeys within the sample: 54 percent of respondents stated they spin records. Almost have of the DJ’s (49%) even earn money with that, but only 3 percent can make their whole living by DJ’ing (1% of total sample size).
5.2. Descriptive representation of motives of vinyl use and results of the factor analysis
Now we get to a first analysis of motives of vinyl use. For this purpose, all of the 27 items were compiled in a factor analysis. This is the basis for a concluding cluster analysis identifying different
Regular price for new CD’s and LP’s is about 15 to 20 Euro.
types of vinyl record users and buyers. The use of the factor analysis results in a seven-factor solution. Table 2 shows how many and which items constitute each of the seven factors. The first factor, ‚Social self-definition through collecting vinyl records’, explains 14.1% of total variance. It is dominated by those items that have been created for Collectability and Integration in a social group. Both dimensions seem to belong together, which means that there is an important social aspect in collecting records. The factor ‚Unique Repertoire’ (11.2% of total variance) covers exactly the dimension variety. The ranking (see column 3 in the table) shows that these items describe some of the most popular benefits of vinyl use within the whole sample (Ranks 2, 3, 8, 15). The combination of the three items which constitute the factor ‚Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics’ (8.6% of total variance) leads to the assumption, that the big album cover supports nostalgic feelings among vinyl consumers. The two items of Factor 4 (8.1% of total variance) clearly refer to the ‚Special Sound’ of vinyl records. The next factor (6.5% of total variance) refers to the visual and haptic qualities. But most strongly loads an item on this factor, which has been formulated to measure the motive Distinction. Looking at the combination of items, one can say that they describe aesthetic qualities from an ‚insider’s point of view. Thus, we named this factor: ‚Aesthetic benefits for insiders’. Factor six (6.0% of taotal variance) includes those items from the motive dimension Expression of protest plus the item „Listening to music is just more fun with removing dust, turning discs and putting on needles.“ So, this factor is clearly dominated by the need for expressing displeasure with the increasing occurrence with digital media. Additionally the factor contains a little bit of favouring that ‚old-school’ handling of vinyl records. Altogether, we thought that „Critical traditionalism“ would be a good name for this factor. Looking at the ranking one can see that the respondents did not consider the items that constitute this factor as very important (Ranks 13, 23, 25).
Beforehand, four variables were excluded from the analysis, because they presented factor loadings of less than .45 and also loaded inconclusively on several factors. These are „What I really like about vinyl-records is...the crackling sound.“; „I really like the handling of vinyl records.“; „For me vinyl is music ‚you still can touch’.“; „To me there’ s not a big difference between vinyl records and other sound carriers.“ The seven-factor solution on hand explains 60 percent of the overall variance whereupon the individual factors after rotation contribute to the explained variance between 6 and 14 percent each.
Finally the last factor (5.7%) only contains one item, which refers to the low priced second hand material. Among the whole sample pricing is almost the least important benefit for buying records (Rank 26). Table 2: Motives of use and the result of a factor analysis Item Factor 1: Social self-definition through collecting vinyl records (14,1% total variance) Factor Mean* 1 Rank [M]
From my point of view, a large record collection is sort of a status symbol. Collecting records for me is almost as important as listening to them. Being together with other record collectors is very important to me. Rare albums and special editions appeal to me most. Usually record buyers are much more sympathetic to me than people, who buy their music on CD or download it from the internet. What I really like about vinyl-records is...that one can distinguish oneself from the mainstream. When I go out to my favourite record stores, I usually meet people that I know. ,738 ,664 ,592 ,579 ,577 ,554 ,492 24 18 10 16 22 27 20 2,7 3,1 3,6 3,5 2,8 2,4 3,1
Standard Deviation [SD]
1,4 1,4 1,1 1,2 1,4 1,4 1,2
217 217 215 217 216 215 215
Factor 2: Unique Repertoire (11,2% total variance) Factor 2
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the selection of very rare and interesting music apart from the mainstream. Some albums that I buy are only available on vinyl. What I really like about vinyl-records is...the variety of music I can buy. Buying vinyl records is the best way to find music that fits to my personal taste in music. ,844 ,819 ,649 ,612
2 3 15 8
4,2 4,2 3,5 3,6
Standard Deviation [SD]
1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4
214 214 208 212
Factor 3: Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics (8,6% total variance) Standard Factor Mean Rank Deviation 3 [M] [SD]
Sometimes when I put on a vinyl record, I start reminiscing about old times. I associate vinyl records strongly with some parts of my past life. What I really like about vinyl-records is...the big album cover. ,728 ,713 ,556 19 9 6 3,1 3,6 4,0 1,4 1,3 1,3
213 214 216
Factor 4: Special sound (8,1% total variance) Factor 4
What I really like about vinyl-records is...its special sound. In my opinion, vinyl records are unbeatable concerning sound. ,864 ,813
Standard Deviation [SD]
Factor 5: Aesthetic benefits for insiders (6,5% total variance) Factor 5
Vinyl records do not really fit to everyone. I think, that vinyl records are an eyecatcher. ,653 ,627
Standard Deviation [SD]
What I really like about vinyl-records is...that you can ‚feel’ the music by touching its grooves.
Factor 6: Critical traditionalism (6,0% total variance) Factor 6
The music industry always invents new music carriers to fleece the consumers. That is why I stay true to vinyl. Buying vinyl records for me is some kind of protest against the digitalization of our cultural lifestyle. Listening to music is just more fun with removing dust, turning discs and putting on needles. ,768 ,545 ,430
13 25 23
3,5 2,6 2,7
Standard Deviation [SD]
1,2 1,2 1,5
213 213 214
Factor 7: Access to low priced second hand material (5,7% total variance) Factor 7
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the low pricing of second hand material. * Code of Variables: (1 = I do not agree at all; 5 = I agree strongly) ** Item has been recoded for analysis. Extraction method: Main component analysis Rotation method: Varimax with Kaiser normalization Rotation converged to 14 iterations KMO: .796 Analysis included 27 Items ,761
Standard Deviation [SD]
Table 3: Motive Instrumentality Item
Do you use vinyl records for mixing and scratching?
I don’t know what that is
In addition to the motive items we asked if people use vinyl records for mixing and scratching. Table 3 shows that more than half of the respondents use vinyl records for that. It is very important to point out here that even if some items are rated rather badly overall, they might have quite a significance for some record buyers. The following arrangement of different types of record buyers will give us a much more differentiated impression of the motives from several groups of record buyers.
5.3. Typology of vinyl record consumers
5.3.1. Description and interpretation of clusters Now that we could identify 7 independent factors, which cover the motives of record use, we will proceed to find out, if the consumers of vinyl records distinguish from another concerning these factors. For these purpose we make a cluster analysis that will group the subjects in clusters. Looking 16
at the dendogramm shows quite clear, that a six-cluster solution seems to be most reasonable.8 Table 4 gives an overview over the dispersion of cases on each cluster.
Table 4: Final cluster solution N % Valid % Accumulated % 16,4 31,9 62,9 89,7 100,0 22,5
35 16,1 16,4 Cluster 1 20 9,2 9,4 Cluster 2 66 30,4 31,0 Cluster 3 57 26,2 26,8 Cluster 4 22 10,1 10,3 Cluster 5 13 6,0 6,1 Cluster 6 213 98,2 100,0 Total 4 1,8 Missing 217 100,0 Total Distance measure: Binary Squared Euclidean Distance; cluster method: Ward
Almost all clusters have enough cases in relation to the size sample and they can be interpreted very well. But for the representation in this paper we decided not to include the sixth cluster (n=13) in our description, because the number of respondents might be too small for any valid statements. Following we will analyze and interpret the cluster concerning their motives and specific characteristics. Cluster 1: Sophisticated Collectors (n = 35) For the relatively young ‘Sophisticated Collectors’ buying vinyl records is a hobby with a social function. The use of records is a way to distinguish themselves from other people. The high value for ‘Social self-definition through collecting vinyl records’ also suggests that they keep contact with other record collectors. This group also thinks from itself that they really know what’s going on in music. Their attitude is „I am usually one of the first who discovers a new sound.“ Generally they like other record buyers and show respect for a big record collection. Altogether, it looks a bit like from the ‘Sophisticated Collectors’ point of view the record acts besides its pragmatic purposes also as a status symbol or as a ‘cool’ accessory. But beyond that records are not just a lifestyle product for this group. Almost three of four people (71%) in this cluster consider themselves DJ’s. This also explains why this group knows to appreciate
The hierarchical cluster analysis (single linkage method) was afterwards conducted on the basis of the ascertained factors. Thus, a homogeneous scale of the used variables and the exclusion of correlations between them were achieved, because the factors present standardized values and are orthogonally independent from one another. 4 „mavericks“ were excluded. The second hierarchical cluster analysis (Ward method) is based upon 213 cases.
the ‘Unique repertoire” over-average. Also 71 percent of this group use records for mixing and scratching. Urban, hip music genres like Soul, Funk, Hip hop and Reggae are most favoured by this cluster of record buyers9. It is also important to mention that this group does not have much reservation towards digital music carriers. Compared to other groups, sound seems not be an issue for the ‘Sophisticated Collectors’. It can be assumed that the people in this cluster tend to belong to an environment that is very sensible for lifestyle and pop culture. Table 5: Sophisticated Collectors Above-average characteristics Below-average characteristics
‘Social self-definition through collecting vinyl ‘Special sound’ (-1.08) records’ (.59)* ‘Critical traditionalism’ (-.29) ‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (.33)* ‘Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual ‘Unique Repertoire’ (.32) characteristics’ (-.15) ‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (.19) Use records for mixing and Scratching (71%) Age (29 years)* Gender: Male (97%)* Genre: Punk (26%)* Place of Purchase: Record store (4.5)* I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem DJ’s (71%)* sterile to me.” (2.9)* Genre: Soul, R´n B, Funk (60%)* Genre: HipHop, Rap (51%)* Genre: Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall (37%)* Genre: Country Music, Folk (26%)* Self-perceived opinion leadership in music (4.2)* I: “Digital music carriers also have benefits.” (4.1)* I: “Talking about music, I am pretty much ahead.” (3.9)* I: „I am usually one of the first, who discover a new sound.“ (3.4)* Table commentaries Motives: The indicated parenthesized values regarding the motives are factor means (except for ‚Use records for mixing and Scratching’). All values higher/equaling 0.15 and lower/equaling -0.15 were used as significant for description. Positive values of a factor (> 0) can be interpreted as approval to a using motive whereas negative values (< 0) are interpreted as decline. Table commentaries Consumer characteristics: If not indicated otherwise, parenthesized values are average values within the group on a 5-point scale (1 = do not agree at all/No, never 5 = I strongly agree/Yes, very often). All characteristics showing either the highest or the lowest value within the respective group were selected as beeing significant for description. Sometimes, second-ranking values are additionally presented if they deviate from the average value of the total by at least 0.2 measuring units (or by 5 percentage points). *Highest (left side) and lowest value (right side) respectively in comparison of the clusters. **Item has been recoded for analysis.
Cluster 2: Critical Second Hand Buyers (n = 20) For the members of this group buying records has a lot do with their self-concept. They also want to distinguish themselves from the Mainstream of CD-Buyers and MP3-Downloaders, but rather for
Actually even Country music became quite a cool thing within in the last years thanks to Rick Rubin producing Johnny Cash.
demonstrating some sort of an anti-attitude than for being ‚cool’. No other group buys records because of its low pricing and out of ‘Critical traditionalism’ as much as the ‚Critical Second Hand Buyers’ . They are the ones who stroll down the flea markets searching for a low priced record. Most of them also still listen to Music Cassettes (85%). Although most of them also use CDs, they tend to have a negative view of digital technologies in general. Rarely will one of these guys download a song from the internet. This group’s non-conformist lifestyle also finds its expression within its musical taste. Punk, Rock, Alternative and Independent music are these groups favourite genres (60%) followed by more retro-oriented genres like Jazz & Blues (55%) and Oldies (40%). The cluster also has the lowest share of DJs. Surprisingly, still every fourth of this group uses records for mixing and scratching10 (25%). Altogether, this cluster might be the one that corresponds most with the cliché of a retrominded record buyer with a critical attitude towards new technologies. Table 6: Critical Second Hand Buyers Above-average characteristics
‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (1.40)* ‘Critical traditionalism’ (.93)* ‘Special sound’ (.75)* ‘Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics’ (.23) ‘Social self-definition through collecting vinyl records’ (.22) Unemployed (17%)* Place of Purchase: Flea market (3.3)* Place of Purchase: Record exchange markets (3.1)* General use: MC (85%)* Genre: Punk (60%)* Genre: Rock, Alternative, Independent (60%)* Genre: Jazz, Blues (55%)* Genre: Oldies (40%)* Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal (30%)* I: „Listening to records is a joy I reserve for very special moments.“ (4.2)* I: “Sometimes I am little scared by the speed technology changes these days.” (4.0) I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem sterile to me.” (3.7)* Table commentaries see table 5
Use records for mixing and Scratching (25%)* Motives
Share of vinyl records within music carriers bought within last three months (51%)* Monthly spending on music carriers (74 Euro)* Place of Purchase: Internet (2.3)* General use: MP3 (20%)* Genre: Trance, House, Techno (15%)* DJ’s (15%)* DJ’s earning money (0%)* I: „I am usually one of the first, who discover a new sound.“ (2.6)* I: “In my opinion, the future belongs to digital media.” (2.8)* I: “Digital music carriers also have benefits.” (3.2)* I: “The internet is full of great possibilities for music fans.” (3.6)*
We assume that this might be because at this question some people might have been thinking about mixing tapes, which means creating mix-tapes. Otherwise it is hard to believe that 38% of of the ‚Nostalgic Traditionalists’ do mix and scratch.
Cluster 3: Nostalgic Traditionalists (n = 66) Similar to the ‚Critical Second Hand Buyers’ the ‚Nostalgic Traditionalists’ are rather sceptical towards the current situation on the music market. The oldest of all clusters somehow seems not to feel comfortable about „the speed technology changes these days.” Compared to other groups this cluster seems to be less involved in the whole music market: They do not buy as much music as the other groups and do not know much about new musical trends. Also, they are quite open to the use of other music media than records (47% of whole music consumption). They do not fancy the sound of records anyway. One could imagine that this cluster now and then goes to a record store, buys an album – not looking at the price as much as the ‚Critical Second Hand Buyers’ – goes home and reminisces about those ‚good old days’. Table 7: Nostalgic Traditionalists Above-average characteristics
„Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics’ (.48)* ‘Critical traditionalism’ (.42) ‘Unique Repertoire’ (.19) ‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (.15) Age (36 years)* Genre: Classic, Opera (20%)* I: “Sometimes I am little scared by the speed technology changes these days.” (4.1)* I: “If there wouldn’t be any records no more, I would not have a problem to use other music carriers.” (3.0)*
‘Special sound’ (-2.62)* ‘Social self-definition through collecting vinyl records’ (-.46)* ‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (-.28) Use records for mixing and Scratching (38%) Number of music carriers bought within last three months (37)* Place of Purchase: Record store (4.1)* Estimated share of use of vinyl in relation to music consumption overall (53%)* Genre: Rock, Alternative, Independent (45%)* Self-perceived opinion leadership in music (3.7)* I: “Talking about music, I am pretty much ahead.” (2.9)* Motives
Table commentaries see table 5
Cluster 4: Open-minded Audiophiles (n = 57) The members of this group might be the most enthusiastic music fans all over the survey. Compared to other clusters they are less led by ideological motives like social self-definition or expression of protest. Instead their preference for vinyl is mainly based on its special sound and its unique repertoire. ‚Open minded Audiophiles’ have a great interest in music and are always looking for information about music. 63 percent are DJ’s and 32 percent even earn money with that. Going along with that no other group uses records that much for mixing and scratching (70%). Maybe that is why this group is 20
bound to vinyl more than any other group: 96 percent of all bought music carriers within the last three months were records. But on the other hand, one can see that the ‚Open minded Audiophiles’ are also open to new technologies like MP3 or the internet. They probably would use any music carrier to be able to listen to music. But in their opinion the records delivers them most aesthetic and practical benefits (sound, repertoire, mixing & scratching). Table 8: Open minded Audiophiles Above-average characteristics
‘Special sound’ (.61) ‘Unique Repertoire’ (.45)* ‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (.16) Use records for mixing and Scratching (70%) Share of vinyl records within music carriers bought within last three months (96%)* Maximum Prize for single vinyl record (57 Euro)* Place of Purchase: Internet (3.4)* General use: MP3 (54%)* DJ’s earning money (32%)* I: “The internet is full of great possibilities for music fans.” (4.4)* I: „I spend a lot of time, searching for information about music“ (3,9)* I: „I am usually one of the first, who discover a new sound.“ (3.4) Table commentaries see table 5
‘Critical traditionalism’ (-.79)* Motives
Gender: Male (88%)* I: “If there wouldn’t be any records no more, I would not have a problem to use other music carriers.” (2.3)*
Cluster 5: Critical Scratchers (n = 22) The ‘Critical Scratchers’ is another group, that is mainly characterized by its critical attitude towards the dominant role of digital music carriers. Besides that, this group does not show much enthusiasm towards vinyl – except for that practical benefit to use it for mixing and scratching (76%). 59 percent of the cluster are DJ’s and about a third are DJ’ing professionally to earn money (32%). There is no other group that seems to be that focussed on one musical genre: 68 percent of this cluster is into Trance, House and Techno. On the other hand the numbers show that the ‘Critical Scratchers’ are less open for other genres like Reggae, Country or Soul music. Their buying behaviour is very ambivalent: On the one hand, they buy an enormous number of music carriers (57 within last three months); on the other hand they are unlikely to spend a high amount of money on one single record. Furthermore, the ‘Critical Scratchers’ are very unlikely to use a record in order to get in the mood for nostalgic feelings. Altogether the typical person belonging to this group would be a Techno-DJ that needs records for his
hobby or profession. Though he might have reservations towards digital music carriers he seems to be open for new technologies in general. Table 9: ‘Critical Scratchers’ Above-average characteristics
‘Critical traditionalism’ (.62) ‘Unique Repertoire’ (.20) Use records for mixing and Scratching (76%)*
‘Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics’ (-1.37) ‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (-.92)* ‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (.90)* Maximum Prize for single vinyl record (31 Euro)* Place of Purchase: Flea market (2.1)* General use: MC (27%)* Genre: Jazz, Blues (27%)* Genre: HipHop, Rap (23%)* Genre: Soul, R´n B, Funk (23%)* Genre: Country Music, Folk (14%)* Genre: Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall (9%)* Genre: Oldies (5%)* Genre: Classic, Opera (5%)* Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal (0%)* I: “Sometimes I am little scared by the speed technology changes these days.” (2.2)* I: Listening to records is a joy I reserve for very special moments.(2.6)* I: “Talking about music, I am pretty much ahead.” (2.9)* Motives
Number of music carriers bought within last three months (57)* Monthly spending on music carriers (144 Euro)* Estimated share of use of vinyl in relation to music consumption overall (74%)* Genre: Trance, House, Techno (68%)* DJ’s earning money (32%)* I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem sterile to me.” (3.7)* I: “In my opinion, the future belongs to digital media.” (3.7)*
Table commentaries see table 5
The goal of this study was to empirically determine recipients’ special motives to still use and buy vinyl records. For this purpose, different motive dimensions from the classical media use research as well as additional inductively derived user needs were examined. We could show that vinyl records offer additional aesthetical, socio-psychological and practical advantages apart from music consumption. In total, especially aesthetic qualities (such as visual effects, sound) and the great variety of products are considered to be significant advantages of vinyl records. A large part of the respondents also uses vinyl records to “mix and scratch”. Furthermore, a typology of different user groups revealed that buyers of vinyl records are not a homogeneous mass. Instead, their motives differ very much. These, in turn, are closely correlated with additional characteristics such as buying behavior and usage pattern or open-mindedness towards technical innovations.
The niche theory implicates that every medium shows a particular gratification profile and thus can fulfil special functions better than others. This can be confirmed in this study. Whether this phenomenon can also be applied to other technically obsolete media systems (e. g., MC or VHS), can only be learned from additional research. According to the study’s results, vinyl records obviously survived because of their versatility. In a media society characterized by an increasingly individualized media use and the heterogeneity of the media audiences (cf., e. g., Hasebrink & Roessler, 1999), vinyl records particularly hold their ground because they offer many different gratifications for different structures of needs. Apart from the pragmatic use of vinyl records, also its image is highly significant: Vinyl records offer an ideal projection screen for the intellectually immaterial needs of their users such as nostalgia or nonconformity. Also, it has turned out to be reasonable to include into a user-oriented study psychological and sociological aspects respectively. Many studys dealing with the Uses and Gratifications Approach are limited to the application of classical media-oriented catalogues of need directly referring to the content or to the (additional) technical use of the medium. As is shown by this study, also the “symbolic value” of particular media can play an important role in connection with the consumers’ self-definition and self-dramatization. Eventually, the coexistence of different types of sound carriers can hardly be avoided in a highly differentiated and individualized society. Every type has its own efficiencies and deficiencies. The efficiencies of vinly records have been made clear in this study. They should leave no doubt that the frequently declared death of vinyl records is far from foreseeable. Until then, the black vinyl discs will continue to move in a circle of at least a small group of music devotees. Though this study has been only been carried out among German record buyers there is lots of evidence that the motives for buying vinyl might be quite similar in other regions of the world, at least in western industrial countries11. Still further research could shed more light on this topic.
As an example for the ‘global hype’ about vinyl records one should take a look at the website www.vinylfanatics.com., a forum for vinyl fans from all over the world, established in August 2006.
To make a difference has always been an essential element of pop culture. And that might be the best argument vinyl is still alive.
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Operationalization of the motives of use
Legend: O = Open Question Response option in brackets I = Item Subjects could give their opnion to given statement on a 5-point scale. (1 = I do not agree at all; 5 = I agree strongly)
Visual Qualities I: I think, that vinyl records are an eyecatcher. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...the big album cover.
Haptic Qualities I: For me vinyl is music ‚you still can touch’. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...that you can ‚feel’ the music by touching its grooves.
Sound I: In my opinion, vinyl records are unbeatable concerning sound. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...it’s special sound. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...the crackling sound.
Handling I: I really like the handling of vinyl records. I: Listening to music is just more fun with removing dust, turning discs and putting on needles.
Instrumentality Q: Do you use vinyl records for mixing and scratching? (Yes/No/I don’t know what that is)
Offer and Choice
Variety I: Some Albums that I buy are only available on vinyl. I: Buying vinyl records is the best way to find music that fits to my personal taste in music. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...the variety of music I can buy. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...the selection of very rare and interesting music apart from the mainstream.
Status/’Collectability’ I: Rare albums and special editions appeal to me most. I: From my point of view, a large record collection is sort of a status symbol. I: Collecting records for me is almost as important as listening to them.
Pricing I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...the low pricing of second hand material.
Denial of alternative sound carriers
Distinction I: Vinyl records do not really fit to everyone. I: To me there’ s not a big difference between vinyl records and other sound carriers*. I: What I really like about vinyl-records is...that one can distinguish oneself from the mainstream.
Integration in a social group I: Usually record buyers are much more sympathetic to me than people, who buy their music on CD or download it from the internet. I: Being together with other record collectors is very important to me. I: When I go out to my favourite record stores, I usually meet people that I know.
Nostalgia I: Sometimes when I put on a vinyl record, I start reminiscing about old times. I: I associate vinyl records strongly with some parts of my past life.
Expression of protest I: The music industry always invents new music carriers to fleece the consumers. That is why I stay true to vinyl. I: Buying vinyl records for me is some kind of protest against the digitalization of our cultural lifestyle.
*Item has been recoded for analysis.
Operationalization of the consumer’s characteristics
II. Consumer characteristics:
Demographics • • • • • Gender (Male/Female) Age (open) Highest educational achievement (Still student/Hauptschule-degree/Realschule-degree/Abitur/ Fachhochschul-degree/University degree/No degree/Other degree) Occupation (Student, school/Student, university/Apprentice/Civil Service/Working halfday/Working Full-time/Hausfrau & House Husband/Retired/No Occupation) Household income net in Euro (less than 500/500-1000/1000-1500/1500-2000/20002500/more than 2500)
Music Consumption Intensity of purchase • • • • Number of music carriers bought within the last three months Number of vinyl records bought within the last three months Average spending on music carrier in euro Maximum amount you would spend for a single vinyl record 28
Place to purchase records • • • • Record Store (5 point scale: 1 = Never; 5 = Very often) Record Markets (5 point scale: 1 = Never; 5 = Very often) Internet (5 point scale: 1 = Never; 5 = Very often) Flea Markets (5 point scale: 1 = Never; 5 = Very often)
Music media Mix • • Use of other music carriers instead of records (CD/MP3/MC/MD/Audio-DVD) Estimated share of use of vinyl in relation to music consumption overall (open: 1-100)
I: Listening to records is a joy I reserve for very special moments.
Favourite Genres** • (Rock, Alternative, Independent/HipHop, Rap/Trance, House, Techno/Soul, R´n B, Funk/Jazz, Blues/ Pop/Punk/Dub, Triphop, Chillout/Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall/Oldies/Country Music, Folk/Hard Rock, Heavy Metal/ Classic, Opera/German ‘Schlager’, Traditional Music)
Music Involvement I: I spend a lot of time, searching for information about music. I: When I am a big fan of an artist, I always follow the news about him/her. I: Music is nice, but there are more important things in life.* I: I also could imagine a life without music.*
Self-perceived competence in music I: I am usually one of the first, who discover a new sound. I: Talking about music, I am pretty much ahead. Q: Do friends or relatives ask you about your opinion and information about music? (5 Point Scale: 1 = No, never; 5 = Yes, very often)
DJ-Status Q: Are you DJ’ing? (Yes/No) Q: If yes, do you make your living by spinning records? (Yes/Partly/No)
Social reference groups Q: How many of your friends buy records? (No one/Few/About half/Majority/Almost all/I don’t know)
Open Mindedness towards new technologies I: Compared to records, other music carriers seem sterile to me.* I: Digital music carriers also have benefits. I: If there wouldn’t be any records no more, I would not have a problem to use other music carriers. I: The internet is full of great possibilities for music fans. I: In my opinion, the future belongs to digital media. I: Sometimes I am little scared by the speed technology changes these days.*
*Item has been recoded for analysis. **(multiple answers are possible)