Friday, July 19

Vinyl albums show off musical personality

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s 2012, and just like I warned may happen, I’m back with another quarter of “B-sides.” For those who have forgotten what the column addresses, the information lost in a haze of holiday merriment and ridiculous sugar cookie-induced weight gain, here’s a brief refresher.

In “B-sides,” I take a look at an item of recent music news and offer my take on it in the hopes that my opinion will represent a point of view that may be new and interesting ““ like a b-side. With that, let’s dive right into the new year.

At the start of 2012, the music industry is a world in flux. Reuters recently reported that album sales in the United States in 2011 rose for the first time since 2004, up 1.4 percent from 326.2 million units sold in 2010 to 330.6 million last year. But this rise in sales did not take place across all different types of media.

As is to be expected, physical CD sales dropped six percent, yet another note in the death march of physical CDs. Digital sales conversely rose 20 percent last year, which helped overall sales to grow despite the drop in physical sales.

As the music world continues to look to the future of more streamlined and click-oriented music, a dark horse is also looking to jump up in the pack. And this dark horse represents a fondness for the more distant past. Vinyl albums, though still not a major source of music revenue, did see an increase in sales from 2.8 million units in 2010 to 3.9 million last year.

Does that just mean that the amount of hipsters in the country has gone up by 1.9 million over the course of the past year? I doubt it. There is something simple and elegant about a vinyl album. It’s as much a piece of art as it is a vehicle for songs.

And I believe its rise in prominence signals a desire among many music fans to perhaps lean toward digital sales as a better and more practical way of listening to music, all the while looking to the retro whimsy of vinyl albums to catalogue their own musical personalities.

Vinyls, unlike CDs, can be hung up like a poster or shelved like books (neither of which the blocky and cold-looking CD can accomplish ““ or digital tracks, for that matter).

As we move forward into another exciting year for music, the world of digital music will continue to be the method most music fans use to listen to the latest hits. But it will be vinyls that will signal a fan’s true love for a band, a proud declaration of fandom.

An example: Sure, I have songs by Kanye West, LMFAO and Jason Mraz in my iTunes library, but my heart truly lies with the musical likes of Bon Iver and The Beatles, and I own a vinyl of both “Abbey Road” and “Bon Iver.”

It remains to be seen how the music industry will adapt this year, especially to the increasing legal and financial complexity of the instant musical gratification that digital music offers. Piracy still runs rampant, and online streaming sites such as Spotify still have a few kinks to work out.

I hope and think that big things are on the way this year. Join me in investigating them, won’t you?

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