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Monday, 29 November 2021


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I still have a little more overall fun sorting through my record collection than streaming, though I stream more often. Usually I'll play one side, then try another album. My most recent record purchase is "Last of The Better Days Ahead," by Charlie Parr. Highly recommended.

Classic turntables are making a comeback too. I want one of these:


> Music sales peaked in 1999 at $24 million, vs. $14 million now.

Surely this is an order of magnitude off?

[Typo, fixed now. --Mike]

very freshwater: talent is rewarded by money.

nevertheless, i understand your general point. analog stuff is rebounding. future of music is dimming

“Music sales peaked in 1999 at $24 million, vs. $14 million now.”

Mike, if you’re referring to recorded music, “$14 million now” is a significantly underexposed number to use a photography term.

In 2020, total global revenue of the recorded music industry was almost $24 billion dollars. Streaming made up slightly more than 56 percent or $13 billion dollars.

You might want to re-check the source for your figures. $14 million is more likely to be the total compensation package for one of the key players in the industry:)

Hi Mike. I don't know where those sales numbers came from, but surely that ought to be billions rather than millions of dollars?

The RIAA values 1999 sales at around $14 billion, though IMO they made some optimistic assumptions.


What Grandparents discard, Grandchildren rediscover.

Check-out https://www.thirdmanrecords.com/ They sell vinyl, they press vinyl.

Composers will continue to compose, singers will continue to sing. There will still be a lot of weddings, etc that need music.

My adherence to a music format has always had a lot to do with the audio system in my vehicle. When I was young, I bought junkers that of course came with AM/FM radios and so I always had my trusty RadioShack cassette deck mounted under the dash. It wasn’t until 2001 that I got a CD player in my brand new Toyota Tacoma which came with both a cassette player and a CD player…very fancy-schmancy for me at the time. I drove that Tacoma for 20 years and just recently inherited my Dads 2017 Jeep Patriot which has no infotainment system, electric windows, or electric door locks but does have a SiriusXM radio with CD, MP3 input jack, and Bluetooth. The Bluetooth and electrochromic rear-view mirror are the only modern conveniences in the Patriot but I’m not complaining. Over the last few months I’ve grown to love the old school simplicity of the Jeep and of course it also reminds me of Dad. I no longer own that old RadioShack cassette deck but if I did…I’d probably mount it under the dash of the Patriot for old times’ sake because I’ve has a cassette player in my vehicles for more than 40 years now…which I believe makes me King of the Luddites, Mike. It’s been awhile since I listened to a cassette but I’m sure those ancient homemade mix tapes will still play just fine.

As far as LP’s go, I was a teenager in the 70’s so I will always have a working turntable and I will always refer to a new release as a new album…which is as it should be.

click...pop...CLICK!... pop pop pop. Never again!

It makes sense, doesn't it? Physical mediums are nowadays to sit down and listen, taking one's time. CDs are more convenient than LPs but LPs have much bigger and better cover art, handling them has their own nostalgic feel that CDs do not and there's a wider range to collect.

Meanwhile, streaming is the logical conclusion of digital music since it offers the entire archive everywhere, freeing up the listener of moving files around. Buying copies will persist in the margins, however, because not everything is available for streaming and some need copies for various reasons.

I've had tinnitus since 1960. I find the quality of music to be unimportant. Vinyl sounds as bad as Compact Discs and streaming music.

However I can edit tape using a splicing block/tape. I've edited everything from 1/4 inch to two inch analog. Time marches on and it is a skill that is seldom needed anymore. And so it goes.

I tend of think of a CD as equivalent to a photo that has had the contrast turned up just a little bit too high. Vinyl has the contrast just about right. Might have a few snap crackle pops, but the overall sound is a little warmer.

Being allergic to dust I banned vinyl and film.

Vinyl seekers should take note that the revered analog era of LP vinyl recording effectively ended some two decades ago. Nearly all of the ensuing recording and studio mixing has been achieved digitally, so the vinyl media of today consists of digitally processed content that's been repackaged for microgroove storage. If you’re of the school that “can’t bear digital sound,” your vinyl shopping should be confined to musty tubs that stock old, used LP records.

Mike, I went through all the 1970s and 80s with LPs as my main source, and I owned great cassette decks (Nakamichi and Aiwa) too. The reason for the cassette decks was to record the LPs on their first playing, as the sound deteriorated from the first play onwards. Click, plop, crackle, hiss. Never, never, never would I go back to LPs, records. Why would I, when CD sound is perfect and stays that way for every play?

OK, maybe CDs are too clinical for you. Too "cold". Then add distortion - use filters to restrict the sound to your taste. Same for amplifiers - if solid state amps are too cold for you and you want the "warm" sound of valves, then use filters and effects to add distortion, tune the sound to the way you like it.

The other thing is that LPs cost way more than CDs. I wouldn't pay those prices. No, no, no, no... I'll never go back.

The fact is, I gave all my LPs away in the 1990s and these days I have around 1,100 CDs. I've "ripped" them ALL to my hard drive and I use MusicBee to give me a great display of all the covers and play them for me. They're all ripped as .wavs or FLACs, lossless in other words. I'm happy.

Riffing from Peter's comment, it has always amazed me how much digital photography aligns with the audio world. I was exposed to audio much earlier, learning about distortion, noise (or tape hiss), noise filters and their drawbacks, dynamic range, and more. Then bit rate and "data" with CD's. The Holy Grail in the 80's was the coming "pure digital" recordings, when tape would finally be gone, and it would be digital all the way through. Now, in both digital photography and audio, we have access to massive and deep data, and we have a need to emulate the softer sounds and looks of the old analog mediums. So it's back to tube amps, records, and all kinds of digital film emulation, with a few people going back to film only, though as with vinyl, there is often still digital involved (perhaps through scanning instead of darkroom printing). I'm tempted to say, "it's all good," but I do think it could be better. I miss record stores. Our last one closed down during Covid.

Ahh, vinyl; the audiophiles’ version of film photography, complete with all the usual claims of sensory superiority. Never mind the dust, the scratches, the static pops, the gradual wear of the stylus, … that’s…err…the “character” of the medium!

Whatever enhances someone’s enjoyment of the work is fine with me. Sensory experiences need not be technically rational. For me, however, listening to Chet Baker or Tosca while watching sunset on a remote island represents a sublime experience, one not possible with vinyl.

The main thing to keep in mind about streaming is that it is in some ways just an elaborate grift that gives the end user cheap music, pays off the record companies (in Spotify's case, through stock deals) to allow it, but gives most performers almost nothing.

Not that they were getting much with CDs or records either, but they were getting more.

So I try to both stream and also still buy downloads and the occasional physical media (I don't like storing the disks of either type though).

Records at least have nice covers to look at instead of those stupid CD booklets.

Along with the return of vinyl, cheap turntables and even cheaper portable record players are being sold. I am afraid a lot of the folks new to the pleasures of vinyl may not be aware that the cute retro looking inexpensive device they purchased is tearing up their rather expensive new records. The price of a good turntable and cartridge these days probably exacerbates the problem too.


[That was *great*. That's the kind of expertise the world is losing these days...I often think that about B&W film and print technique too...we're losing an awful lot of expertise that was hard-won. Way of the world I guess. --Mike]

Vinyl is going through its own supply chain crisis, and has been for at least a few years now. Here is a story from 2014: https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/363-why-arent-there-more-vinyl-pressing-plants/

So what do indie artists do to achieve analog? Cassette tapes. https://staaltape.wordpress.com/audiozine-3-valerie-kuehne/

Meanwhile, I just stream the music. I do my best to convince my wife to play music out of Bluetooth speakers instead of directly out of the phone. Such is my golden ears syndrome. I rarely succeed, and even this I am getting accustomed to.

This curious revival of vinyl records parallels, to some extent, the revival of film photography. Five years ago, photographers, including ones who write on your blog, essentially chortled with delight that film was dead. Now a new generation of photographers is appreciating the visual characteristics of film. And now, surprise surprise, many of the former critics squeak up on internet forums to tell new timers how experienced they were with using film.

Unfortunately, for many of us today, David Byrne's lyrics are somewhat spot on:
"But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones, Ain't got no records to play."

iTunes: it’s Apple Music now, to which I subscribe (£10 a month), and a huge chunk of the last 60 years’ worth of recorded music is mine; plus of course all the latest stuff. I love it! But it must be soul-destroying for a young musician. All their influences are immediately available to the listener at the click of a mouse. It must be much easier to find your own voice when it’s hard to actually be able to listen to many others.

Vinyl was a LOT more than 6.6% of all music sales in 1988.

But its resurgence is beyond doubt, and testament to the victory of fad and fashion over performance. Sort of like jeans: hot in heat, cold in cold, zero insulation when wet, and slow to dry…yet everybody has to have some and thinks they are great.

Hey Mike, I checked those 5366 products listed on acousticsounds.com under 180g vinyl: they have a *median* price of US$30. Each.

That’s Veblen good territory, don’t you think?

For $1000 you get 33 pretty items, whereas the same investment in Apple Music gets you over 8 years of access to 90 million items in excellent compressed stereo, lossless high-res stereo, or object-oriented surround-sound Atmos. Even the compressed stereo option has better sound than 90% of the vinyl offerings: don’t go believing any hype to the contrary. Plus the $1000 in Apple Music gets you access to every new release for the next 8 years, in all genres of music. In high res. And Atmos.

Yep, I call Veblen.

By any measure, vinyl records add coloration to the sound laid down by the microphones and adjusted during the mix. That added color is not always bad, but it's always there. It's a little like using a warming filter for every photo, even the interiors lit by candlelight that are already kinda toasty.

I suspect most of what drives vinyl these days is that the apparatus is fun to play with. And it absolutely is--I keep my old Thorens table in top form because I enjoy doing so. But then the current mirrorless youth tell we old, hoary users of such impressively useless (in their eyes) machines as, say, a Sinar P or a Pentax 6x7 are more into equipment than we are into (adopting an appropriate tone) art. Oookaaay.

But one thing is for sure: NOW is the time to start building that collection of CD's, because their comeback is inevitable as those who grew up on CD's reach the age of nostalgia.

Will vinyl hold its own after the current dead-cat bounce? Ask film cameras.

(I have also needledropped most of my vinyl records and ripped most of my CD's, mostly so I can put them on a thumb drive to play them in the car. And I do have MusicBee and use that around the house. But using physical media--the real loser in the stats you quoted, Mike--is intentional, and I sustain this personal myth of doing things on purpose. And I don't like paying rent for something I can own more cheaply. But what do I know? I have a house full of books, too.)

I do not want to get involved in silly high fidelity war. But for people saying that records do or do not sound better than CDs: please stop.

I am among other things a guitar player. I have two things I treasure very much: a borrowed hand-made copy of an early 1960s Supro amplifier, and a not-borrowed copy (again, I know: even German cameras would be rather cheap compared to the cost of an original) of a 1958 Telecaster.

The amp is extremely limited, the tremolo circuit thumps in an annoying way. The guitar ... well, it is a tele so you have to stand in the right place so the hum is only quite loud, the intonation is rubbish, the tone control crackles and the output is really too low to use easily. If you want to adjust the neck relief you have to take it to bits. If you are lucky it will go back together without needing to spend too long adjusting the intonation. The machine heads are frankly rubbish.

This is an objectively terrible combination. It is also the combination Jimmy Page used for the first two Led Zeppelin albums, and once you practice enough you will know why: it is, plainly, astonishing. Playing it is like driving a 1920 Aston Martin[*]: difficult, quite dangerous, not very fast, noisy and you will smell of petrol but ... it is the most beautiful machine you will ever see and it will change your life.

That is what records are: they are not high fidelity[**], they will get scratched ... but records and a record player are marvels of mechanical engineering and listening to the right record at the right time in your life with the right person is not something you will ever forget.

[*] Not one made by any of the latter-day companies, but a real one.

[**] Really, they are not.

I received my first CD for my 40th birthday, I won't say when that was but it's a while back. It was Mozart Symphonies 40 and 41. I still have it. I had tons of wonderful vinyl, from von Karajan's Beethoven Symphonies to Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat. It killed me to leave the room if vinyl was playing... I was "wasting" the vinyl. It is true, each playing, even with the best cartridge and stylus, with the anti-skate properly set, diminished and shortened the life of the record. Many of us spent way too much time listening to the system, listening for flaws, rather than to the music. I read of a person in England who commented in a stereo magazine that when he listened on his crummy car stereo, he actually listened to the music, otherwise he was listening to the amp, the pre-amp, the speakers... I sold my vinyl, at rock bottom prices, as well as my lovely Thorens TD-125 with the exquisite SME arm. Now I use hearing aids but still love the music!

Fascinating post, particularly for those of us "of a certain age." Back in the very early '80s, a friend returned from Japan with a CD player before most of us had heard of CDs. It was from Denon and of course a 100V unit but we made it work. I decided I had to have one and set the same budget figure you did. First unit I saw for retail sale was a Magnavox - 3040, I believe - and I couldn't buy it fast enough. Served me well for years until I discovered the Sony ES series units. I'm on my second X7ESD. If it ever fails I will replace it in kind and if I run across another I will buy it as a spare.
Re album art, I concur and before the www it certainly sold albums but for us it was all about the liner notes. That was how we learned who played on what and thereby provided pointers to other artists and studio musicians of interest. Although we have better sources of information today, ferreting out our next musical discovery back in the day was such joy.
To end on a sour note, the CD vs vinyl debate has been decided. Nobody is buying either one.

My son (17 yo) buys vinyl regularly. We don't own a record player though. It's all about the cover art and owning a physical object connecting him to bands he likes.

Note, I wasn't happy when CDs first came around (recovering audiophile here) but the bugs of digital have long been sorted out. I hated MP3s too at first but now I'm happy streaming at 256k and can't tell the difference to lossless.

Some surprising comments about the industry.

I seem to recall vinyl being a thing on the indie rock scene for the past decade or two. My understanding was that it was profitable for the band (perhaps expensive but sold well and with good margin, and small orders were possible), and both bands and fans dug not only the retro analog aspect, but the object as souvenir and as art. Those economics probably had a lot to do with low demand, and with smaller under-utilized plants and presses being bought cheap by hipster entrepreneurs.

No doubt that has changed in the last few years, with big pop muscling in on a finite resource. Nothing against Adele, but I associate her and her fans with that tide, though she certainly wasn't alone. I guess the scrappy little artists are left with cassettes?

As for the "death" of analog recording, it's far from the norm these days, but it has seen a revival over the last decade or two, it seems, and the big wide tapes are being manufactured again. Jack White, Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Lenny Kravits, Greenday and Lady Gaga being some of the better known proponents. Now that's some expensive stuff! I doubt many indies could afford the tape, let alone the specialty studio time.

Mike—re. your source reference (the 180-gram record section at Acoustic Sounds)…WOW! Check those prices!

Do note that only 50% of those 5,367 listings are represented as being in stock.

[The prices were originally considered low, not high. The reason the reissue industry (or "industry") got going in the first place was that prices for certain used records skyrocketed. So if the original record cost $300 for a used and played copy, and you probably couldn't even find one to buy, and you could get a pristine, brand new reissue, sometimes remastered if needed and freshly pressed on better-quality vinyl, for $30, that was a very tempting alternative for a very reasonable price. --Mike]

I enjoy the "coloration" of vinyl over that of CD's. It does add to my enjoyment of LP's that 30 years ago I purchased an expensive VPI turntable, a very good tonearm and cartridge to go with it. The relatively inexpensive CD players and now Blue Ray players I use don't stack up to my LP experience. I also now stream music to my system and much like the Cd experience its quick and easy to access endless music. But I enjoy caring for the LP's in my collection and keeping them free of annoying ticks, pops or warps. It feels good using the VPI turntable- much like looking and using a fine camera.

I've had a Merrill knockoff of the old super simple AR turntable but the motor was going bad, so I just bought a demo units from VPI in New Jersey, A Scout Jr. It is a far cry from the VPI monster table I owned a decade ago, but with my failing hearing, it will be enough!

And bought a couple new LP's from Acoustic Sounds in Kansas. I once had 72 lineal feet of tightly packed LP's, but went on a selling binge to support my photography years back. I kept a few feet of my favorites, so I'm well stocked.

And Mozart is pop music to Bach (and call classic vs the real music Bach produced).

And in 1804 hear this “… When the pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles discovered the work in 1804, he was ten years old; unable to afford to buy the music, he copied it out from a library copy. His music teacher, on being told about his discovery, "warned me against playing or studying eccentric productions before I had developed a style based on more respectable models. Without paying heed to his instructions, however, …” wonder what rubbish composer this guy listen to …

(Guess and the answer you can search using the above text from Wikipedia.)

And not to mention the old in china and Hong Kong gun down all the young for their silly love of western liberty and democracy. Let the old rule, the world in ruin.

Sounds or Photos. I don't really mind how either are delivered, as long as they are good source material.
Old Film Prints, Digital, Photo-books...
Vinyl, CD, Cassette Tape...
They just need to have good content.
I have a cassette player and CD changer in the car, so that has become my main listening room. It is surprisingly free of that background noise that goes something like 'Must you play that so loud'? ;-)

I forget, maybe this has been posted here before, but it's still interesting:


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