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The Resurgence Of The Vinyl Album!

One day in May, 1983, I was on the air at rock station WBLM in Portland, Me. The station’s Program Director walked in to the studio with the owner of a local music/electronics supply shop and told me that he was going to test out some new technology on the air. They than proceeded to hook up a Compact Disc Player and started to track Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon”  on the air.They proceeded to explain that the music was being played by a lazer beam, as opposed to a turn table cartridge. At the time, I thought that it was kind of a cool and interesting technology that probably wouldn’t take off rapidly. Vinyl albums in their present form had been around since 1948, and were constantly being improved and I had no expectation that they would disappear. Well…I certainly appeared to be wrong about that assessment! With in 2 to 3 years, CD sales represented at least 50% of the retail market, and by the late 1980s, it was becoming very difficult to find current releases on vinyl anymore. The record companies were constantly hyping CD technology, and successfully convincing consumers that their record collections were obsolete, and that they should replace all of their vinyl albums with CDs, which many people did. Now don’t get me wrong. Compact Discs have always sounded good and can certainly handle far more abuse than vinyl albums, but I didn’t see any reason for vinyl to become totally obsolete, although that cetainly appeared to be what was going on. I also was not going to replace my vinyl collection or get rid of it as so many people were doing at the time. I proceeded to stock up on turn table cartridges though, and record cleaning fluid (Disc Washer) so that I would still have the ability to play my vinyl albums in the future. In late 1991, when I was working at what is now Q-103, Nirvana’s album “Nevermind” was released and was sent to Q-103 on both CD and vinyl formats. To my amazement, the vinyl copy of “Nevermind” just sat around neglected and unwanted by anyone on the staff at the time, so I eventually grabbed it along with the two “ Gun’s N Roses’ “Use Your Illusions” collections that had also been recently released on vinyl. However, during the 1990′s, vinyl albums didn’t quite entirely go away. Certain bands such as Pearl Jam, continued to insist that their new albums also be released on vinyl. Their very successful 1994 album “Vitalogy” would be just one example. By the late 1990s, MP3 players, had been introduced, creating yet another new format for music listening. During the first decade of the new millenium, something interesting started to happen though. Small independent record companies were springing up, and in many cases, were re-issuing high quality vinyl albums from past decades. Record sales, which had been in a free fall for nearly 20 years began to show a reversal. By 2010, vinyl albums were showing the strongest resurgence  yet! Three million new records where sold in 2010, a 13% increase over 2009, and the highest level of sales since Soundscan started tracking sales in 1991. The fact that successful modern bands such as “Arcade Fire” insisted upon their albums being released on vinyl last year, certainly hasn’t hurt this come back of vinyl either. By contrast, CD sales dipped 9% last year, from the previous year. MP3 downloads do continue to show growth, at a growth rate of about 50% per  year .

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