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Vinyl makes the difference

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

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1. Introduction

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

1
Base: Total music sales in 2006, Germany, including music-downloads, ring tones etc.
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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.

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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

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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.

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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 Unique Benefits


of Vinyl Common of Other
Records Music Media
Benefits
like CD &
MP3

Example: Example: Example:


Scratching Listening to Mobile Use
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.

2
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.
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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

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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

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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

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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:
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Illustration 2: Dimensions of vinyl use

Music Consumer

I. Motives of Vinyl Use: II. Consumer’s characteristics:


Aesthetics Music Consumption
Usability Music Involvement
Offer and Choice Self-perceived competence in
Denial of alternative sound music
carrier DJ-Status
Social reference groups
Open Mindedness towards new
technologies
Demographics

Vinyl use

Source: Author’s own

4. Methodology

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, multi-

choice 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

3
For the complete operationalization please see appendix.
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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


Population All people buying records at least occasionally
Respondents* 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%)
Methodology Written, standardized self-administered questionnaire
Period 06/04/2005 - 06/19/2005
Sample 217 valid cases
* Divergence from 100% is caused by roundings.

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

4
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.
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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

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Regular price for new CD’s and LP’s is about 15 to 20 Euro.
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types of vinyl record users and buyers. The use of the factor analysis results in a seven-factor
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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).

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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.
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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 Standard
Mean*
1 Rank Deviation n
[M]
[SD]
From my point of view, a large record collection is sort of a status
,738 24 2,7 1,4 217
symbol.
Collecting records for me is almost as important as listening to
,664 18 3,1 1,4 217
them.
Being together with other record collectors is very important to
,592 10 3,6 1,1 215
me.
Rare albums and special editions appeal to me most. ,579 16 3,5 1,2 217
Usually record buyers are much more sympathetic to me than
people, who buy their music on CD or download it from the ,577 22 2,8 1,4 216
internet.
What I really like about vinyl-records is...that one can distinguish
,554 27 2,4 1,4 215
oneself from the mainstream.
When I go out to my favourite record stores, I usually meet
,492 20 3,1 1,2 215
people that I know.
Factor 2: Unique Repertoire (11,2% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
2 [M]
[SD]
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the selection of very
,844 2 4,2 1,1 214
rare and interesting music apart from the mainstream.
Some albums that I buy are only available on vinyl. ,819 3 4,2 1,2 214
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the variety of music I
,649 15 3,5 1,3 208
can buy.
Buying vinyl records is the best way to find music that fits to my
,612 8 3,6 1,4 212
personal taste in music.
Factor 3: Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual characteristics (8,6% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
3 [M]
[SD]
Sometimes when I put on a vinyl record, I start reminiscing about
,728 19 3,1 1,4 213
old times.
I associate vinyl records strongly with some parts of my past life. ,713 9 3,6 1,3 214
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the big album cover. ,556 6 4,0 1,3 216
Factor 4: Special sound (8,1% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
4 [M]
[SD]
What I really like about vinyl-records is...its special sound. ,864 5 4,1 1,1 215
In my opinion, vinyl records are unbeatable concerning sound. ,813 11 3,6 1,3 217
Factor 5: Aesthetic benefits for insiders (6,5% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
5 [M]
[SD]
Vinyl records do not really fit to everyone. ,653 17 3,4 1,3 214
I think, that vinyl records are an eyecatcher. ,627 1 4,2 1,1 214

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What I really like about vinyl-records is...that you can ‚feel’ the
,551 14 3,5 1,4 213
music by touching its grooves.
Factor 6: Critical traditionalism (6,0% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
6 [M]
[SD]
The music industry always invents new music carriers to fleece
,768 13 3,5 1,2 213
the consumers. That is why I stay true to vinyl.
Buying vinyl records for me is some kind of protest against the
,545 25 2,6 1,2 213
digitalization of our cultural lifestyle.
Listening to music is just more fun with removing dust, turning
,430 23 2,7 1,5 214
discs and putting on needles.
Factor 7: Access to low priced second hand material (5,7% total variance)
Standard
Factor Mean
Rank Deviation n
7 [M]
[SD]
What I really like about vinyl-records is...the low pricing of
,761 26 2,5 1,4 217
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

Table 3: Motive Instrumentality


I don’t know
Item Yes No
what that is
Do you use vinyl records for mixing and scratching? 54% 45% 1%

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 %
Cluster 1 35 16,1 16,4 16,4
Cluster 2 20 9,2 9,4 31,9
Cluster 3 66 30,4 31,0 62,9
Cluster 4 57 26,2 26,8 89,7
Cluster 5 22 10,1 10,3 100,0
Cluster 6 13 6,0 6,1 22,5
Total 213 98,2 100,0
Missing 4 1,8
Total 217 100,0
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

8
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.
17
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)

Motive s
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%)
Gender: Male (97%)* Age (29 years)*

Consumer Characteristics
Place of Purchase: Record store (4.5)* Genre: Punk (26%)*
DJ’s (71%)* I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem
Genre: Soul, R´n B, Funk (60%)* sterile to me.” (2.9)*
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

9
Actually even Country music became quite a cool thing within in the last years thanks to Rick Rubin producing
Johnny Cash.
18
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 retro-

minded record buyer with a critical attitude towards new technologies.

Table 6: Critical Second Hand Buyers


Above-average characteristics Below-average characteristics
‘Access to low priced second hand material’ Use records for mixing and Scratching (25%)*

Motives
(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%)* Share of vinyl records within music carriers

Consumer Characteristics
Place of Purchase: Flea market (3.3)* bought within last three months (51%)*
Place of Purchase: Record exchange markets Monthly spending on music carriers (74 Euro)*
(3.1)* Place of Purchase: Internet (2.3)*
General use: MC (85%)* General use: MP3 (20%)*
Genre: Punk (60%)* Genre: Trance, House, Techno (15%)*
Genre: Rock, Alternative, Independent (60%)* DJ’s (15%)*
Genre: Jazz, Blues (55%)* DJ’s earning money (0%)*
Genre: Oldies (40%)* I: „I am usually one of the first, who discover a
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal (30%)* new sound.“ (2.6)*
I: „Listening to records is a joy I reserve for very I: “In my opinion, the future belongs to digital
special moments.“ (4.2)* media.” (2.8)*
I: “Sometimes I am little scared by the speed I: “Digital music carriers also have benefits.”
technology changes these days.” (4.0) (3.2)*
I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem I: “The internet is full of great possibilities for
sterile to me.” (3.7)* music fans.” (3.6)*
Table commentaries see table 5

10
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.
19
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 Below-average characteristics
„Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual ‘Special sound’ (-2.62)*

Motives
characteristics’ (.48)* ‘Social self-definition through collecting vinyl
‘Critical traditionalism’ (.42) records’ (-.46)*
‘Unique Repertoire’ (.19) ‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (-.28)
‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (.15) Use records for mixing and Scratching (38%)
Age (36 years)* Number of music carriers bought within last three

Consumer Characteristics
Genre: Classic, Opera (20%)* months (37)*
I: “Sometimes I am little scared by the speed Place of Purchase: Record store (4.1)*
technology changes these days.” (4.1)* Estimated share of use of vinyl in relation to music
I: “If there wouldn’t be any records no more, I consumption overall (53%)*
would not have a problem to use other music Genre: Rock, Alternative, Independent (45%)*
carriers.” (3.0)* Self-perceived opinion leadership in music (3.7)*
I: “Talking about music, I am pretty much ahead.”
(2.9)*

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 Below-average characteristics
‘Special sound’ (.61) ‘Critical traditionalism’ (-.79)*

Motives
‘Unique Repertoire’ (.45)*
‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (.16)
Use records for mixing and Scratching (70%)

Share of vinyl records within music carriers Gender: Male (88%)*

Consumer Characteristics
bought within last three months (96%)* I: “If there wouldn’t be any records no more, I
Maximum Prize for single vinyl record (57 Euro)* would not have a problem to use other music
Place of Purchase: Internet (3.4)* carriers.” (2.3)*
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

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

21
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 Below-average characteristics
‘Critical traditionalism’ (.62) ‘Nostalgic experience supported by specific visual

Motives
‘Unique Repertoire’ (.20) characteristics’ (-1.37)
Use records for mixing and Scratching (76%)* ‘Aesthetic benefits for insiders’ (-.92)*
‘Access to low priced second hand material’ (-
.90)*
Number of music carriers bought within last three Maximum Prize for single vinyl record (31 Euro)*

Consumer Characteristics
months (57)* Place of Purchase: Flea market (2.1)*
Monthly spending on music carriers (144 Euro)* General use: MC (27%)*
Estimated share of use of vinyl in relation to music
consumption overall (74%)* Genre: Jazz, Blues (27%)*
Genre: Trance, House, Techno (68%)* Genre: HipHop, Rap (23%)*
DJ’s earning money (32%)* Genre: Soul, R´n B, Funk (23%)*
I: “Compared to records, other music carriers seem Genre: Country Music, Folk (14%)*
sterile to me.” (3.7)* Genre: Reggae, Ragga, Dancehall (9%)*
I: “In my opinion, the future belongs to digital Genre: Oldies (5%)*
media.” (3.7)* 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)*
Table commentaries see table 5

6. Conclusions

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.

22
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.

11
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.
23
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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Appendix

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)

Aesthetics

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.

26
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.

Operation

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.

27
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 half-
day/Working Full-time/Hausfrau & House Husband/Retired/No Occupation)
• Household income net in Euro (less than 500/500-1000/1000-1500/1500-2000/2000-
2500/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)

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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)

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