Vinyl is back. We've heard about it for the last couple years, and the Wall Street Journal is now the latest to run with the news that vinyl record sales doubled in 2007, flying in the face of the CD market's global decline. Labels are scrambling to release their new albums on vinyl, and Amazon.com's vinyl store now stocks 250,000 titles. This is more than just a passing fad. Vinyl's resurgence signals a sea change in the way music is being marketed and objectified.
Smaller, more agile record labels have lower overhead and sales, but also much more to lose, comparatively, from CD sales drying up. Influential indie labels like Sub Pop
have helped spawn the vinyl trend by packaging MP3 download codes with vinyl LPs, thus allowing digital portability while still providing physical copies of their records in a more durable format than the CD. Labels like these also deal in intentional scarcity and elaborate packaging, helping to blur the line between LP and limited-edition art object.
There's money to be made in catering to a group of consumers that wants unique, non-disposable objects with collectible value and cachet, and it isn't limited to records. The American Poster Institute's Flatstock convention is now a global institution, with hundreds of artists selling expensive silk-screened concert posters, their customers fuelled by the same impulse that compels them to seek out hard-to-find vinyl.
Increasingly, larger labels sign artists to so-called "360 deals", by which they get a cut of merchandise sales and concert revenue as well. Majors seem to be jumping on the vinyl bandwagon not just for its own sake, but to help spur sales of posters and T-shirts and the rest of the promotional tchotchkes that get packaged into deluxe vinyl box sets. Their bands are becoming brands.
And while vinyl will never replace CDs, ringtones and downloads in terms of pure margin and profitability, it turns disposable major-label music into something tangible, scarce and collectible. It creates revenue streams that didn't exist five years ago. Even bands without 360 deals are being marketed aggressively. Warner Bros Records released Metallica's new album Death Magnetic in a half-dozen formats, including a five-LP version and a box set packaged in a miniature cardboard coffin.
Read the entire article at Guardian.co.uk.