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When physical records are gone, what will you miss?

Written by Tommi on 15.01.2009 11:13:21

Blog image for entry When physical records are gone, what will you miss? I'm writing this to expand the thoughts of Seth Godin in his blog post When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?

Years and years after some pundits began predicting the end of newspapers, the newspapers themselves are finally realizing that it's over. Huge debt, high costs, declining subscription rates, plummeting ad base--will the last one out please turn off the lights.

On their way out, though, we're hearing a lot of, "you'll miss us when we're gone..." laments. I got to thinking about this. It's never good to watch people lose their livelihoods or have to move on to something new, even if it might be better. I respect and honor the hard work that so many people have put into newspapers along the way. If we make a list of newspaper attributes and features, which ones would you miss?

Everything in Seth's post rings painfully true to records as well. I'm a long time (at a time morbidly obsessive) buyer of physical records and I make income generate revenue selling them and even I've listened to most of my music in digital form for a while now. Even if 99% of it is stuff I own on cd or vinyl ripped into mp3-files. I've known this road we're on with physical records is a dead end street, but I've planned on roughing on as long as we finally hit that final brick wall. It's just that in the past the brick wall has just been a rumour and bleak futuristic dystopia, but now it seems to be actually getting here faster by the day.

I've been starting to ask myself the same kinds questions from time to time that Seth poses about newspapers in his blog. What will I really really no jokes really miss when records are gone, as a listener of music (I'm guessing the ramifications are quite obvious for If Society) and I've noticed that every time the list shinks smaller. A few years ago thinking about digitalizing my music consumption habits seemed dull and dreary, but the more I get exposed and conditionalize myself to listening music in the digital domain, the more I feel at home with it.

Yeah, I guess I'll miss the feeling of going to a great record store and browsing through racks of records, but is that yet another symptom of boring old-dude nostalgia built into me? If it is, I'd really like to opt-out of a behaviour pattern like that.

Obviously I'm also pondering this in the big scope of things. Newspapers and records will never completely die out. They'll just die out in the grand scheme of things. I'm also concerned about people being able to create music at a semi-pro (or ProAm) level in the future, since my belief in generating revenue from recorded music in the digital domain are slim to none, but that's probably the subject of another post. I'd just like for everyone to honestly think of what they'd really miss if records would disappear at some point in the not-too-distant future.

(In borderline relation to the subject: there's a record flea market at Pitkämies this Saturday (Jan. 17) from 12am to 4pm. I'll be selling a bunch of my obsolete stuff there as well, but we've got a whole bunch of other sellers too, so empty your account and show up for REALLY cheap records!)
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Comments (8) 1/8

15.01.2009 12:23:30 Arttu wrote : "Closet luddite?"

I still listen to mostly vinyl...

15.01.2009 12:59:19 James Ponttooni wrote

considering the fact that vinyl is selling more than ever since 1991, i personally don't think we're going 100% digital. at least not in the near future.


althought i consume most of music via mp3/ipod, i like the physical records as "backup". i think the "general public" is also starting to realise how fragile the "digital only"-music can be. harddrivers breaking, drm blocking the music from new computers, etc...

15.01.2009 13:13:05 Lassi wrote

Mä saan ainaskin levystä levynä enemmän irti, jos mä kuuntelen sitä musaa fyysinen kopsu lapasessa. Siistiä lukea sanoja ja ihailla kansitaidetta. Etenkin indie-matskussa mua on kiehtonut se että se mun kädessä oleva levy on ihmisten tekemä. Ei mua digitaalisuuteen siirtymisessä muu häiritse hulluna kuin albumikonseptin vääjäämätön tuhoutuminen.

En ole ikinä harrastanut musakaupoissa hengaamista, mutta ymmärrän hyvin jos se joillekin on tärkä osa musiikkiharrastusta.

15.01.2009 13:29:07 Tommi wrote

The fact that vinyl is on the rise doesn't really mean anything. Ok, vinyl is on a moderately nice rise, but cd sales are simply plummeting, making the overall sales of physical records going down down down in total. Don't believe the hype you're told about vinyl sales, the percentual increase may be looking nice, but vinyl is still a tiny niche. My most important hard data is the sales of ifsociety.com / Pitkämies and our own record sales, which I think should be quite vinyl-oriented since we sell and release stuff that should hit quite directly into the vinyl niche audience. Still, they do tell a rather disappointing tale of vinyl's "success".

As for Lassi's comment about the death of the album format: true, true, true, but if you consider the fact that some 40-50 years ago the music industry also worked exclusively with the single format (think Sun, Motown, early reggae etc), it doesn't really feel so bad! I'm at least trying to think of the development as going back to the good ol' days of the hit single. At least well get plenty more of cool one hit wonders!

But like I tried to make clear in the post: I'd be on the side of the physical record in a heartbeat if it was up to my decision. I'm just kinda trying to embrace realities here and "get with the program". I've always considered the indie-field to be forward-looking and the spearhead of all revolutions - both musical and business-oriented - and I'd hate to be among the last of the nostalgic troglodytes still clinging to old ways.

Anyway, keep buying records if you feel strongly for them. That's the only way to make sure they'll keep on being put out.

15.01.2009 15:06:31 "Lassi"

Mä meinasin viitata tuohon "takaisin singlemaailmaan" -kehitykseen, mutta jätin jostain syystä pois. Mun mielestä tuo olisi perseestä, koska LP:n aikakautena kehittyi myös "levykappaleita", jotka ovat nimenomaan tarkoitettu osaksi levykokonaisuutta. Ja esim. jotain Hero Dishonestin tyylistä musaa on hankala levittää netti"singleinä" -- tietysti tällaiset marginaalisemmat meuhkausbändit tulevat julkaisemaan fyysisiä levyjä hamaan loppuun asti vain siksi kun se on siistiä, mutta singleformaattiin sopivien artistien tarjonta supistuu pelkkien hittibiisien tehtailuksi. Jotain Violan 'Ideal Rainbow'ta ei kukaan ostaisi/lataisi singlenä, vaikka levyllä se on hieno raita. Puhumattakaan jonkun Sur-rurin köntsäosastosta - ne tukevat "oikeita biisejä" ja tekevät bändistä itsensä kuuloisen.

Hitikkäitä singlebiisejä on ihan siisti kuunnella yksittäisinä, mutta musta tuntuisi tympeältä kuunnella sitten singleiksi tarkoitettuja biisejä pitkänä pötkönä, vähän kuin jotain greatest hits -levyä kuuntelisi. Mä haluun väliin haahuilua ja pulputusta, joka ei yksittäiskuunneltuna toimi, mutta josta saa "hittien" välissä hienoja fiilareita. Yksittäiskappaleita nettijulkaisuun vääntäviltä bändeiltä tämmöiset tsipaleet jäisivät varmaan sitten tekemättä.

15.01.2009 15:09:20 "Lassi"

Niin no, toisaalta väkisin väännetyistä täytebiiseistä päästäisiin eroon, mutta kyllä niitä hyviäkin paloja menetettäisiin.

Vitun internet ja mp3.

15.01.2009 15:21:33 James Ponttooni wrote

milläs kielellä täällä puhutaan? (saksaa)

emm, i was more using the vinyl as a (bad?) example of the fact that people are still at least bying records. of course the global sales are going down the toilet (what i blame on idols and the like) but i don't think the physical disk is going to disappear completely.

as far as selling the god-damned thing, tommi, remember that in finland the record business is already a niche market. selling vinyl is the "nichest". selling indie vinyl is über-nichest... :)

the death of album format is very velcome, if we're talking about pizza enrico/las ketchup/britney-albums. ie. 1-2 hits with 23 fillers. or rap "albums" with 2-3 real songs and 45mins of "interludes" and "skits".

15.01.2009 15:32:28 Tommi wrote

(I'd rather we keep this in English as we do have a lot of international visitors on this site even if most are Finns)

Yeah, we're definitely not talking about binary issues here. The album format will never die off completely, but will experience a drastic decline. But this will affect small to mid-sized indies the worst in my opinion. You can read my post on the long tail for more info:

But yeah, people are definitely still buying records. Some might even argue that they're buying more records than ever and they'd even be right in some perspective.

Music consumption is definitely at an all-time high, so in that sense we're living in very promising times. The real problem is with transforming recorded music into revenue and the ramifications of this problem on the possibilities to produce recorded music in the future. Even our releases sometimes cost more money to make (ie. the master tapes' cost) that most bands could ever afford from their own pockets and if there's a slim-to-none possibility to get your investment back, you can guess what happens to record labels.

I may seem pessimistic, but really I'm not. Or, I'm super-pessimistic on the future of Pitkämies (as a record-store, comics will probably do just fine) and If Society as a label, but as a musician and consumer, I'm actually really excited about the way things are going!
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