Time To Spin The Black Circle Once Again!

This is the year that things come full circle.  Well, in a manner of speaking, they come full black circle.  In 2023, we have the first full year when sales of vinyl records will have eclipsed CD sales.  Vinyl records have been back in vogue for a long time now, and in 2022 more than $1.2 billion of vinyl was sold for artists old and new.  I even read that Metallica bought a pressing plant for making vinyl records.

I love the way vinyl sounds. I have a turntable hooked up in my house for the very reason.  This whole story leaves me with one big question: Who on earth is still buying CDs?

Vinyl is great for the richness and depth of the sound, but it’s also great because it brings back the art of the album cover.  Records are simply a larger canvas to display the artwork that accompanies the music.

I recall fondly sitting with my dad’s record collection when I was a kid (most of which I now have).  I loved perusing the covers and liner notes inside while the album spun. I loved the smell of the albums.  Vinyl records are an experience that CDs simply never provided.



Which brings me back to the same question.  In 2023, who on earth is buying a CD?

In a purely digital world, where almost every song ever recorded exists and is accessible in your pocket via your phone, why are people still buying CDs?  The cost of a CD is not cheap, ranging from $13-$21 per disc.  If you buy 12 CDs a year, it’s cheaper to subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, or even Tidal, and get all of the music you want.  I realize the snootiness of that statement after writing it, because not everyone has discretionary income to buy 12 albums a year, but if you do, I think you should reconsider. 

Even buying vinyl has become more of a collector’s market than a day-to-day music listening experience.  I personally probably buy four to five vinyl records a year.   I buy them for the full experience, and mostly because they say “Pearl Jam” somewhere on them.  I see vinyl as an experience, but my subscription to Spotify is about accessibility.

A CD is cold.  It is a plastic experience.  The jewel case breaks, and the artwork is diminished because of the smaller form factor.  A CD looks the same as every other CD.  It’s a poor experience compared to vinyl.  Even streaming has some fun to it now, as the video plays on the phone while the song is playing, creating more of an experience than any CD ever had.

From time to time, I am simply in awe of the how fast technology innovates.  It was just about ten years ago when streaming started to become a real thing.  The idea of all that music at your fingertips was a fantasy, much less being able to access it in your car’s dashboard, or through the speakers in your house.

These days, it’s simple.  No wires necessary.  Just a little Bluetooth (another incredible invention), and you’re off.  But even with all that accessibility and ease, human beings will revert back to experiences we miss.  We want to hold and touch our music.  We want to spend time with it and experience the whole thing.  And so, vinyl works its way back into the world, crossing the billion-dollar mark in sales.

Of course, not everything old can be new again.  I don’t anticipate anyone bringing back the fax machine, or acetate presentations from an overhead projector in the workplace.  Some things are simply better left to history.

2 comments about "Time To Spin The Black Circle Once Again!".
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  1. Artie White from Zoom Media Corp, March 23, 2023 at 11:23 a.m.

    Avid record collector here for over 30 years with 4,700+ records in my collection and counting. Everything you state above is correct. Streaming has the edge on accessability and convenience, while vinyl offers a unique experience similar to reading a physical book or collecting works of art. CDs have no upside in the 2023 landscape.

    I would add that when your CD player malfunctions, expensive repairs are needed if you're not savvy with dismantling electronics. Turntables are a simpler technology that can be adjusted and upgraded in minutes by even the most casual user.

  2. Frank Lampe from Lampe & Associates, March 23, 2023 at 4:04 p.m.

    Isn't it great that we're even having this conversation in 2023? I love vinyl and still have a bunch of it. However, in defense of CDs: remastered music on CDs, including from 40-50 years ago, is a aural joy, especially live music. Unlike LPs, it can easily be converted to other devices for mobile listening, including in vehicles, etc. And on a good hi-fi (another ancient reference--will it come back, too?), while different and perhaps not as warm sounding as vinyl, for most listeners, CDs provide a superior listening experience. I appreciate the expanded capacity and ability to have an LP and numerous "bonus" tracks on one disc. While I appreciate that you're making a point, I'd suggest that new vinyl LPs are WAAAAY more expensive than most CDs, including the above mentioned remastered versions. Let's enjoy both and relish that real music by real artists is alive and well!  

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