A writer for the Gibson blog, Jonah Bayer recently proposed suggestions to bands and record labels in these trying times to help shape up the industry and rather than JUST reiterate what I read I wanted to add my own two cents about one of the suggestions.
The suggestion was to shift emphasis back to LPs as opposed to CDs.
CDs were practical alternatives to records because 1) they had a constant quality of play where records degraded with each use, much like VHS and 2) they were smaller.
I have no idea why someone would care about the size of their albums or even if they DID care about the size, why they would want a SMALLER album. Album artwork is the one chance (provided the band releases just one cover) for the band to not only grab your attention but also convince you to buy the album. Why on earth would you want that SMALLER?
Have you ever tried to record an LP to a cassette? My father used to. He would sit us down on the couch, my brother and me, and say he’s about to put on a record and there will be absolutely no jumping, no yelling, no physical play, just sit here and play Nintendo. Then he would put on a Queen album and record to a cassette.
Unfortunately he had two young boys as sons and there was a little bit of jumping involved. We didn’t MEAN to make the records skip and Dad was never pissed about it but it was obvious that it was frustrating to have to go back on the cassette to find the right moment to stop the tape, then go back to the right song on the record and give yourself enough blank space or dead air as he would call it, to let the tape start winding and all the audio to transfer completely.
Have you ever tried to record a CD to a cassette? Pop in the CD, start the tape, and walk away. No flipping of the record, no worries about the room shaking enough to make the CD skip, nothing like that. It’s easy.
So I can see why there was a huge exodus to the CD. But here’s the thing: not many people use cassettes anymore. I visited Japan recently and saw a three pack of cassettes in a music store and for a second did not know what they were. It’s just been that long since I’ve seen them. You may think that’s a little crazy, but when was the last time YOU saw a cassette for sale?
No, people are using their iPods to listen to music today and there are recording devices to transfer the LP to MP3 and then from MP3 to your computer and then your iPod.
My question to those out there in the know when it comes to records and recording them to other devices is this: does the sound that is associated with records (ask anyone and they’ll say records sound better than CDs) get transferred to the device? If I use an older, well-played record and then record it, will it transfer over the snap, crackle and pop that comes with well-worn records?
If the answer is yes, then honestly, why aren’t there more records in the shops?
Thinking about it a little more, another question to the record aficionado concerns the cost. Is it cheaper to make records than CDs?
I think it is because there are so many punk bands out there releasing their stuff on records, more stuff on records than on CDs. So if musicians that may very well be starving can afford to make a record and not put out the same material on CD, it MUST be cheaper, right? That’s just my line of thinking.
I also saw that the albums from the bands would be cheaper than the CD versions of the same album when they matched up.
So if you can get bigger artwork with better sound (or reportedly better sound) at a cheaper price, doesn’t it seem a little silly to buy a CD?
And if they are cheaper to produce like I think they are, more artists can do what the Misfits and other bands do and release collectible versions of the albums. Usually these are a different color of vinyl (the Misfits Project 1950 was released in limited numbers with a glow in the dark vinyl which is Wicked cool with a capital “W”).
They can also release more EPs with “rare” songs. I say rare because if the records are cheaper the bands can put more out there - or more than they could have on a CD - and fans would buy the records because they're cheaper which means stores would hopefully stock more of the band's catalog cancelling out any form of "rareness" about it.
This is the kind of thing that music lovers, or at least music lovers like me, love. If I find a band I love, I want to DIVE into the material and get EVERYTHING they’ve done. It’s the archivist in me. Perhaps I think that someday one of my kids will listen to love the band as much as me and want to hear everything from them just like I did. Whatever the reason, this is what I do and honestly I don’t see that many EPs out there on CD. Of course you have Opiate from Tool and the Early Years EP from Tiger Army, but I don’t think any of my other favorite bands have this.
What they DO have is very upsetting and that is releasing the exact same CD with two more bonus tracks available exclusively at a specific store. As much as I would love to own the entire catalog of whatever band I’m heavily into at the time, I refuse to play that game. If the band takes all those bonus tracks and puts them on one EP I would buy it, but that would be because EPs are usually cheaper than full-blown albums and it features none of the songs used on other albums. I can’t in good conscience buy multiples of the same CD for six more songs when I could have bought two CDs from another band or bands.
Back to the transfer from LP to CD, perhaps the reason this was accepted was because 1) CDs would look silly in a full LP sleeve, and 2) maybe storage is a little cramped in most homes. I could understand that.
But consider this: to quote infoplease.com: “According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,330 square feet in 2004, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970.”
And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000 the average family size in the US was 3.14 and covering 2005-2007 the average family number jumped up a massive POINT ZERO FIVE to 3.19 family members.
So if the extra 1,400 feet is going to waste on your extra 20th of an added family member you can use that space to store your records.
Again, perhaps it’s the archivist (archivist is a kind word for pack rat, by the way) in me, but scenes like John Cusack’s apartment in High Fidelity or Tom Everett Scott’s apartment in That Thing You Do with collections of records in the background always make me think how much cooler it is to see these huge rows of albums without any distinguishing sides, and how a CD rack just doesn’t compare aesthetically.
Maybe it’s just me.
But again, if the sound is indeed better on a record and that quality can be transferred to iPod and it’s cheaper for bands to produce these which means more albums, EPs, or collectible records, then I say stop buying CDs and start buying records. Write your favorite band’s record label and say you want your band’s material released on vinyl. Start the revolution!