Vinyl and luck

Two interesting links from the Coolfer music industry blog today.

The New York Sun writes about how “hipsters” in Brooklyn (the Manhattan of the ’00s?) have “rediscovered” vinyl records. I don’t know if I qualify as a hipster, but I’ve continued to buy records whenever possible, new and used, even when the entire world was moving to CDs in the early 1990s. I consequently have more than 600 records today, and I actually listen to the things regularly–they’re not just taking up space in a box somewhere. Given the continued existence and crowds at well-curated record stores like Berkeley’s Amoeba (my personal version of Mecca) and Seattle’s Jive Time (used classics) and Zion’s Gate, it appears I’m not alone. The benefits are clear to many music fans–a generally warmer and rounder sound, and album art you can actually look at.

The big disadvantage: they’re harder to convert to a digital format to carry with you. Which is why, if Microsoft were serious about attracting hardcore music fans with the Zune, they should update their four-year-old Analog Recorder application–which works perfectly and is brain-dead simple to use–and build it into the Zune software.

The second article, from the New York Times Magazine, talks about a study that proves something that I’ve known for a long time: most people form their opinions about music based on other people’s opinions about music. Or, popularity breeds popularity. This makes it almost impossible to predict which songs or artists are going to be hits, and which are doomed to toil in obscurity. The study also definitively severs the link between quality and popularity–in a blind group, in which users downloaded songs based only on how well they liked them, the top downloads were completely different than in the eight study groups, in which users could see which downloads were most popular.

For those of us who’ve spent our entire musical lives toiling at the bottom of the ladder of success, it’s nice to know that our failure isn’t entirely due to lack of talent or laziness.

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