Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Casualties of the Format Wars

While back in Canada for a short while, I've been taking the time to reunite with the music that I left behind, most of which I haven't laid eyes on (or ears) in a year and a half. In this case, the hearing is secondary to the seeing. Obviously there isn't enough time to listen to it all, or even a tiny fraction of it. Instead, I've been gazing at CD's in giant holding cases that haven't been opened in a long time, musing over CD's covers and vinyl labels like they were photos of long lost relatives. A picture tells a story by replaying the scene in your head, just like seeing a music label replays the songs in your head. I can sit in front of a computer all day long and will happily download and rip music all day, month, and year long, none of it can snap the physical connection I feel for the music I buy. For most of my life, I bought and listened to physical objects. These soft spots will always be there.

Maybe this is why I was particularly affected by this report about the decline of the vinyl format in Jamaica (many thanks to Idolator for the post and the heads up). Vinyl has defiantly outlasted CD as a viable long-term music format, there is no longer any doubt of this. Vinyl is likely the last bastion of "physical", as opposed to "digital" music culture, and the 7" single has been entrenched in reggae for so long that I figured it would remain immune to the fallout from the format wars.

Paradoxically, sales of actual records are propped up by international buyers, who buy them to increase their physical connection to the music -- essentially compensating for not "being there". The people who "are there", who have the easiest access to buying the singles, prefer the convenience of mp3s!

In ten years, music shops will only sell used vinyl, won't they? It'll all come down to used vinyl and tour CD's from merch tables ...

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