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History is an Angel.. .But there is a storm blowing from Paradise and the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future. And this storm, this storm is called progress. Laurie Anderson, “The Dream Before” Copyright 1989 Difficult Music BMI
T o die-hard aficionados of long-playing records, [the compact disc] is nothing less than a Faustian struggle between humanism and technocracy for music’s soul. . .A contest that pits the past against the future. -Michael Walsh (66)
Technology and economics are among the primary forces which determine or contribute to cultural transitions and movements. Innovations routinely shape and define our cultural experience and consumption patterns. Whether referred to as a “revolution,” or simply “progress,” advancements are characterized by a cause and effect processa simultaneous evolution of one form and de-evolution of another. In the current age of cable television, VCRs, and the multi-screen cineplexes, outdoor drive-ins are left standing as weed covered landmarks, and oncethriving art movie houses are filled with empty seats, both victims of the obsolescence principle. The passage of cultural icons such as these, and their accompanying artifacts and products, can often result in the emergence-or submergence-of a subculture, made up of those who, for various reasons, resist technology or progress and determinedly cling to the artifact, collecting or preserving a part of it because of the meaning and experience contained within. One of the significant cultural transitions during the 1980s involved the popular music industry and the record buying audience. The technology and economics o the Compact Disc (CD) redefined a long f established cultural product-the vinyl record-and simultaneously laid the foundation for a new subculture of vinyl collectors.
5%. Cassette shipments rose to 450 million in the same period. Some stores (Record Bar chain) and labels (Elektra) even changed their names from “Record” to “Tracks. On April 2. CD meant “certain death. a fall of 50% over the same period during 1988.” “Music. especially at malls. including popular artists such as Phil Collins. In addition. were available only on CD and cassette.” During the 1980s.7 f million in 1988. creeping deeper into their consciousness and threatening the existence of their cherished black artifact. according to the Recording Industry Association of America ( R I M ) . audio component manufacturers such as Dual and Ortofon trimmed their lines of turntables. winding louder.” They also heard radio stations promote the new format by increasingly identifying songs with the tag-“on compact disc.” or “Entertainment” in order to drop the “waxy implications. The extra cuts on CDs as incentive to change formats frustrated many hard-core record collectors. the number o CDs shipped went from zero in 1978 to 149. and Milli Vanilli. compact disc sales surpassed vinyl revenues. In stores. CDs outnumbered records by as much as 6 to 1. and closer to the compact disc alarm. Conversely. Vinyl’s decline has been a gradual process. from 341 million to 72 million. Between 1978 and 1988. cassettes outnumbered vinyl by 12 to 1. Record sales declined 33%. “Daddy’sTune” Copyright 1976 Swallow Turn Music ASCAP The year 1988 marked a turning point in the music industry. a slow death. CD sales went up 37.” ” . For the first time since its arrival in the market in 1983. rising only 1.” and more subtly noticed that vinyl was relegated to being listed third in the fine print on music ads-“available on Compact Discs.110 Journal of Popular Culture The Vinylogical Time Clock Make room for my 45s / Along beside your 78s Nothing survives Jackson Browne. To them.while cassette sales were flat. Any remaining vinyl stock was usually exiled to the back o stores or handled f by special order. An increasing number of new releases. record inventories at many major chains. other signs and sounds of the CD takeover were becoming uncomfortably common to record collectors. many pressing plants were forced to close down. While the numbers pointed to the inevitable.5%. cartridges and styluses. clearer. all 200 records on the charts were available on CD. With record companies limiting editions o albums and deleting f their vinyl catalogs. cassettes and records wherever music is sold. The vinylogical clock was ticking. vinyl had dropped to 6% of recorded music sales. Rod Stewart. the number of vinyl units (LPs and EPs) shipped by manufacturers dropped nearly 80%. diminished. while CDs increased 31%. who were torn between their loyalty to vinyl and the CD “bonus track. for the first time. leveling off at 15% of the market. By the first six months of 1989.
and the newest format. the CD has pinched the LP more quickly. and FAX machines are a part of our daily routines. vice-president of sales for Warner Brothers. The &track tape was popular through the 1970s before becoming a snarled roadside relic. The current situation with LPs. and the 78 was crowded out o the market and into a box in the attic. and if they really want to wait years for a repertory as good as what is available to them. and consumers are more willing to adopt them into their lifestyles and experience more quickly than they were five or ten years ago. music format changes are nothing new. and CDs competing in the music market parallels that of the late 1940s when the 33 joined the 45 and 78 as the available formats. Advancements are less threatening or overwhelming. the 33 accommodated musicals.Romancing the Record 11 1 Historically. And in keeping with the design of most . symphonies. As a culture. stereophonic sound replaced monaural records. The unprecedented audio clarity. the 45 proved ideal for hit singles and jukeboxes. cable. Although cassettes are the primary music format. where f its thick black surface would collect dust as an artifact of days gone by. The fast acceptance rate of the CD should not be that surprising. Digital Audio Tape (DAT). There were other marks on the music format time line as well. And by the late 1980s. and soundtracks. VCRs. and storage capacity made the CD a more attractive format than vinyl. No doubt there were those who bemoaned the loss of their Edison cylinders when shellac became available. a British critic complained: I ask readers if they want to feel that their collections of records are obsolete. we have grown to be much morecomfortable with technology as computers. disc durability. (Walsh 66) The critic was defending 78s against the encroachments o the new 33s f in much the same terms that LP defenders cast their arguments today. we are aware that changes take place at a more accelerated pace.” said Lou Dennis. cassettes. CDs and cassettes squeezed LPs out. In the 1960s. Not only have we come to expect innovations. one year after Peter Goldmark’s Long Play (LP) 33 1/3 record was introduced. The technological superiority of the CD has been hyped since the laser format was introduced in the market in 1983. with a slight price increase. was ready to enter the market. the obsolescence principle was well at work: 7-inch vinyl 45s had all but disappeared. After the confusion among consumers settled. operas. In 1949. “It took 18 years and the Walkman for cassettes to break through. if they really want LO spend money on buying discs that will save them the trouble of getting u p to change them. giving way to “cassingles”. satellites. And every advance in recording has been accompanied by the cries of those whom technology has left behind.
“But the industry has approached the problem with all the organization. When all else fails.” says Billboard’s Los Angeles bureau chief. Record company executives say they do not want to speed the LPs demise when a significant market for the configuration still exists. retailers. One executive characterized it as “near panic. vinyl does not travel.” “Both sides are making it happen. record companies have increased returns penalties by charging retailers more when they return unsold LPs than when they . The new technological advantages of the CD often overshadowed one of the most significant factors contributing to the LPs demisemobility. if only to flip the record or select a particular song. the car cassette player. president of Capitol EMI. dealers criticize manufacturers for phasing out vinyl too rapidly. we’re responding to what they want. Southern marketing manager for Warner/Reprise. and manufacturers have surfaced. which are characteristics of most new technologies. CD players could be programmed to play random tracks off multiple discs. planning. cassettes have quietly been a contributing factor. everyone involved declares “the consumer has made the final decision. the whole mobile music thing-the boom box. many feel in this case greed is a more appropriate characterization. and communication of a Three Stooges movie” (Ressner 15). The result has been considerable finger pointing at everyone’s hasty marketing moves. T o a generation raised on “boom boxes” and the Sony Walkman. Dave Di Martino. and the inability to record on discs. While the tendency is to attribute vinyl’s decline almost exclusively to compact discs. CDs featured certain conveniences that transcended the other available modes. “We certainly don’t want people buying what they can’t sell. The CD just basically delivered the knockout punch” (Thomas C-4).” as there has been no consensus as to how to manage the transition. The only disadvantages o the CD f are the high costs. but most labels have adopted sales programs that encourage retailers not to buy heavily into vinyl albums. “You want to know what really killed the LP?” asks Jarid Neff.” said Warner Brothers’ Lou Dennis. as charges of collusion between labels. music mobility is a necessity. “I think the cassette started the demise. Arguably. a constraint which may only be a temporary condition. As a disincentive to ordering LPs. The vinyl phaseout has been handled with great indecision and confusion by the music industry. “I assume the death knell has been sounded and there’s not much we can do about it.112 Journal of Popular Culture new technologies. but no one wants to take the credit or blame. However. the industry’s response during the conversion has been no different than any other time as its standard mode of operation is profit motivated. while the less automated turntable demanded some listener involvement and decisions. Manufacturers blame retailers for not stocking LPs. And.” says Joe Smith.
“Everyone’s minimizing LP inventories more so than necessary. with decisions frequently made on a case-by-case basis. senior vice-president of sales and distribution for A&M. “Our little flat friend the record is what drove the business for a long time. Generation. but in smaller editions. Sociologist/music industry analyst R. Adds David Steffen. Granted. head of the 53-store Tower Records chain. When you get a Thriller selling 35 million units. no one wants to be the first. whose Musicland group is the largest American record chain. Serge Denisoff senses a collective apprehension in the industry to end vinyl. Companies continue to press albums. you’ll know the LP is really dead” (Ressner 16). Yet there are many record industry executives and LP sentimentalists who prefer to point to other signs and figures which indicate that vinyl remains viable. Gender. The primary force behind such policies is economic. the more LP sales are. Just how much longer companies will continue vinyl manufacturing has been a much speculated date. That alone scares the industry about burying vinyl. Record companies receive more than one dollar per disc more from CD sales than from albums. “The real catalyst will be when a Bob Dylan album comes out and there’s no vinyl behind it. “When a new Dylan comes out without an LP. This policy discourages stores from f ordering titles considered “marginal. I don’t want to picture the day of the record industry without records” (Hochman E-3). vinyl LPs could last a couple more years than they’re going to” (Ressner 15). Sentiment has also contributed to the industry’s hesitation in ending vinyl completely. but the numbers seem to show that the bigger the units. because he’s still the best vinyl seller in the country. some major companies like Polygram and Warner Brothers say they still have a solid commitment to vinyl. LP sales go crazy. and the format’s inevitable demise.” argues Russ Solomon. and that although forces have combined to squeeze records from the .” says Jack Eugster. By holding back LP inventories. and Genre: Defining the Vinyl Subculture RIAA surveys offer solid evidence of vinyl’s plummeting sales. buyers are “gently manipulated” into buying discs. “Most people I know in the business are emotionally attached to vinyl. Besides. that’s really a rarity. the rest will follow. hints of extinction.” said Bob Sherrod. with prognosis ranging anywhere between 1990 to 1993. which allows companies to recover costs more quickly. “If this were being done sensibly. When Columbia or Warners pulls the plug. senior vice-president of Columbia records.Romancing the Record ” 113 return unsold units o other formats. Although an increasing number of new releases are unavailable on LP. that will be it.
In addition to generation and gender. And who are the vinyl junkies who define this subculture of collectors? A general profile o the group usually begins with generational f distinctions. and other genres are still holding their own on wax. Massachusetts. folk. “LPs still account for 50% of our overall sales and about 80% of our mail order business. In 1988.2 million new turntables. and classical listeners have almost entirely switched to cassettes and CDs. Pop. compared to 90 million turntables. He adds that vinyl sales “have dropped off some. co-founder of Rounder Records. those marked by who grew up listening to music on albums. where there are lots of hippies and draft dodgers from the Sixties who still buy vinyl” (Ressner 16). and have remained devoted through the years.” says Ken Irwin. consumers also bought 4. the subcultural movement for the exiled format is a strong one. that “90% of those turntables never get turned on. does one-third of its total business in LPs. surveys indicate that the core-LP buyer is male. which prided itself in being the only all-CD company. that $600 million in gross revenues is substantial.114 Journal of Popular Culture mainstream to the fringe or underground. Those numbers are perhaps one of the primary reasons larger record chains in malls have eliminated vinyl. the independent roots music label based in Cambridge. With vinyl accounting for five to eight percent o the record industry’s f total sales. although 5 million new CD players were sold. according to the company’s president. Other figures cast doubt on the widely held belief that the record player is also about to become obsolete. but R&B. “We love vinyl. the Chicago based blues and folk label. as that demographic is less likely to frequent the mall than the younger teenage-to-24 age group. Other “all-CD” companies such as Dunhill Compact Classics and Mobile Fidelity are also now dealing in vinyl. music genre helps characterize the composition of the vinyl subculture. These figures seem to refute the suggestion by Steve Bennett.”’ There are other facts which may provide some momentary comfort to ease the vinyl junkies’ anxiety. but not nearly as much as the industry says they should” (Ressner 16). .” MCA vice-president Walt Wilson reinforces this view: “About the only reason we’re doing vinyl is for critics and for Canada.” Alligator Records. Blues. began manufacturing vinyl LPs in 1988. over the age of 24. rock. It’s a bunch of inactive hardware. Bruce Iglauer. and often older than 35. Rykodisc. Gender-wise. This group commonly includes those individuals who “came of age during the 1960s. There are currently 20 million CD players in homes. vice-president of marketing for the 135-store Record Bar chain.
the majors are also well represented. Maria McKee’s selftitled debut. Geffen Records recently announced that the new record by the British group Fuzzbox would only be released on CD and cassette. but reversed the decision after complaints from Kates’ department. a figure which is in Kates’ terms “ridiculously high.” He adds. Latin. In the month of August. Supporting Kates’ view are Warner Elektra Asylum’s (Geffen’s distributor) unit sales figures from 1989. f ” . and overflowing crowds at the increasing number of Record conventions and shows.1% in Jazz. African-so you see considerably fewer people doing CDs” (Unterberger. three WEA records which received airplay on the college/alternative formats-Peter Case’s T h e Man W i t h the Blue Postmodern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar. “There’s going to be people out there selling vinyl forever. and I just want to make sure that the big artists in my department continue to be pressed on vinyl-The Creatures. 11.3% in Black.3% in Country. Sonic Youth. and XTC’s double album Oranges and Lemons-netted a combined average of 12%. and 5. “It happens to be selling 10% in alternative music. to 15. For all WEA products. vinyl totaled 5%. look a little harder.Romancing the Record 115 Sales also remain strong in Soul. 7. the underground market revealed a greater availability of records at flea markets. 9. due in part to rappers who use records for “scratching. and at times pay a little more money. One of the strongest places for the vinyl album is the rock underground. ranging from zero in Classical (which is what brings the average down).3% in Pop. Peter Case alone sold 22% vinyl during the year. According to Todd Ploharski o Rock ’N’Roland. 7. Their vinyl pressing decisions are usually done on a case-by-casebasis. Although many artists from this axis are on independent labels. During the late 1980s. a rise in mail order and import business. “It’s true that vinyl isn’t selling in a lot of formats.” Kates concedes.8% in Alternative.6% in Metal. The vinyl subculture is not entirely made up of an older generation of hippies or hard-core collectors. many major labels have had to reassess their position on vinyl before forsaking L P editions of their fringe titles. director of alternative A&R at Geffen Records. which features music from the college and alternative/progressive radio formats. Calypso. which is why I made a big stink about the Fuzzbox record. “For ethnic labels there is not such a f high penetration of CD players in those markets-Reggae. I don’t see alternative buyers walking away from vinyl that quickly” (Unterberger 1: 14). “The dance records and ethnic markets are very strong for LPs” says Tony Van Veen o Discmakers. 1: 14). which indicate that alternative music is still selling more than most formats on vinyl. According to Mark Kates. The scarcity o vinyl in the mainstream has forced collectors to walk f a little farther.” and the popularity of the 12-inch dance single.
because a lot of stations still need vinyl.” The boom in the used record store business can largely be attributed to the growing number of CD converts selling their entire record collections on their way to buying their first disc player. Although large chains provide the volume sales for the industry. We’re like some record refuge for collectors. though forced underground. or more people unloading their record collections. record companies are increasingly recognizing the value of the used and specialty market. In a survey of several major metropolitan LP-only and used record stores. ‘God. Buyers anticipate new records and blitz stores the first week.116 Journal of Popular Culture an Atlanta based record collector organization which sponsors conventions at least six times a year. it’s new-release business. The record crowd has always been a devoted. is stronger than ever. desperation.* “With the few remaining chains that stock vinyl. On an alternative artist you can break even on a pressing of 5000 pieces of vinyl when at least 1000 of those are going to be promos. attendance at our shows has been phenomenal. passionate bunch of collectors. “People come back for what they grew up with. owners indicated that their sales have increased-not decreased-during the past three years. sales drop off the cliff. we’ve learned that it’s better to sell a . I can’t believe I found this!’ Half the fun is searching for that rare album.” Jim Richardson of Atlanta’s Chapter 3 Records. or museums.” says Richardson. Through the Warner Brother alternative marketing people. Whether it’s CD anxiety. the vinyl trade. like a little community. among the record collectors. Much of the used inventory also includes promotional copies of records. There seems to be a very special bond. the usual obsessivebehavior. and the love of the music is the other half that makes recording collecting so motivational” (Yandel E-5). for the vinyl subculture. After that. f Perhaps the most significant shift result from diminishing vinyl can be seen in the movement to smaller stores. whose music inventory is 80 percent vinyl. including the comic book freaks. LP devotees are the beneficiaries as they can pick up some real gems for their own collections. comments. some sense o purpose. we probably average two or three calls a day from larger chains like Turtles or Metronome asking if we have one LP or another. many of which are filtered down from radio stations. Specialty shops and used record stores have become havens. people will be screaming for albums. as intense as any group I’ve ever been associated with. “When they totally phase out vinyl.” whose two used record stores are located in New Orleans’ French Quarter district. “Our sales are steady. WEA’s Kates explains: I have a big problem in a record being serviced to college radio on CD. Within the past few years.” explains “Record Ron. “You see their faces light u p and they say. Right now. f but people have just come out o the woodwork.
There’s going to be a lot of stuff that will never show up on CD and people will want to have it” (Ressner). Danny Beard. “And there will be a large market for a specialty manufacturer who’s going to go to labels and license titles and pay a small royalty. both co-owner of Wax N’ Facts. The person who buys it will probably buy their next record clean. as many records unavailable in vinyl on domestic labels can be ordered as an import. folks. Swimming Pool Q’s). It may be a bit extreme. Others in the industry also believe that as LPs become more scarce. be it Madonna. buyers will have to pay a premium for them. 14) Many predict the vinyl specialty store and used record business will “explode” and be a fairly large industry during the 1990s. -Michael Fremer.” Cornfiact Discontent and the Passing of a Cultural Icon Things in CD land ain’t what they appear to be. i t has been bittersweet how the various forces have redefined a cultural product which defined a generation. “Rock and roll was born to the LP and now the format is dying. (Unterberger Part 1. the South’s most successful independent label (early B-52’s. editor. But I find that loyalty to the album very admirable. “That means retail LP prices will go up while CD prices come down. That’s hard to take.” Rounder Records’ Bruce Iglauer agrees.” says Pat Schweiterman.Romancing the Record 117 promo than not sell anything at all. “What I see for the LP is manufacturers continuing to make sure they don’t get hurt by pressing them. T o that generation who lived . or CDs.” In some cases. so they’ll charge more and more for them. T o those who grew up with the LP and 45s. especially when you consider they could get a CD for the same price. or less. the price increase has been self-imposed by vinyl devotees who choose to pay for their passion. such as recordings by little known bands on independent labels. but why be surprised? You’ve got to suspicious of anything or anyone who succeeds during the Reagan years. and classic reissues o early R & f B and country recordings by the majors probably won’t come out on CD. and president of DB Records.” says A & M Records’ David Steffen (Hochman). Cost doesn’t matter. which usually doubles the price. a buyer for Tower Records. “They insist.” comments Beard. “I think there’ll be big bucks made in selling old albums. the Boss. Nutra Sweet. “It shows what people will do just to have a record on vinyl. Atlanta’s most successful used record store. expresses similar concerns: “Much of the music that would be routinely issued on vinyl. i t marks the passing of a cultural icon. The Absolute Sound The vinyl transition is more than business and technology. One trend store owners have reported is the significant increase in special orders for imports.” says retailer Howard Applebaum.
” Accompanying the record reverence is a simultaneous resistance as vinyl devotees have expressed their compact discontent in various ways.118 Journal of Popular Culture through an era when vinyl transformed rock and roll from a singlesoriented medium to the more ambitious and conceptual art form that albums like Sgt. dimensionless sound from all your music. Steve Fallon o Coyote Records. Bob Mould. artificial. but two turntables. scanned. and months later was reprinted in the record collector’s publication. Goldmine. The article appeared in Music Connection (22 August 1988). If you want what is still the finest way to enjoy music in the home. Fremer writes: CDs are to records what videos are to movies: sampled. . that is. “I think I can hold out another year. articles question the CD’s “perfect sound forever” and point out flaws such as laser rot. a pick from a thumb. if you want one-note “bass” where you can’t tell a Hoffner from a Precision from a Jazzmaster. processed. An example is a commentary by Michael Fremer. and other items in a “Save the LP” campaign. sweatshirts. “I still haven’t bought a CD player. I want to be sure that my treasured LPs are there to sustain me” (6). vinyl represents a part o history. buy LPs and invest in a good belt-drive turntable. go spend $15 for the privilege and buy CDs. “I’ve just bought not one. formerly of Husker Du.If you want fake. I sort of feel like the CD is being forced on me.000 records. . Other responses to the conversion have a less resentful tone. In 1987. the California based Rhino Records distributed buttons. f With that sense of history comes an emotional attachment to the artifact. In perhaps the most reactionary move against the CD takeover. senior music editor of The Absolute Sound. only until they have to.” said record collector Bruce Barham. If your CD player sounds better than your turntable. And emotion alone has made parting with the valued configuration difficult for vinyl junkies. you have f a lousy turntable. In editorial fashion. who bought his first album in 1964-Meet the Beatles-and has since added more than 12. Fallon explains: . With stubborn ears. and even more stubborn hearts. both cultural and personal. and coarse. many appear unwilling to concede to the CD generation. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band showed i t could be. And that really bothers me. The crusade also appeared in print as vinyl advocates have frequently used column space of audio magazines as sounding boards to attack the threatening new technology. William Livingston offers a preservation point o view. In a column in Stereo Review. lifeless. missing huge chunks o information. and f Nicholas Hill have started the Singles Only Label. Much as I am f intrigued by the Compact Disc.
” says Pat Schweiterman o Tower Records. or come close to that. “When you buy a record you feel f like you’re buying something substantial. prefer the advantages of the small compact disc. I don’t think these 45s are going to make us any easier to get played. that form of creative expression is reduced to the size of a baseball card on cassettes. “For the upcoming generation.” Although written tirades. and distinctive label packaging. or feeling.” Retailers.” agrees collector Barham. co-owner o the 50 f Skidillion Watts label. on a CD package. and only slightly larger on the 5inch by 5-inch album length shiny compact discs. I’m f an LP cover fan and it’s just horrible seeing that stuff translated down to that size” (Unterberger 1: 14). will fade from the language. like the album. “From a marketing standpoint. I think it’s more of a comment. Not only was i t done for the CD reason. hoarding components destined for obsolescence. but also because I don’t think bands can afford to make albums any more. The movement away from vinyl LPs and 45s toward cassettes and compact discs also reflects a broader cultural trend toward miniaturization. Kate Messer. the LP was incredible.” said M. It’s big.Romancing the Record 119 “A lot of independent record companies can’t afford CDs. We just do it so that bands can get some exposure and some kind of foundation going. Kostek. also prefers LPs. The sales have gone down so badly because of the overtaking of the independent market by the majors’ alternative companies. insightful liner notes. “I’m hopeful my children will appreciate vinyl. Kostek’s partner. This is the first time such “shrinkage” and scaling down . and eliminating CD from the alphabet may be viewed as desperate. it’s a hell of a lot easier with an album. Yet some in the industry like the album’s size.” said the collector. illustrating his point with an album cover portrait o jazz great John Coltrane. of course. In the format transition.” (Unterberger 2: 14) One of the most unusual cases of “CD anxiety” was shared by one die-hard who insists on skipping the letters “C” and “D” when teaching his two-year old daughter the alphabet. futile responses in a losing struggle against technology. f “You just can’t get the same image. or CD singles. Browsing through bins. “I don’t like the sound o CDs and I think the packaging sucks. It makes it virtually impossible to recoup what the initial investment was. maybe even understand what ‘sounds like a broken record’ means. that phrase. these acts of resistance are also indications of the collector’s emotional attachment to the vinyl LP. They take up less display space in stores and require less freight expense.C. Another focus of the vinylists’ lament is the size of their treasured black artifact. The difference between buying a small pizza and a large pizza. Collectors speak passionately about artsy album covers and graphics. “The main loss in all of this is the artwork and just the feel of the record.
You’ll be able to encode a whole album on a chip the size of your fingernail and carry a whole record library in your pocket” (Haight 24). or playing with the zipper on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers L P to the personal pride in thinking how impressive a record library looks stacked on the wall. no doubt. Virgin America (Pond 117) The vinyl LP. historical. and cultural forces which have contributed to its demise. and there’s going to be a more efficient carrier and format in the future. New modes of presentation will be emphasized. or 45-embody meanings that are social. and now with vinyl’s passing. and I saw the trickle down of technology. 33 1/3. cultural. I just have this really cruddy feeling that that’s what’s happening with CDs. The vinyl experience is that box of 78s a collector will never get rid of. and romance. It’s more than music. To collectors. . We’ll be selling little silicone chips. “Ten or fifteen years from now. Like other artifacts of an age. as technology’s relationship with music evolves. while the “old” will be de-emphasized. To take it away you take away a part of their history. The revolutions per minute-whether 78. or icons. and its phaseout. President. economic. will continue. there will be something new. For the Record: From C D to Shining CD.” said Kate Messer. Don Radcliffe. or the technological. “I saw a lot of deliberate holding back of technology basically to milk the market.120 Journal of Popular Culture has revealed itself in music with such an impact. The significance of vinyl records extends beyond the sounds in its pooves. or being able to relate a story or experience for every record in the collection. From decorating rooms with colorful album covers. the Vinyl Days A lot of people grew up with vinyl.it’s an era. vinyl records contain meaning derived from human experience. Jeff Ayeroff. “Some of my real world jobs were in educational media. Justin Entertainment (Thomas 4) The CD establishes the future. perhaps fading to the point of obsolescence. personal. I think this is a transitional format” (Unterberger 2: 12). sentimental. . passion. This progression. vinyl is an experience that embraces emotion. signals a cultural moment that is marked by the redefining of a product and the formation of a subculture of collectors. Already the cycle may be set to repeat itself as Digital Audio Tape-CD quality sound on a palm-sized cassette-is ready to challenge the existing formats in the music market. It’s like the Monsanto House o the Future Exhibit at f Disneyland. Record Bar’s Barry Bergmen agrees. rather than popping a cassette . co-president. Or the quirky post-purchase appeal of having to wait to get home to a turntable before hearing a new record.
or hiss from a record that has worn from extensive play. the next single ready to drop down to play. Keith Richards’ Talk Is Cheap was marketed in a “Keith in a Can” package.” objected one collector. Vintage Vinyl in St. . MO. emotion. Record labels routinely chose to print musician’s credits and song lyrics only on CDs and cassettes. The feeling of holding an album. Chapter 3. Eat More Records. and Wax Tracks in Chicago. For several years he has expressed his indifference toward prolonging LPs. And it is because of the meaning and experience. I guess we should just be grateful the company put the record out on vinyl. so why not include the liner notes on the LP? Let vinyl die with dignity. Vinyl is biography. “As if vinyl dying isn’t bad enough. The record speaks for itself. no doubt it’s economics. LA. spinning around and around and around. And vinyl is history. and Second HandTunes. And the sight of vinyl-a 78 turning on the Victorola. and Fantasyland in Atlanta. such as Roger McQuinn’s Back from Rzo (1991) on Arista. Record Swap.” Rolling Stone 10 March 1988. and Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum in Toronto. Bennett has been one o the f most outspoken advocates against vinyl. As an example. or worse. But the way things are now. a record that someone borrowed and returned scratched up. pop.” “skimping” and leaving out information on CD packages. Among industry executives. Louis. Ontario. that makes the vinyl record so difficult to part with. Vinyl is culture and subculture. CD-only packages. *Store owners surveyed included Wazoo in Ann Arbor. then placing it down on the turntable.” he said. holding the edges careful not to fingerprint the vulnerable black surface. “It’s not surprising. 3Although manufacturers have been commonly criticized for “cutting corners. Reckless Records. And the sound o vinylf a crack.Romancing the Record 121 into the car stereo. removing the 12inch records from its sleeve. “skimping” was more common in vinyl packaging. Record Ron’s in New Orleans.” Works Cited Fremer. not on album sleeves. Michael. Notes ‘Quoted in Fred Goodman. 1988: 23. Yet an album and cassette cost the same. “Record Industry Prepares to Bury the LP. The Turntable. the album jacket noted that credits and lyrics were available by writing the company. “What’s Wrong With Compact Discs?” Goldmine 2 Dec. they’ve got to punish us for sticking with albums. 24. GA. By 1990. activating the tonearm until the stylus softly sets down in the grooves. The “intermission” between changing-sides. limited edition. never to be lent again. and romance. that’s fine with me. Wax ’N’ Facts. the investment of passion. there have also been several recordings available in higher priced. MI. “If they don’t want to make the LP. a stack of 45s. or the colored label of a 33 encircled by black. In some cases. Canada.
Livingston.“Going. 1988: E5. AL 36849. “Vinyl’s Final Days.” Rolling Stone 15 Nov. Pond. Jeffrey.” Option Nov. 1986: 66. Steve. William. Richie. Unterberger. Walsh. Yandel.“The Great LP vs.” Rolling Stone 10 March 1988: 24. “Many Die-Hard Record Lovers Spinning From Vinyl’s Demise. Fred. Ressner. He desperately clings to his CD virginity. Thomas.*‘Facing the Music: Retailers Say LPs Won’t Be Playing Much Longer. Auburn.“Issue By Issue: T h e CD Takeover (part two). . Gary.” Option Jan. 1990: 14. 1989: 14. Gone?” Rolling Stone 20 April 1989: 15.“The Industry i n the Eighties.” Time 25 Aug.“Will Those Vinyl Records Be All Played Out by 1988?” Los Angeles Times 8 Oct./Feb. George Plasketes is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Auburn University. 1990: C4.Kathy Haight.” Atlanta Constitution 27 Feb. 1984: 6.“Record Industry Prepares to Bury the LP. Steve. Going. “Issue By Issue: T h e CD Takeover. Keith L.122 Journal of Popular Culture Goodman. CD War. Michael. . 1990: 117.” Atlanta journal 25 Oct.” Stereo Review Oct./Dec.“Speaking My Piece. Hochman. 1988: E3.” Charlotte ( N C ) Obseruer 24 July 1988: 24.
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