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The Return of Analog

October 31, 2014       Tech Buzz
The Return of Analog
Despite Digital Music Being a Library in a Thumbdrive, 
Young People are Rediscovering Vinyl and Cassette Tape

Chloe Moretz listening to vinyl isn't just a come on....the trend of kids
 collecting vinyl again in this day and age is hitting the roof
and is here to stay.
          All rights reserved Warner Bros.

Even Millennials are getting back to listening to music in cassette and vinyl format again.  Of course, dedicated music fans already know that analog sounds much crisper and warmer than any high-end digital recording, and these audiophiles already own their own precious stash of vinyl. 

This isn't a total throwback to retro-technology....yet.  But the niche segment of people choosing older analog formats is growing fast and this IS worth watching because we know that if anything strangely bizarre happens ( a Coronal Mass Ejection at above X.1 level hitting the earth square) and every digital electronic device becomes a brick, the ones left with real treasure are those with analog music hardcopy like vinyl records.  A real artifact whose time will always be always.  Unless techs dare invent another analog medium for music better than vinyl.

Why are people willing to endure the risk of records scratching and warping or cassette players eating magnetic tape when an entirely digital format seems invulnerable by comparison?  How is it that analog aficionados have partly abandoned the free and easy sharing of audio files via the Internet for a form of music which can only be shared by actually handing over a piece of plastic or vinyl to another person?

Music makes it nearly impossible for us to sit still or at least shake our hair in time to the music's riffs and beats.  We've all seen this, time and time again, with kids aping anything catchy and dancing to it like the flying monkeys of Oz.  When the right music is pumping, our kitchen is transformed into a dance floor! 

Putting on music via any digital music is easy. Just cycle through the menu then click on the song or playlist you want.  Playing music with clunky analog devices forces you to be careful, from setting the record properly in its seat and letting the needle ease into the vinyl, while waiting out a few split seconds before the music comes on.  Same with cassette tape, finding specific songs might have you running the tape at FF or RW, or just waiting out the playlist until your song comes on.  Even if you wanted songs in a certain order, you'd have to record them one by one, in the most time consuming manner, until your mix tape is put together.  Maybe this ritual is part of the strange attraction of getting back to DIY personal music collections rather than just clicking and dragging files onto a folder and assigning a playlist.  The lowly and ridiculous cassette tape is a happy memory for many music fans of a certain age, and making mix tapes will arguably be a better waste of time than ripping music off torrent for your matchbox media player, even though you can do both now.

One Canadian company lives off making small print run analog music like cassettes and vinyl,  Analogue Media Technologies, a company created to help bands market their music.  They offer the entire production process from finished master recordings to graphic design templates for album art and labels and liner notes.  Denise Gorman, part-owner of the Montreal-based company, says the value of cassettes goes beyond the ability to store music.  "As a marketing thing they are really artistic. they are cute and beautiful and you can use them as a novelty thing to promote yourself."

Analogue now says that cassette recordings make up 25% of their business. While cassettes may be popular, cassette players are still hard to come by. 
Many bands who sell cassette tapes also include a digital download code inside the case.  As if the cassette product were just an additional marketing value-add on.

Vinyl, the purist's darling, has that perfect studio replication and warm sound, but it also has a hefty price tag - C$14.10 ($13.80; 39.09) per record for a set of 100, compared to C$1.29 for cassettes. Although cassettes are still slightly more expensive to produce than CDs, they add value for many fringe rock and cult music audiences like punk and lo-fi rock.

Make no mistake about the resurgence of analog music as well as other analog trends, it is more of a sideways, long tail segmented market rather than any real change in the way people will consume their music purchases in the future.  Small and dedicated music production houses like Analogue are there for the self-publsihing artist or that small independent music label looking for a viable low cost option for small print run analog music for their core markets.  As long as small rock bands want to package their music with affordable yet tactile mediums, music reproduction businesses like Analogue will be around to keep producing those vinyl records and cassette tapes and maybe even re-issues of our favorite classic rock and dance albums.

And best of all, in the future, if some level X.4 plus, Coronal Mass Ejection hits the earth square, we'll still have the best music intact while the rest gets bricked into oblivion.


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