Vinyl is Surging, Take Notice!

Vinyl is back baby! According to all the new numbers coming out, vinyl is not only making a comeback but it is starting a slow but steady domination. This is great news because personally I love vinyl. There is a whole experience with putting on a vinyl record which is so refreshing compared to the digital formats. Don't get me wrong digital definitely has it's perks but there have been so many unintended consequences, it's no surprise vinyl sales are surging.

One of the biggest killers of modern music is the overuse and abuse of compression aka "the loudness war." It's ironic because digital audio has so much space for dynamic range but instead of using that space to create sonic masterpieces, the exact opposite has happened. Music being released now has less dynamic range then the music made for Edison Phonographs in the late 1800's.

Recently, I heard a major label release that was so compressed I could hear it clipping and distorting through my monitors. This was not a basement track either, but from one of the biggest names in Metal. It was unreal.

There is a debate whether or not people enjoy the sound of compressed music as a matter of taste. The argument is given a choice between identical pieces of music, people generally think the louder one is better. With that logic, the loudness war came to being. The loudness war has been evident since the time of jukeboxes where labels would push their tracks to be louder then the competitions music to stand out.

Here is the deal though, there is no such thing as loud without quite. It is in the contrast between loud and quite that gives the music power. When everything is the same loudness, all you have left is a bland potato. Think of it like painting. You need black AND white to make contrast. With music the quite and loud parts of a track are the black and white.

There is no need for the music on an album to be compressed to hell if it's geared for a radio or streaming environment either. These platforms already use limiters and compressors to keep the sound uniform between tracks. Ironically, highly compressed music sounds worse then a dynamic track on these platforms. It makes no sense.

This is why the resurgence of vinyl is so important, and is on everyone in the music businesses radar. Vinyl doesn't work under the same mastering specifications as digital audio. Vinyl has a range where it can't be to low or to high because the needle will skip out of the groove. This gives vinyl a dynamic range advantage because you can't squash the shit out of the music. The sonic detail of vinyl is reason enough for most audiophiles to be drawn to it, but there is also a connection to the musicians that vinyl offers over a digital release.

When you hold a vinyl record in your hand you get a big physical product that you play from start to finish. When I was a kid, I was part of the cassette tape generation. You couldn't skip tracks and you had no idea where a song stops and a new one starts. You just rewound it to the beginning and played it out.

That is missing with modern music. Now it's hard enough to get someone to pay attention to a single let alone a whole LP. Vinyl brings that experience back. You get a great sound, along with a story, and then top it off with cool album art. For some people that kind of stuff doesn't matter, but here is the reality. Those people have never been the ones that seriously bought music.

I don't blame piracy or the internet for the decline of music sales as much as I blame bad business decisions of the major labels and the loudness war. The resurgence of vinyl strengthens that assertion. There is a core group of people, some call them audiophiles, that are the base for the record business.

What those core customers want is the music to sound amazing. They cannot get that sound with digital or cd's, but they can get that with vinyl. Beyond the nostalgia of playing a vinyl record, the biggest reason, in my opinion, in the resurgence of sales is that the sound quality is much much better. Better quality equals more sales. Why would I want to buy music that is loud as fuck and clips. That's like trying to sell me burnt cookies. People don't want that, especially the core group of people that buy records.

Everyone in the music business is watching vinyl sales and hopefully they will learn an important lesson, quit fucking up the sound of music with the loudness war!

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