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music format transitions

In March I'll turn 35 years old. Hard to believe.

I have the fortune of having seen the music industry gone through four different formats.

Records to tapes to CDs to MP3s

Before I was a teenager a lot of people still bought records. In fact I remember seeing full-sized 33 speed LPs of popular 1980s glam bands of the time in record stores. In my preteen years I literally saw the end of the vinyl record because there was only a small part of the store dedicated to it. That small part got smaller, and smaller, and eventually was removed completely.

Audio cassettes, better known as just tapes, was what replaced vinyl records. It was the way to buy music for at least a good 10 years. During my teens I bought many tapes.

CDs slowly but surely replaced tapes, but the transition was really long. This was mainly due to the fact CDs were (and still are) so expensive. In fact, they were so expensive that some artists in the 90s revolted against it. It was not uncommon to see some CDs - single discs mind you - for $26 each. It was pretty ridiculous. The same artist on tape wasn't more than $12 at the most.

On top of that, most people didn't have CD players in their cars. Oh sure, they're common now, but back then it was wickedly expensive.

Two things ushered in the MP3 era. The internet and the iPod. And I know for a fact the record industry was dragged into that kicking and screaming all the way. They did not want to convert to a virtual product because it simply doesn't make as much money as CDs do, and still doesn't.

The record industry loved CDs for the longest time because copying them was difficult and expensive, therefore resulting in more sales. But that's obviously not the case now.

Digital music only sells now because the record industry was forced into doing it. Nobody wants to spend $20 or even $10 on a CD anymore when you can buy digitally for half (or less than half) the price.

And that DRM thing.. what a laugh that was. It's a good thing that's mostly gone now.

The vinyl was always the best format

Vinyl had the longest run of being a popular format compared to any other. Tapes didn't even last two decades as the popular format. With CDs, same deal. Vinyl on the other hand had many decades of being the #1 music sale format before it was cast aside.

The vinyl format has such a dedicated fan base that there are teenagers today who prefer it over anything else. Why? Because it's (to them) different, interesting and the decidedly simple format does have the best sound.

If the record industry wanted to give themselves a boost in sales, the answer is simple. Bring back vinyl. Work deals with manufacturers to put good record players for sale in Wal-Mart and Target so people can buy one. Besides which, they can be manufactured for next to nothing so sales of them would make companies a lot of money.

People would genuinely appreciate those big sleeves with the nice artwork and the retro-yet-awesome way of playing records. It would totally work.

See, here's the thing. When you buy a vinyl record, it just makes you happy. By nature they're round, and round things psychologically feel better to the mind than square. In addition, you can put your hands all over them without worry of damaging playback. The artwork as mentioned is something really, really cool. Heck, the Alice Cooper School's Out sleeve actually folded into a miniature school desk. Seriously! It was cool.

But the most important thing about a record is that you're paying for something good. It is worth paying for. You just don't get the same feeling from a cold digitally perfect CD. It's just not the same.

I'm not even a record collector and I know this.

To the music industry: Seriously, you guys and gals, bring vinyl back. You want a physical product out there that makes money. Vinyl is your answer.

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