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Vinyl and streaming sales offset CD decline in UK music sales

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Facepalm

Back to Black did well for similar reasons - what Bowie died so people went and brought Amy's album?

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It's understandable

There was always a simple pleasure in flicking through someone's record collection that could never be replicated with CDs.

With streaming you get the simplicity of a CD without the storage and search through empty boxes.

One day I'll finally retrieve my 400+ albums from the garage and fire up an old record player. Been on my todo list for ages.

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Re: It's understandable

one day Ill get the two storage units full of CDs and put them in the garage! need the space!

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Re: It's understandable

> "One day I'll finally retrieve my 400+ albums from the garage and fire up an old record player."

My garage got really hot, so I'm gonna need a turntable shaped like a saddle.

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Re: It's understandable

My garage got really hot, so I'm gonna need a turntable shaped like a saddle.

My memories of vinyl were that records were made like that in the first place.

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Re: It's understandable

"There was always a simple pleasure in flicking through someone's record collection that could never be replicated with CDs."

I used to have CD racks that allowed me to flip through CDs just like with proper albums. Now they're all in a cardboard box in the loft somewhere near the server that contains all the rips of them.

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Re: a simple pleasure in flicking through someone's record collection

Hextable (n.)

The record you find in someone else's collection which instantly tells you you could never go out with them.

-- Douglas Adams, John Lloyd: The Deeper Meaning of Liff

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Gimp

Re: It's understandable

>>"There was always a simple pleasure in flicking through someone's record collection that could never be replicated with CDs."

>I used to have CD racks that allowed me to flip through CDs just like with proper albums. Now they're all in a cardboard box in the loft somewhere near the server that contains all the rips of them.I used to have CD racks that allowed me to flip through CDs just like with proper albums. Now they're all in a cardboard box in the loft somewhere near the server that contains all the rips of them.

With apologies to G Larson, the arguments are like sheep in the night.

One is, "its more fun to play vinyl," while the other is purely about a measure of sound quality. Given that music is for entertainment, some measure of sound quality may or may not be the [only|main] metric used to denote "good."

Some people enjoy interacting with the music collection. The shorter format vinyl offers more chances for interaction with the collection (you have to change the record more frequently), savouring the expectation and the memories of the tunes. CDs also offer some physical interaction, though compilations and the longer format reduce this. The upside may be that CD's can be ripped and re-created at home to work around physical damage to the media, though the generic blank CD is a soul-less thing. Almost as bad as a playlist.

Playlists on the other hand might be good for doing chores with headphones on or for when you're blasting zombies. There, the infinite length doesn't become a social faux pas.

Anyway, those are just my opinions and my point is not to convince you of the relative merits of various formats as much as to note that what we all want from a music collection may not be the same. The bit that we derive pleasure from may not even be the listening to the music - it might be the associated social interaction or the memories of events we associate with the music. That's something I fear the headphone generation will miss out on, Apple's blatant lies about their personal devices being social, notwithstanding. IT is all about standardisation and it is highly efficient at shepherding demand into the few channels which are profitable to a few companies.

<rant>

As an observation, we have at least two high-quality stereo systems in the house, both hooked up to CD players and gigabytes of server music, but apart from myself, everyone else either wears headphones or listens on horrid built-in iphone speakers. They can't even be bothered to download the stuff, they just stream from youtube. They don't even bother make their own playlists. I'm not too surprised though, the "music" is entirely disposable. I don't understand why anyone would want to listen to men who sound like a cat going through a mangler, and both male and females resolutely determined to take the sawn-off shotgun approach to hitting the target notes. I'd like the person to twisting the corkscrew through the singer's foot to take a break and use it on my eardrums instead, at least the pain will stop for me!

Icon: Maybe AI has taken over the music industry...

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Re: It's understandable

Why we ever allowed ourselves to be taken in by the promise of perfect clarity, everlasting disks... madness. And a triumph of marketing.

Do get your albums back from the depths of your garage! I promise it will be well worth it. There is a depth, warmth and involvement with vinyl which is missing from the CD, which to me sounds sharp, clinical and sterile: rather brittle.

A number of companies have returned to the manufacture of turntables for the first time in years. and these range from the budget priced, to the hugely expensive.

I hope the garage yields up a working turntable, and that you enjoy listening once again to the 400 albums!

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Re: It's understandable

Mr Lee, you make what passes for music these days sound more interesting than it is!! I call it anti-music: the ultimate throw away thing: rubbish song, awful recording which is then compressed still further to MP3... no wonder kids buy a track from the Apple Store for 50p. listen to it via their phones and cheap headphones, or on their desktop pc with it's plastic speakers... then delete.

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@ It's understandable...

Hmmm perhaps. But during the recent resurgence of vinyl I've not heard that reason offered by those overpaying for their lovely albums. To me it seems that once again we have a sales channel being fanned by the flames of poeple buying vinyl because "it's retro" or by outburts of "oh, vinyl sounds so much better than CD" etc. etc. because let's not forget that those marketing types never miss a trick do they..?

I'm not arguing that either of the above propositions are correct or incorrect. But it screams of hyperbole when HMV are trying to get people to pay £20 for a 12" vinyl edition of DSOM when my 1982 pressing cost me £3 from my local 2nd hand record store.

And just for balance, yes, my remastered CD version of DSOM sounds much better.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

Sort of agree with this, but being one of those overpaying for my lovely albums, I'm buying them for the sound quality. Most of the albums I buy tend to be second hand bargains now (although that task is harder now that everyone is looking for the older vinyl), but the new releases like David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen's I tend to buy as vinyl records too.

And FYI, vinyl sounds better to me. It might not be a better quality, but it feels better. The sound is warmer, not as clinical as CD/MP3's, and they just sound better to me. When listening to a vinyl record it gives more of a feeling of being sat in front of the band while they're playing the music than a CD would give, as all the imperfections have been removed.

It's a lot like why old games that were played on CRT's back in the day look much better on CRT's than on LED TV's. The games capitalise on the shortcomings of the medium to make something bad look good. You stand about 10ft away from the Mona Lisa and it looks good. Step in about 6ft and it still looks good. Get right up close and personal with it, so you can see all the brush strokes etc, doesn't look so good.

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H H

Re: @ It's understandable...

Don't forget that there are a lot fewer plants to press those vinyl albums. Besides, I'd wager there are way fewer copies made from any given album today than was the case back in '82. Short series, scarce production capacity, rising demand.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

First off, relatively speaking, vinyl is not overpriced when you compare what we paid for the discs originally. I dug my collection out about a year ago and reworked my old Ferrograph with some decent speakers and the original Technics turntable for my daughter who normally listens to everything on her earbuds. She is amazed by the experience of listening to Ziggy Stardust (brought it when it was originally released) with a decent sound-field in the living room with a set of decent studio monitor speakers.

Me? I was amazed that everything still worked once I replaced the turntable belt. Is vinyl "better" - I don't know, but the experience of listening to music in a room with decent equipment beats the heck out of earbuds and those fancy headphones. If you think vinyl is expensive, look at what they charge for a set of crap headphones with a rap artists name on them.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

It puzzles me why the yoof of today is happy to watch video on a screen about 3 inches wide!

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Re: @ It's understandable...

"The sound is warmer, not as clinical as CD/MP3's"

Funny isn't it how tossers describe sound with words that have nothing to do with sound.

Never occurs to them that if the qualities they use these words to describe really existed we would have words to describe them.

The resurgence of vinyl is a measure of how stupid people are, when are cassettes and 8 tracks coming back?

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Holmes

Re: @ It's understandable...

It's even funnier how tossers with cloth ears are ignorant of terms which are very widely used to describe sound - whether reproduced sound from players, or from instrument amps, or indeed from actual instruments themselves.

If you can't hear well enough to understand these terms then I'd recommend a check-up.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

"Funny isn't it how tossers describe sound with words that have nothing to do with sound."

It's the same way as you would describe a colour as "warm" even though they're not sources of heat. Jackass.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

Our vocabulary isn't very good at describing many things - hence the use of the words we do have.

You get the same in many fields - wine tasting being an obvious one. There is no cat's piss in Sancerre don't you know.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

"There is no cat's piss in Sancerre don't you know."

Can you guarantee that?

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Re: @ It's understandable...

The English vocabulary has lots of words for describing sounds: treble, bass, midrange, soprano, alto, tenor, crackly, wow, noisy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ It's understandable...

Settle down, you two.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_temperature

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Facepalm

Re: Warm sound ....

Back in the late 60s / early 70s ..... My school days.

Chemistry lab refurbished. Solid teak bench tops ripped out. Head of chemistry diverts them from skip to woodwork shop.

Sometime later decides to use them to build the school an electronic organ. I get involved on the electronics side. All discrete transistors. Them's were the days.

Finally get the brute working, head of music in the driving seat.

"That Tibia sounds a bit thick."

Er ....

Took ages for me, tadpole on telephone wires guy, to get what he was complaining about and find the naughty short circuit ...

Me, I always thought cd s sounded a bit skinny ...

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Re: @ It's understandable...

RE: "The sound is warmer, not as clinical as CD/MP3's"

Sometimes that difference can be due to the remastering inflicted on the CD, rather than the difference between formats.

I have an example :-

I have (or rather had) the original vinyl version of Violent Femmes first, eponymous, record. I later bought the remastered CD and it sounded over bright and tinny and horrible to my ears. My first reaction was it must be a format thing. Then I found an older non remastered CD and it was just like the vinyl, without the scratches and clicks and hisses. I listen to the old CD by preference, or a rip of it.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

"It puzzles me why the yoof of today is happy to watch video on a screen about 3 inches wide!"

And through 3mm "speakers".

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Vic
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Re: @ It's understandable...

Sometimes that difference can be due to the remastering inflicted on the CD, rather than the difference between formats.

*Always*.

The quantisation noise inherent in the digitisation needed for a CD is orders of magnitude less than the distortion inherent in the analogue stages you need to run vinyl - and that's if we assume a perfect turntable with a perfect pickup[1].

But many CDs were "remastered", which usually meant finding the deafest YTS muppet you could, and getting him to turn all the knobs to 11. And it doesn't matter how faithfully you reproduce that, it will always sound shite.

So if you're one of those people who thinks vinyl sounds better than CD, at least one of the following is true[2] :-

  • You're listening to a crap master
  • You prefer your music to sound differently to that laid down by the track's producer[3]

CD *is* more faithful than vinyl. Fidelity is not always what sells.

Vic.

[1] Neither of these can exist, of course.

[2] There is theoretically a third option: you might have a recording with extremely high dynamic range. CDs have a limit, whereas vinyl is actually unlimited - but you're going to lose that range into the noise floor if you actually tried it.

[3] This is more common than you might think - particularly amongst those of us who grew up with vinyl.

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Re: @ It's understandable...

"wine tasting being an obvious one"

Wine snobs are all tossers as well - co-incidence?

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Re: @ It's understandable...

@Vic

I haven't a clue what your first paragraph means but am quite happy to go along with someone who sounds like he knows what he's talking about. It sounds good. We're on the same side...I think...

Dynamic range...Is that the one where they compress it to make songs sound LOUDER? Utterly un-listenable to me.

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Vic
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Re: @ It's understandable...

Dynamic range...Is that the one where they compress it to make songs sound LOUDER? Utterly un-listenable to me.

Dynamic range is the difference between the very quiet bits and the very loud bits. THe more range you've got, the greater the difference.

Compression reduces dynamic range; everything comes out at a fairly similar volume, whether it's supposed to be loud or quiet. It generally destroys music, but can be quite useful in certain niches[1].

Vic.

[1] Usually communications in a noisy environment - so ham radio operators often use a compressor to make themselves more intelligible at the other end. And so do radio DJs, despite that outcome being unobtainable. Proper radio is, of course, uncompressed.

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Vic
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Re: @ It's understandable...

I haven't a clue what your first paragraph means

The analogue signal representing the waveform you're listening to can take any value between two limits. So you can take any two arbitrarily close values you've already got, and you can put another one inbetween. This is a continuous range.

If you digitise that signal, you can now only represent certain fixed values - for an n-bit word, you only have 2n possible numbers, so that is how many values you can represent. There will be times when the value you wanted to represent is slightly different from the value you actually can represent; you can have an error of up to half the step size between two possible values[1]. This is known as quantisation noise, because it manifests itself as noise on the signal, and is solely down to that signal now being quantised (i.e. discrete), rather than continuous. But half the step size is a very small amount of noise[2].

The advantage of going digital early on is that you are incredibly unlikely to have those numbers changed by noise in the system[3]. But were you to remain in the analogue domain, noise will be added at every step[4]. The upshot of all this is that, although digitisation will necessarily add some noise, it's insignificant alongside the noise you'll get from an analogue system. That's why digital signals in real-world situations give you better fidelity.

Vic.

[1] I'm assuming a simple linear conversion; it's a little more complex to calculate the distortion in a non-linear conversion, but we don't do that in CD players, so I don't care.

[2] And that is the peak error; we can expect a Gaussian distribution of real error

[3] A digital signal can take one of two possible states, some distance apart. If you add noise to that signal, it's trivial to work out the desired state of the signal right up to the point where the noise entirely engulfs the signal. So with that (largely irrelevant) exception, a digital signal is not subject to degradation by noise.

[4] Even if we were to ignore induced noise - which is likely the most significant in an analogue system - there are other noise sources, such as Johnson noise, which cannot be avoided.

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Happy

Re: @ It's understandable...

Vic, thanks for taking time to explain that. I'm always interested in audio things and often suspect there are unscrupulous oiks trying to fool me into spending money I don't need to, or that my ears are really really REALLY bad coz they can hear things totally inaudible to me. If we ever need an audio engineer you're hired. :-)

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Re: @ It's understandable...

OMG, the Femmes...

When I got my first half-decent hi-fi, mid 80s - Creek 4040 amp, Heybrook HB1 speakers, Dual CS-505 turntable - one of the first things I played was the Femmes first album. "Blister in the Sun" - brilliant, then "Kiss Off"...

...

It's not enough it's just a habit

Hey kid your sick well darling this is it

- DAHDAHDAHDAHDA-DA

made me, literally, jump out of my seat.

I've had much better amps and speakers since then and it has NEVER EVER sounded remotely as powerful in any digital format. The Jesus & Mary Chain also never sounded better than on 12" 45. Last year I dug my Dual out of the attic and got it to work, briefly, so I got a Rega RP1. "Two Tribes" on 12" 45 is just epic. What's the difference? Hard to describe. Better? Oh yes.

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anyone know where i can get an mp3 of an empty crackling record so i can have the vinyl experience with my other mp3s?

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See if you can find this.

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Many of my mp3s were ripped from vinyl 15 years ago. You get the pop when the needle goes down and the tapping as it runs in and runs out.

Some even have a jump as the room I recorded them in had a slightly bouncy floor!

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Angel

The needle! That's what makes vinyl what it is. Digital can only dream of getting up close and personal with the groove like a needle does. And you don't even need electricity to do it. Unplugged! Just jam yer feeler into the sweet spot and apply angular momentum.

Ahhh, those winsome clicks and pops, so like quanta...

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"And you don't even need electricity to do it. Unplugged!"

Apparently you can play vinyl by holding a new plastic fiver and gently dropping the corner into the spinning groove.

I've not tried it, but as a kid I remember reading about to make a record player with a needle and some cardboard, which I did, and it worked, so there is prior art :-)

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The only reasons I can think of to buy vinyl are to get a better/alternative mastering or if the music is unavailable in any better format.

Since my money and physical space are very limited, I'll stick with my less romantic FLAC files. My entire collection fits on one 4TB drive and I can take it with me anywhere I go.

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"the music is unavailable in any better format."

This is, however, a very good reason, especially where specific performances are concerned. e.g. my LPs got lost a few house moves ago including a much preferred version of the Brandenburgs.

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MrT
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Interesting timeframe...

... as I recall, 25 years ago places like HMV were basically having fire sales of vinyl, clearing the shelves to make space for CDs. I bought more than a few LPs for a couple of quid each at that time. It was nice to walk into a store with £20 and come out with a pile of records (INXS, diVinyls, etc.).

Declining stock, shifted cheaply, then for years a near-absence of vinyl in the big-name stores, so it's not really surprise that things have improved since that low point - only a short time before then it seemed it was the law that every CD system came with a free copy of Brothers in Arms in an effort to shift stock.

My 1991 Pioneer separates system turntable still works fine, even on the original drive belt (though it is a bit slack and ought to be replaced). MrsT's vinyl collection includes a lot of unusual titles that I'm sure would be possible to find in other formats, just not as visual as coloured/picture disks.

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Porky Prime Cut

I miss the messages in the run out groove.

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Coat

Hmmm

Dad went goofy one year (since he had a ton of cash to hide) and we ended up with an out your mind sound system in the living room (I was all of 11 at the time). The speakers have not survived completely, but the tuner/amp and the turntable he got (Garrard labelled, hand built and according to serial number a member of a unique series of units based on the 401) still work.

Parents had a music addiction - so there are something like 500+ vinyl disks around this system, including an original King Crimson pressing, and quite a variety of other music. The original cut of DSOM, which is in my mom's collection, and the vinyl print *I* got, about 84 or so, put together weigh less than the pressing that recently came out. Had all three in an enthusiast shop, with top of line hardware (Turntable, pre-amp, amp, speakers) -- and included comparing to the AAC version, FLAC version and CD. The latest heavy print absolutely takes the prize, especially on Money.

FLAC is good, but it heavily depends on source. AAC is shit. Mom's copy has 15 years more crap on the vinyl than mine but sounds better than my pressing.

Turntable from moms system is currently being cleaned and having bits tightened and bolted back in. The fellow from the shop was horrified that she'd let so much dust settle in it.

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If it's a Gerrard 401 you have my admiration and despise in equal measure since crap ones for £1000+ now (that's just for the turntable. Never mind the tonearm or amp, plinth etc ).

It's also a case of some vinyl never made it to cd so would have to come from masters to be ripped to flac but it's not like old bands with a big back catalog but limited marketable are going to have that treatment (my parents little angels collection for example) and yes the remastered songs don't always sound as full of depth (I dare you tell me the cd of some of the rock albums I've got are better off on cd. Ad/dc back in black being one of best examples. Also the sound scope of St peppers sounds much richer compared the cd copy I grew up with after finally scalping a mint 1968 copy)

There's so something for the size of the albums and the contents (the insert in St peppers a 1976 calendar with Alice coopers poison or the poster with fresh fruit for rotting vegetables by dead Kennedys)

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Headmaster

Lies, damned lies and...

So vinyl sales are back to 1990s levels ... around the time when they were in the toilet, having been decimated by CDs for years.

Instead of skewing stats by cherry picking a favourable time frame, let's look at the the big picture. It's far more depressing, and bear in mind those figures are not even adjusted for inflation. Here's another that shows sales by units instead of value.

"A similar pattern took place globally. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (which doesn’t track vinyl singles), sales of vinyl albums tumbled from a peak of 1.1 billion worldwide in 1981 to 450 million in 1989; 109 million in 1993; and just 33 million in 1995. By 1997, they were down to 17 million, and after a slight bump to 22 million in 1998, they plunged as low as 3 million in 2006."

If those charts don't offer enough perspective, it's worth remembering that vinyl now accounts for only 2% of all music sales, and that's on its best day (and half of those are bought by collectors who don't even own a record player, and have no intentions of ever playing them).

I was a big vinyl fan in its heyday, and I still have a vast collection - I even have a dusty old record deck in the attic somewhere, but it's time to face reality, and playing with statistics will not alter that reality.

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Re: Lies, damned lies and...

To be fair, vinyl was on it's way out anyway. Even before CDs hit in the '90s the shift was toward the small, portable, and recordable compact cassette. Through the '70s the compact cassette was increasingly becoming the standard in automobile head units having beaten its own rival the 8-track and hung around until well into the '00s. You'll notice on that second link that vinyl had a peak in about '78 and while boom boxes had been around a while it was really portable devices like the Sony Walkman which marks the precipitous decline in vinyl. Unfortunately that link doesn't show unit numbers for prerecorded cassettes but if it did I would imagine that '90s valley wouldn't be anywhere near as deep. Each major technology got it's day and vinyl never scored well on the portability meter and in the evolution of audio, there's still a small niche for vinyl and for everything else a binary file, stored or streamed, is good enough at the moment.

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Windows

Too warm

Vinyl is crap and always has been. It just can’t replace the wonderfully scratchy, tinny sound of shellac played on a decent wind-up gramophone, fitted with a medium-tone steel needle.

Listening to Blind Lemon Jefferson on my VV 8-30, I feel like I’m right there in the same century. When I close my eyes, the audible perspective of mono is eerie. I could almost point to the chair he's sitting in.

Sure you can approximate the tonal qualities of shellac by listening to an LP with your head in a tin bucket but it’s just not the same and it makes it hard to drink your beer.

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Not because it sounds better, or is retro...

IKM stocking up o crappy old vinyl so I have improvised munitions for a "Shaun of the Dead" style zombie apocalypse.

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Colour me sceptical

Vinyl does not sound better than CD. That's not to say vinyl can't sound good - of course it can - but on any technical measure it will be outperformed by CD. There's a reason why CD took off as quickly as it did, and why it all but killed off vinyl and cassette tape (as well as seeing off some inferior digital technologies such as MiniDisc and DCC)...it's because it was an improvement on every level except for the smaller cover art. It's why so many of us dumped our precious vinyl collections at the charity shop and started over; because it was better.

Don't be persuaded by the analogue-waveform-from-a-needle argument. Speaker cones are also analogue devices and the simple inertia of the coil/cone assembly will do a good job of rendering a stepped waveform into a perfect analogue representation, even without the oversampling and filtering done by any decent player. Of course, we all like what we like and I'm not trying to convince anyone of what sounds good to them, but we need to be careful of our language.

Our ears attune to what we hear and normalises it, so it's fair to say that anyone who loves the vinyl sound will not enjoy the shrill clarity of a CD, or anyone who loves CD will not appreciate the 'warmth' of vinyl. Let's not forget that each side of the argument has also invested a significant sum of money in their music (and probably equipment) and no-one likes to be told they got it wrong so we all argue for our own choice.

One thing both sides can agree on is that both CD and vinyl sound better than MP3, and that search for something better from a generation switched on to music by the easy availability of free music from streaming services is undoubtedly driving vinyl sales, aided by a good dollop of nostalgia and a bucketful of nonsense from record labels that will happily sell you their back catalogue all over again. Interesting how more than half of the Top 10 vinyl albums of 2016 were first released more than 25 years ago... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38487837

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Vic
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Re: Colour me sceptical

There's a reason why CD took off as quickly as it did

Because you could actually get the start of the track when pissed at a party?

some inferior digital technologies such as MiniDisc and DCC

MiniDisc *could* have been good - the format was very convenient, and the later versions of ATRAC were reasonable on the quality front (but let's not talk about ATRAC1). But Sony bollocksed it up because they wanted to own the format, and make sure no-one was copying their valuable and sacred recordings, so they did their damndest to keep everyone else out of the market.

DCC? I actually have no idea what happened to it. I saw a few adverts early on - then nothing...

Disclosure: I used to work for Sony. At the time MiniDisc was a thing. No, they wouldn't listen to me about opening up the format - you'd think I was recommending barbecuing their grandmothers from the reaction I got...

Vic.

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Re: Colour me sceptical

DCC was killed by it's own DRM. It would purposefully destroy your own recordings if you made copies. We tried to use it in the recording studio but it was unusable without gizmos to beat the DRM.

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