I come from a background of vinyl. I remember my dad taking me to record shops, buying music and playing it. He got a bumping stereo and gave me a little record player and some old records to play with. Little did he know, he unleashed a monster. A vinyl addict.
I own an obscene amount of hip hop, soul, rnb and drum and bass/old skool/jungle vinyls which, if I didn’t bother buying I could have had a nice house and a car. And there are loads of us in the same boat.
Around about 1991 the major labels started releasing albums on CDs. The singles on vinyl albums fast became CD only. If music came on vinyl the CD held extra tracks. The music quality of CDs were better, but it was hard for the DJ because at that time there was no way to mix CDs, you could only play them. The first real threat to vinyl had arrived.
And then dance music saved it. While CDs were being sold at obscenely high prices, vinyl was still relatively cheap and the first choice of the DJ. Turntablism was getting a lot of press and competition kept interest in the format. Manufacturers had yet to make CD decks, so the 1210's in the club reigned. There was no way to mix CDs so smaller labels (without the capability of burning and pressing CDs) kept pressing vinyls. And we kept buying them.
Although for the majority the way music was listened to had changed, the way it was played out continued. Record shops thrived, especially in the centre of London where Blackmarket, Bluebird and tonnes of other smaller record shops flourished. The DJ would go regularly to the record shops, searching for the next promo to play on radio, at clubs and parties. I remember the days in the basement at Blackmarket, with Ray Keith, Nicky, Profile and Clarkee, playing hot beats and handing them to eager hands.
Then online record shops emerged and record shops became less necessary. People were able to listen to MP3 clips of the tunes online then purchase the full version on vinyl. Record companies cottoned on and the MP3 market was born. Having the original files recorded straight to MP3 on computer required no physical media, distribution, postage, cutting, delivery etc. Record companies had more product control and it cost a lot less. It took time to catch on but now everyone everywhere has some kind of MP3 player to listen to. CDs have suffered because of it and, of course, so has vinyl.
How has this affected the DJ? MP3s are perfect for the listener, nothing to change, load and up and off you go. For the DJ, now we have CD decks where you can now download MP3s, burn to CD and play in the clubs on CD decks. Not a lot of DJs play vinyl anymore, they mainly play CDs or use Traktor or Serato to manipulate MP3s exactly like vinyl. There is less to carry and they are lot cheaper to buy which saves a lot of hoarding.
But what of the vinyl we all own? Is it worthless now? To those who own it, it will always hold a place in our hearts and on our shelves. A lot of the old tunes are forever only on vinyl but can now be ripped to MP3 format. In the vinyl days, quality control was high. Only the best music was released. Now with artists starting MP3 labels, the music is easier to get but the quality control has definitely gone downhill. In light of this, has there been any progress? Technologically yes, but musically….?