Taking it slow


Lets face it — the CD is dead.

Okay, maybe its not exactly pushing daisies as a music medium just yet, but there is no disputing that its well beyond its prime. From 2006 to 2009, North American CD sales have fallen about 35%, while MP3 sales have more than doubled during that same period. Ever since the release of Napster in 1999 and the subsequent development of peer-to-peer file sharing technologies, MP3 player manufacturers like Apple Inc. have been reaping the rewards of the music distribution revolution.

Using downloadable audio files as a vehicle, Apple Inc. has become a top plunderer of this new market with its flagship MP3 player, the iPod, which allows you to seamlessly transfer downloaded or ripped-from-CD songs to the iPod hard drive and play them more intuitively on an sleek, complex, incomparably convenient device — why would anyone want to lug around a Walkman if they could practically pick up chicks with  this thing?
In the end, the dominant format is always the most convenient format, said Greg Davis, owner of Soundscapes, a small, indie-friendly record store located on College Street. What format someone chooses depends where they lie on the packaging/sound quality/convenience continuum. Downloads have the worst packaging (in my opinion), the worst sound quality, but by far the best convenience.

The downloadable music industry had made profitable leaps and marketable bounds in the past decade because of its high accessibility and ease-of-use but surprisingly enough its not the only medium that has experienced growth in the industry. Over the years forms of audio media like the 8-Track or, more recently, the Cassette Tape have been rendered obsolete due to the release of newer, higher quality, and more convenient audio formats. However, in this dog-eat-dog word of audio hierarchy, one format has made a comeback — the relatively inconvenient 12 vinyl record.
From 2006 to 2008, vinyl record sales have experienced a higher growth than any other form of music media. This is highly unusual; never has the industry seen the revival of such a primitive mass-media device, especially one that slows people down in a world where time is money. What could the reasoning to this be?

Audiophiles will tell you that the 12 vinyl has never left the scene and that it has been a popular, albeit almost unspoken favourite over the years.

Though the rotation-per-minute analog sound quality of vinyl records doesnt meet contemporary digital kilobyte-per-second standards (even though most audio buffs prefer the sound quality of LPs), vinyl records are full of nuances that will never burn out or fade away.

For one, the difference of sound is immense — digital music offers a clean, sharp, produced sound while vinyl offers warmer tones and a more earthy quality to the music. Aside from good-ol-day sound quality, records come packaged in appealing covers, often containing lyrics and other bonus materials inside.

We know from consumer research weve conducted, that when people like an artist, oftentimes they want to have the physical product from that artist, including packaging and lyrics, says Isabel Collie, representative of HMV Group International. The [vinyl] LP is the ultimate manifestation of this physical product, due to its size and graphic impression.

So fans dont just buy vinyl records just for the music, they buy them to achieve a greater level of connectivity to the artist they admire. LPs offer a more tangible link to the original artistic direction which may have been lost in the process of digital re-mastery. But the nostalgic sound and scribbles on the inside of the album packaging cannot be the only reason that causes many people to forgo their valuable time and convenience to listen to the entire B-side of Bob Dylans Highway 61 Revisited, can it?

The answer to this is no. But it is somewhat more paradoxical than that. It turns out that most people find that listening to a record is an experience that, although somewhat inconvenient and time consuming, allows people to take a break from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives to stop and smell the roses.

You have to place the needle on the record, turn over the record, often listening to an entire side, adds Davis. In a world of immediate access, short attention spans, and unparalleled abundance, sometimes its nice to have a return to