What's wrong with "vinyl being good for artists"

A lot. Really.

In the modern music industry “it is an article of faith that digital music in the form of streaming is the future [because in that way] users only have a licence to listen. Far from allowing people to make multiple copies, as the industry feared, the shift to digital has meant that consumers typically don’t own even a single copy of a song."

Perhaps we are starting to see a backlash against that situation, says Walled Culture, thanks to vinyl records, whose sales in the US rose “up by 51% to 41.7 million USD” in 2021:

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This “No way! ONLY vinyl!” return to analogue would be good for artists because:

  • revenue from streaming is low, and needs improving so that artists receive a fair share of the profits
  • analogue, and thus scarce, formats like vinyl give artists a new way to reach, and earn revenue, from devoted fans and music lovers

On the consumer side, the vinyl renaissance seems due to, among other things:

  • nostalgia among older music listeners
  • newfound popularity among younger generations
  • vanity: “Turntables have become a retro touch in audiophiles' apartments. And a vinyl purchase signifies the super-fan’s status (and refinement) in a streaming world”
  • desire to directly support artists after live music venues shut down during the pandemic

The first three reasons have nothing to do with rationality, but at least they don’t pretend to be so. The fourth really seems nothing but a misguided, dumb solution for a serious problem to me.

Vinyl? again?

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Be like this lady. Please.


In 2022, for 15 years at least, the great majority of the people with enough time and money to listen to music on a regular basis already carry enough storage for plenty of music in their pocket everyday: the smartphone they got from a planet already obese by the sheer amount of human artifacts and waste.

We can argue till the end of days about what format gives (theoretically, of course) better quality audio, but it’s irrelevant. Whatever that format turns out to be, it won’t change a bit the facts that:

  • speaking of quality, the difference between digital and analogue is actually perceptible only under precise conditions, with the right amount of money
  • speaking of vinyl itself, extracting, processing and eventually trashing more raw matter for storing music in the least resilient way possible really is one of the least necessary, that is dumbest ways to pollute
  • vinyl is elitist and vinyl as a way to support artists discriminates among artists

OK, the last bullet deserves explanation. If there is one thing good in digitization of music, is that it democratised listening to music.

Only if music is digital everybody can (even without streaming!) get and carry around hours and hours of music of all possible genres, and always listen to it wherever they are. Only if music is digital everybody can listen to it with the highest quality they could actually get in the places they actually are, and always at the smallest possible cost.

Vinyl, instead, is elitist, in the sense that only people with enough money and above all enough space in their own houses (that is, again, money, just much more) to host vinyl albums, turntables and quality speakers.

And buying vinyl to “directly support artists” discriminates among artists, because it only supports artists who make the people who can afford vinyl feel good.

Mind you, I do still have THIS, and will keep it until someone steals it from my cold, dead hands:

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<a href="/img/saturday-night-fever-double-vinyl.png" target="_blank">(click for larger version)</a>


but I have it in the closet, waiting till I find the time to frame and hang it on the wall as a fond memory of the simpler times when it was bought, and nothing else.

If sound from vinyl really is so superior to sound from digital files, and you really have money AND space AND good enough ears AND really good earphones AND time to listen to that superior sound in all its glory, go ahead. But call it a luxury, an innocent hobby, whatever… everything but a way to “directly support artists”. Not a smart way at least.

If the goal is to directly support artists…

Don’t fall for vinyl. Try these three ways instead:

  • direct donations
  • buying straight from artists stuff you need, or can use in better ways than a turntables (e.g. personalized mugs, shirts, posters… everything, really)
  • (the REAL solution, and not just for vinyl): demand a serious reform of copyright

These are all strategies that make infinitely more sense than vinyl, without any of the waste. Including that of your money:

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