Music comes full circle [UPDATED]Published 4:45am Monday, July 1, 2013 Updated 6:47am Monday, July 1, 2013
So I watched a story the other day about how record albums are trendy again.
Funny how technology has circled itself.
I was around when records were a big deal. I recall going with my dad to an electronics store and buying a turntable. I had a bunch of albums. Considering I’ve never been one to care for things like records very well, it was a matter of months before the albums got scratchier and scratchier, until they skipped, and eventually were unusable.
When compact discs came out, the end was predicted for albums. At first, CDs sounded better than albums. However, “audiologists” noted that, assuming an album was not scratched, the sound was actually better than CDs — the highs were higher, the lows were lower, and the midtones were more resonant (I used to read a lot of stereo magazines when I was a geeky kid.)
Of course, the fact that CDs were more compact, could be played in a Walkman (try doing that with an album), and for the record companies, likely were cheaper to make, meant that, within a few years, CDs had completely overtaken albums in sales.
Turntables were hauled off to the landfills, and albums were shoved in the backs of garages and storage sheds.
While there were many who still collected albums — and no, Michael Jackson’s Thriller album, one of the last big sellers before CDs came out, is not worth anything — the only people who actually played albums were DJs at discos. The reason? You needed a turntable to be able to make a funky sound in the middle of a song.
This, of course, went on for a couple decades. Vinyl albums didn’t die, but they were definitely on life support.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, however, albums are making a comeback. According to a national sales report, album sales in 2012 rose 19 percent, and turntable sales 40 percent compared to the previous year.
Apparently, it’s the young who are buying them. And we’re not talking about those Elvis “Blue Hawaii” or “Frampton Comes Alive” albums you find at the thrift shops. The sales are based on new records from new artists.
The new albums, however, come with a twist. Inside each album is a code which allows you to download its digital version free.
In other words, you can listen to the album on your premium turntable in all of its symphonic glory while listening intently with friends in your living room on your super-deluxe stereo equipment. Listening to records has become an experience again, like actually going to a movie or a baseball game instead of watching it on a computer screen.
Or you can listen to the album on your iPhone and listen to it while you’re running or doing laundry.
CDs, meanwhile, are now collecting dust. Frankly, I have a pileload of them in some plastic tote somewhere in my garage.
After all, I have already downloaded them, or at least the best songs from each album, onto my computer and the many other devices I own.
Since the sound on a CD is no different than that of a computer — after all, a song is essentially a computer program, and it never changes — there’s no reason to play the CD anymore.
This record album phenomenon gives newspapers hope. I get that online newspapers and blogs are free, and provide information immediately rather than in a 24-hour cycle that newspapers do.
But there’s something about the experience of reading a newspaper that I think many still enjoy, and many others are missing out on. There’s really nothing better than sitting down on a Sunday morning with a nice cup of coffee and leisurely paging through the newspapers.
So here’s to album geeks for starting a new trend. Let’s hope newspaper geeks start another.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at email@example.com