Vinyl records have been manufactured in eight formats since 1894. During the past 113 years, the music industry has seen numerous formats rise and fall. Consider the media formats that have come and gone: reel-to-reel, eight tracks, cassette tapes, mini-discs.
In 1948 the first 12 inch vinyl record was manufactured, solidifying the concept of the album. For the first time, listeners could enjoy 23 minutes of continuous music without having to flip the album over or load the next single. Artists began to record numerous songs, typically 14, and packaged them together as one concept. Other music formats continued this approach, but none have fully embodied the album concept in the same way that vinyl has.
Reason #2: CDs will soon be abandoned.
Growth in digital downloads will begin to outpace the decline in CD sales in a few years, especially since iTunes will begin to face stiff competition from Amazon and the various digital stores that EMI and Universal are nurturing. Once the major labels begin to believe that CDs need to be abandoned due to slumping numbers, they will whole heartedly embrace digital downloads. If you don’t believe me, think back to the death of cassette tapes when CDs became widely available.
Reason #3: Digital downloads are being packaged with purchases of vinyl.
When The Arcade Fire released Neon Bible, they offered a digital download with every purchase of their vinyl. On December 3, Radiohead will ship a “discbox” that will include two vinyl records, one CD, an enhanced CD, and a digital download of In Rainbows, and a digital download of bonus tracks. Vinyl record sales have increased 10% since 2004, and I predict that this trend will only continue.
Reason #4: Album collectors tend to prefer Vinyl over every other physical format.
While consumers are turning to digital downloads to listen to their music so they can upload tracks to their 160gb iPod, collectors continue to prefer vinyl as their format of choice. Ask any music collector and they’ll explain why vinyl sounds better than CDs due to its warmth. They’ll also express a passion for the album art, pointing out that CD booklets lacked in comparison.
Reason #5: Consumers view music as something they access, not own.
As albums are leaked months in advance of their release dates on peer-to-peer networks, fewer people are willing to pay for something they can access for free. Instead, the emphasis is shifting back to live performances as ticket sales have doubled. Massive music collections fill the hard drives of countless college students who gladly share files with their friends. The availability of music is beginning to change the mindset of music as something we access rather than own, whether consumers subscribe to a service such as Rhapsody, or if they download Mp3s from their friends. Access versus ownership is the real reason the CD is no longer relevant to consumers.