As some of you may know, in my life outside of Headless Owl I front a band called The Burning Hell. We're not a successful band like April Wine or Lil Wayne, but we're also not living all together in a leaky-roofed slum with mushrooms sprouting in the bathroom, trying to scrounge enough change to buy a new D-string and hoping against hope that the next time we go on tour we don't have to sell our drummer's other kidney. We're somewhere in the middle (though definitely closer to the organ-sales side of things).
But how do we actually make the meagre money that we make? A substantial part of it is from touring. Way back in the day, it used to be that tours were really vehicles to sell recorded music, and a band (and their label) would take a hit on a tour because everyone going to the shows would buy records. Nowadays, people go to shows for the 'experience' - it doesn't have to be a fancy stadium show, but we all want to experience the liveness of the music, to be part of something that will only happen once in exactly that way. And we sure don't buy too much music anymore.
Or do we? (Ba-ba-BAM) CD sales might be going down, and for lots of folks, mp3s are mostly something you steal rather than something you buy. But record sales - that is, the sales of vinyl albums - are steadily creeping up again. Why? Are people just nostalgically fetishizing these big round things, trying to recapture a by-now very distant youth? Maybe. Or are younger people using LPs as cultural capital, as markers of coolness? The fact that the 'lifestyle' store Urban Outfitters has been selling records suggests that this is the case.
And you know what? I don't really care. I'm just happy people are buying music again. And I'm a fan of the LP. I'm a nostalgic fetishizer too. I also happen to agree with the old audiophile curmudgeons that music does sound much better on wax. I like the artwork. I like the physical size and weight. I like the way LPs make you pay attention to them. And as a musician, I really like the way that selling them helps me do what I do.
So - record makers, record lovers: we are all record buyers. Let's never stop. Let's keep music waxy.
And PS - In case you ever wondered what the actual monetary difference for artists is between two of the most popular ways of listening to music today (online streaming versus actual physical albums), check out the amazing breakdown courtesy of Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 here: