“The State of Vinyl” and New Release Info from Monster Music & Movies

by David Turner

The latest newsletter from Monster Music & Movies in Charleston makes a strong rebuttal against the recent article in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming that the vinyl boom is over.

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Got a minute?

We have something on our mind.  It’s about vinyl, vinyl sales, and media criticism.

A decade or so ago when a bunch of record store people got together and dreamed up Record Store Day, it was all about the narrative the media had an autopilot for years – “no one buys CDs anymore, record stores are dead, and good riddance to the old days.”  That type of thing was reported so commonly, it became accepted dogma.  Except it wasn’t true.

We were able to change the conversation.  Not only are record stores alive, they’re important community gathering places and a lot of fun.  And once that message started permeating, people started figuring out that vinyl’s pretty darn cool, sales skyrocketed, one thing led to another and here we are today.

Back where we started.  The Wall St Journal published a piece this week entitled “Why Vinyl’s Boom is Over”.  I’ve seen it referenced on social media several times already, generally with a quip like “See, I knew vinyl was a fad, it’s finally dead, good.  Oh, and I’m not a hater.”  I have a rule that arguing with a fool = two fools arguing, but it’s really hard not to challenge obvious poor reporting and errant conclusions drawn.

Ok, let’s start with the title.  Why did the WSJ report the “Boom is Over”?  Because Nielsen (Soundscan) reported vinyl sales up only 2% over the first half of 2017.  Now, I can’t notmention that Soundscan doesn’t poll most small indie stores, which has been responsible for a lot of the run-up in new store openings and sales growth, and their data has been a source of skepticism for some over the years as a result.  However, how dim do you have to be to read “Boom is Over” and infer that to mean sales are declining?  An increase is an increase.  I can think of several industries that would be thrilled with a 2% increase.  And oftentimes declines in growth are simply reflecting a necessary repositioning of the marketplace and give air to future increases in growth.  We see this all the time in the overall economy.

But the article itself wasn’t so much about vinyl, as it was about Gillian Welch and David Rawlings reissuing their 2011 album “Harrow & the Harvest” on vinyl and making sure to use the original analog tapes.  We absolutely applaud this effort, and lots of other artists and labels make sure to do the same.  It’s true, and it’s a damn shame, that some vinyl pressed today is sourced from the digital tapes.  Which totally defeats the purpose, and we generally look at the practice with a healthy amount of disdain.  However, in some cases, analog tapes no longer exist or are not in good enough condition, so it can’t be completely avoided.

We can argue it all day, so there’s not much point, but there is no freakin’ way that the slowdown in vinyl’s growth is due to customers growing tired of poor quality vinyl as a result of using digital source material, as the article suggests.  It also cites high prices, and that is very likely a factor.  There are always multiple factors in constant play, and it’s all too easy to draw an overgeneralized conclusion.  Price does matter; we’ve heard it from you, we’ve passed it along to the labels, and the labels are starting to get religion about it.  Plus, with more and more pressing plants coming online, we hope the added competition will drive down the cost of manufacturing, which will ultimately trickle down to the consumer.  We’ll have to see.

But hold the phone a minute.  The Wall St Journal did another article about vinyl on June 29th, wherein they say “Vinyl is experiencing a renaissance as younger music lovers embrace the perceived warmer, more vivid sound —and the more tactile connection to music than digital downloads offer.”  Not even a month before the Gillian Welch article.

So I’m confused.  Is vinyl experiencing a renaissance, or is the vinyl boom over?  I don’t think it can really be both.  Or are we experiencing vinyl’s late renaissance period?  (Sheesh!)

But anyway.  Who really reads between the lines?  Most people are inclined to see the headline and assume the worst if there’s any negative at all.  “Oh, vinyl is over, I knew it was too good to be true.  It was a fad after all, just like Beanie Babies and the Shamwow.”

Ok, hold that thought.  Let’s move over to another respected financial publication, Forbes.  They reported in January that 2017 vinyl sales are projected to reach 40 million, with sales hitting 1 billion for the first time this millennium, and we will see a seventh consecutive year of double-digit sales growth.   Regardless of whether this comes to pass, would you agree that if we’re even in the ballpark of $1B in sales, that’s way beyond the level fads generally reach?  It’s all in how you report it, isnt’ it?

Vinyl is no more a fad than CDs were – their heyday lasted just a short 20 years or so – or the digital download, sales of which are declining by double digits today after surpassing physical sales for the first time just 5 years ago.  We’ll be the first to agree that the high-flying days of the 80s and 90s, when billions of albums and CDs were sold annually, are gone for good.  Not coming back.  But vinyl has carved out a niche today that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Oh, and by the way, don’t forget about the CD.  Sales have been declining for years, it’s true, but in 2016 they still generated 104.8 million unit sales.  Bet you didn’t realize CD sales are still way out ahead of vinyl!  How can that be, all the press, love and attention vinyl gets?  My customers are always surprised when I tell them CDs still outsell LPs for us.

Again, that’s what happens when you control the narrative.  How easily we are manipulated by the headlines we read!  Journalists tasked with reporting the story often aren’t careful enough to make sure you’re not going to leap to unintended conclusions.  It’s entertainment, it’s a fluff piece, and we’re just going to report something different next month anyway, so who cares?

That really wouldn’t get my goat so much if there weren’t immediately faceless people out of the woodwork who call out “See, what did I tell you!  It was a fraud all along.”

Anyway, believe what you want to believe.  But we’re not going anywhere.  The industry changes as it always has, and we’ll continue to adapt to it.  But we have never gotten out of the vinyl business, even during the 90s and 00s, and expect to stay in it as long as we’re here.  And we’re in the process of renewing our lease, so that should tell you something.


Moving on to new releases!

Indie superstars and perennial Grammy nominees Arcade Fire are releasing their fifth studio album, titled “Everything Now”. The title refers to the fictional company the band has been pretending to be employed by, and the songs themselves are surprisingly upbeat and disco-infused, not entirely what listeners have come to expect from the experimental sextet. Satirical lyrics about modern culture and Abba-inspired melodies are sure to make this a memorable album from a band who specializes in memorable albums. “Everything Now” is available in both Day and Night Version on CD and vinyl (Night Version vinyl is colored blue wax), and the CD is on sale now for $9.99.

British rockers Cage the Elephant are known for the boundless energy of their albums and stage performances, so “Unpeeled” is a step or two outside of their wheelhouse, but a confident project nonetheless. A collection of stripped down versions from live tour dates in 2016, “Unpeeled” is an entirely acoustic project, with an additional string quartet as well. Out of 21 tracks, only three are covers, including Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World” and The Stranglers‘ “Golden Brown”, and the rest span the history of the band’s four albums. “Unpeeled” is available on CD and on sale for $9.99.

Shock rock god Alice Cooper has decided to grace us with a brand new studio album titled “Paranormal”. After nearly 50 years in music, Cooper is still keeping is fresh, and in the words of the Guardian, “keeping it weird.” Along with guest appearances by Billy Gibbons and U2‘s Larry Mullen, the album also includes a second disc of live recordings of some of his greatest hits. Never say that Alice Cooper is one to shy away from technology either–head on over to the Alice Cooper Paranormal Photo App where you can implant your face into the artwork. Any fan who goes on social media and creates an image with their face and uses the hashtag #IAmAliceCooper and tags their local indie record store (e.g. us) will enter to win an autographed 2xLP from Alice (example of an image below)! A random winner will be selected on 8/4. “Paranormal” is available now on CD and vinyl; the CD is on sale for $9.99.


Rex Brown, “Smoke On This” CD: $9.99

Shaman’s Harvest, “Red Hands Black Deeds” CD: $9.99

Vic Mensa, “The Autobiography” CD: $9.99

Joywave, “Content” CD: $7.99

Isley Brothers & Santana, “Power of Peace” CD: $9.99

We’ll be back next week to tell you about the coolest new releases and remind you that August 5th is the next Vinyl Saturday, so come get your 20% off records! Plus we’ll have a special bonus coupon deal you won’t want to miss.

–The Monster Crew


New Release Round-Up 07-28-17
New Releases - July 28 2017

ARCADE FIRE – Everything Now (Night Version) – Sony
The fifth full-length studio release for the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire, was co-produced with Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Markus Dravs, and Pulp’s Steve Mackey. Features “Electric Blue”. The album is available as the standard “Day Version” and the Indie Exclusive “Night Version” which features exclusive artwork.

MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA – A Black Mile To The Surface – Loma Vista
A Black Mile To The Surface is a bold record of vision and purpose, inspired by and dwelling in a sensory and imaginative experience. It’s a reinvention of sorts, both musically and personally-a sort of cosmic worldview shift. But in the end, the record’s themes are universal. Inspired by their experience creating the score for the film Swiss Army Man, they seized the chance to rethink Manchester Orchestra’s typical methods of working. This process gave them new ideas of how to think about writing, how songs could flow, and how to layer melodies on top of one another to propel the tune into a new emotional arena. To manifest this vision, the band turned to producer Catherine Marks (Foals, PJ Harvey, The Killers, Interpol) and began working with her at Echo Mountain studio in Asheville. In addition to mixing with Marks at her Assault & Battery studio in London, Manchester Orchestra also worked with John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In The Sky, Angel Olsen, Cloud Nothings) in Los Angeles – gathering new sounds, adding to and widening the songs’ dimensions. Encouraged to go against first instinct, each collaborator added their own touch to the music, pushing it to places no Manchester Orchestra record had ever gone before.

JUICEBOXXX – Freaked Out American Loser – Dangerbird
Freaked Out American Loser” is the latest album from Juiceboxxx, the Milwaukee-bred punk rap artist who is quite simply the first and last of his kind all at once. Juiceboxxx grew up in the 2000s within the noise, punk rock, and underground rap communities of Wisconsin, and while those banners still fly high independently today, there are very few other artists who not only understand that venn diagram but who are also actively attempting to merge those sounds cohesively. Juiceboxxx might be out of his mind, but in all the best ways–he owns it and commits to this unstoppable onslaught of creative ideas and outbursts. ”Freaked Out American Loser” is a punk rap blast that captures the anarchic, aggressive spirit of Juiceboxxx’s live show while also adding a new level of polish, focus, and dare we say, professionalism. Songs like ”Guts And Tension” and ”Destruction and Redemption” place the listener in the middle of the pit, blazing with frenetic guitar and thick energy. ”Freaking Out” and ”Go To The Club Alone” display dexterous rap skill and a heavier hip hop feel while retaining a jittery post-punk edge. And the album-closing eponymous track even brings to mind the melodic chime and epic codas of the Pixies.

ALICE COOPER – Paranormal – Earmusic
Alice Cooper’s new studio album, his first in 6 years, ‘Paranormal‘ was recorded in Nashville with long-time collaborator Bob Ezrin. The 10 track album also features a very special bonus CD a mini-album consisting of two brand new songs written and recorded together with the original Alice Cooper band members Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith and guitarist Michael Bruce alongside carefully selected live recordings. ‘Paranormal’ also features special guest appearances by U2’s Larry Mullen Jr., ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Deep Purple’s Roger Glover.

JOYWAVE – Content – Hollywood Records
Rochester alternative band Joywave are releasing their sophomore studio album titled Content, and getting ready to make their return to the live stage. The quintet will head out on tour with Young The Giant and Cold War Kids at the start of August. Content, which has a playful double meaning, is produced by Joywave’s Daniel Armbruster & Sean Donnelly and mixed by Rich Costey and will be released on Hollywood Records/Cultco Music.


MARGO PRICE - Weakness EPMARGO PRICE – Weakness EP – Third Man RecordsMARGO PRICE - Weakness EP
Following the release of the critically celebrated Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, Margo Price returns with four fresh, gutsy originals that further explore themes of duality, loss and redemption that expand her musical palette. The four new tracks are being released as a two-piece 7’’ bundle “EP” – a Third Man Records first. The title track, “Weakness,” is an upbeat country split-personality confessional that has the biting insight and holy quips Margo fans have come to love. “Just Like Love” offers up a somber folk fix that showcases the band at their most resonant and atmospheric. “Paper Cowboy” (written by Matt Gardner) is a whip-smart anthem tailor-made for the blistering summer festival circuit that touches cosmic country territory with a four minute jam that hits a listener like heaven. Meanwhile, “Good Luck” (For Ben Eyestone) is a bittersweet farewell that stands as a perfect fit for when the credits start to roll, the sun takes seat and the world signs off…

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