‘The whole experience of vinyl is what we're after. If we don't see something moving, we lose romance,’ said White, ‘there's no romance for me to sing to you about an iPod’.
This is a confusing statement, Jack White isn’t singing about vinyl anyway! But this idea that vinyl, definitively a thing of the past, is romantic, charming, exotic, or whatever adjective you want to attach to a piece of plastic, has always sounded ridiculous to me.
There is a vinyl revival, there is no doubt about it, as, only in my close neighborhood, 4 different stores offer a large collection of vinyl, and this is even without counting giant store Amoeba! I know I live in hipster town, but there is a real need for vinyl, people buy it, new or used, as if it was the new gold. The vinyl album dates from the 50s for god sake! Why do people have nostalgia for such old things?
I understand that vinyl was used by the dance/rap music scene because records could be hand manipulated and scratched, but honestly, how many DJs are still using turntables? It’s all about knobs and buttons now.
Most people explain that vinyl resuscitated for cultural reasons: some people remain attached to an object for the art on the cover, or the lyrics on the jacket, and with the disappearance of CDs, this niche was left vacant, and soon taken over by vinyl. However, to sell vinyl, you have to be in the right environment, vinyl took over in certain areas, but not in all areas.
Let's take an example: There is no doubt that Adele dominated the sale charts in 2011, but vinyl-wise, she wasn’t number one! According to Neilsen Soundscan, the 10 selling vinyl albums of 2011 were:
1. The Beatles – Abbey Road (41,000)
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (29,700)
3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011) (27,200)
4. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More (26,800)
5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (20,800)
6. Adele – 21 (16,500)
7. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2008) (16,200)
8. Wilco – The Whole Love (14,900)
9. The Black Keys – Brothers (2010) (14,200)
10. The Black Keys – El Camino (2011) (13,800)
Ok, she made #6, but logically she should have been #1, and do you see where I am going? Do you notice any rap, or any Bieber in this list? Certainly not! As a matter of fact, Adele is not even in the 2011 top ten vinyl artists, but, in this list, you see the apparition of Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Nirvana, just after the already mentioned Radiohead, Black Keys, Bon Iver, Beatles and Fleet Foxes
On the other hand, if you take the top ten selling artists based on album (not vinyl) 2011 sales, you get Adele, Justin Bieber, Michael Buble, Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne, Lady Antebellum, Glee Cast, Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Drake,…
it is clear that vinyl is restrained to a very specific audience. Vinyl may not be completely dead but it still survives thanks to a sort of retro-hipster-indie public. And isn’t Jack White the king of this public and the apotheosis of this movement anyway? A movement cultivating an image, a culture and the nostalgia of this culture, but for how long?