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Stories of vinyl’s death have been greatly exaggerated
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Vinyl is dead.

So proclaimed the prophets of the disruptive economy culture back in 1988.

That’s when CD sales — just five years after popping up in the United States — eclipsed vinyl sales.

Cassette sales that were all that and a bag of chips in 1988 when they dominated music format sales and had beaten their Stone Age cousin the 8-track tape into submission, would be surpassed by CD sales in 1991.

We were told by the same forces of change that assume all known parameters before they came along will be toast just like the gurus behind the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, that downloads would be the death knell of music on anything but devices controlled by Apple, Samsung, et al.

Guess what?

Downloads now account for only 3 percent of music sales.

Vinyl record sales have grown for the 16th straight year jumping 17 percent in 2022 to $1.2 billion.

Streaming subscription services grew 8 percent last year to $10.2 billion.

Streaming seems likely to have as long a run — at least until some format we’ve never thought of comes along — as being top of the heap as long-playing commercial vinyl did after RCA first rolled the format out in 1930.

That said, vinyl last year outsold CDs for the first time since 1987.

There were 41 million vinyl albums sold in 2022 as opposed to 33 million CD albums.

And while that is new releases, a trip to purchase “new” tunes at Mad Monk Vintage/Rasputin Music & Movies in Modesto, reflects how weird the trend toward vinyl has become.

The CD section was dominated by browsers who qualified for AARP cards years ago while those flipping through the vinyl selections started using an app to book Uber drivers when gas was $4 a gallon.

The argument for vinyl is that it has a superior sound.

From someone who learned to drive when gas was 55 cents a gallon and your parents warned you against accepting rides from strangers, music sounds better streamed via Yahoo on my Dell laptop than it does on any stereo system of my youth.

And the components and casing  employed to attain that quality could fit into my wallet as opposed to the 1970s speakers and equipment that required a 42-foot U-Haul rental truck to transport.

Granted, most CD players you can buy today — outside of what comes in cars that are arguably the best sound chambers designed that those of us who aren’t awash in money can afford  that has the right amount of strategically placed speakers and as long as you don’t crank the volume up — are basically garbage.

But they are out there in the form of CD stereo systems.

Trust me, my Frank Sinatra collection along with CDs from the Great American Song Book, soft as well as hard rock, jazz, country, western (it is a separate genre) and admittedly a light sprinkling of bubblegum can attest to the quality.

But then again I doubt there are few people who can say they work out on a rowing machine using a water tank or lift weights at 3 o’clock in the morning to Frank Sinatra singing “Summer Wind.”

I have never claimed to be normal, whatever that means. That said, I don’t sell my tastes short. I don’t simply hear a different drummer drumming. It’s more like an entirely different orchestra as long as it isn’t playing any rap crap.

It is why my views on vinyl — although it always great to see something older than myself enjoying a resurgence — are worth as much as steel needles that were used to scratch records and predated diamond and sapphire ones.

And since I intentionally did not partake in the  Sony Walkman movement and have never plugged buds into an Apple or any other device, I am far from an expert in music playing devices.

That said, I can’t take vinyl with me on long trips.

I know, I know. Create and download a playlist.

Why when there is Sirius XM where I can tune in for my favored genre of the moment, hear music I’ve grown accustomed to and occasionally be surprised by something I’ve never heard before or I had tucked away in a far corner of my mind.

Besides, if I had downloaded my Sinatra and said no to Sirius XM in the car, I never would have come across Channel 70 — the Sinatra Channel.

It’s the channel that plays primarily Sinatra with a huge dose of other singers of the same era that made me fall in love with the Great American Song Book.

Vinyl anchors you in place.

CDs, streaming and such is largely a non-tethered technology.

Still the fact knowing technology — as well as music— can transcend generational lines such as vinyl is doing makes you realize civilization still benefits from the use of rearview mirrors.

Each generation is convinced they are the enlightened ones.

But then they became exposed to ideas, traditions, technology, books, and even music that makes them realize there is worth in what has gone before just as there is value in the present, and promise in the future.

And, along the way, they may have a Leonardo DaVinci moment realizing someone had thought of what they believe to be a brilliant new concept or even created what they embrace as cutting edge years, if not centuries, before.

Amazon, the internet, app and home delivery are basically the same as pre-1950 u-ring/we-bring stores, phones, paper as well as pencil, and home delivery.

Vinyl obviously won’t topple streaming subscription services although rest assured something eventually will.

Vinyl, though, is not dead.

Just like Frank Sinatra, it will live on.

And — as a concession to self-proclaimed music  purists that have flocked back to vinyl — records have a lot in common with Old Blue Eyes. Good sounds transcend generations.

They won’t go the way of the dodo bird or cassette tapes.