This is why the vinyl is back and here to stay in 2012.

According to Billboard 2011 report the vinyl hit a new record – a whopping  3.9 million sales in 2011. That’s 1.1 million more sales than the previous record, set in 2010. And trust me, we gonna see more and more of shiny 12″ wax being printed, destributed and spinned at the clubs in the year 2012.

There are three main reasons for this:

  • In 2012 everybody and their mom is a dj.
  • In 2012, Laptop Dj + vinyl Dj = True
  • The lost generation of digital valuables and the return of physical medium

So let’s break it down.

In 2012 everybody and their mom is a dj.

The Dj’s status has changed dramatically during the last 10 year, turning the nerdy guy sweating over an overheated mixer in the darkest corner of the room into a rock-star like symbol (preferably with some tattoos, hipster apparel and a giant mask). The Dj has moved from that dark corner onto the scene, into the spotlight with the arms raised high above the head.

Thanks to the hard working Pr-people behind the likes of Felix Da Housecat, Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta and Avicii the DJ is the new one man pop-brand of our time. Who cares if you play with your equipment switched off as long as you have a few million fans on facebook.

And yes, since the Dj is hotter then ever, everybody wants to be one. And since everybody wants to be a Dj, the equipment producers has responded to the growing demand of dj gear by getting really busy innovating the Djing technology that has been very standard for so many years.

Ableton Live, Traktor, Serato and other dj software are all made to innovate the way the dj can mix and alternate the music itself, while making the actual mixing process as simple as possible. There is always one or other type of auto-sync fucntionality. So for those who spent hundreds of hours in their bedrooms practicing beatmatching skills on their turntables and cds back in the 80s and 90s – the news are – that the next generation of Djs can just download a bunch of mp3s and learn to dj on a laptop within a few hours. No matter what you think about the new type of djs, the new technology and the gadgets it brings is without a doubt despised by the old-school veterans.

And the “everybody is a dj”trend just keeps evolving. In almost any town, probably at the most mainstream club, you will today find some local semi-celebrity bloggers or hipsters djing by connecting 2 laptops to mixer, each laptop running a Spotify client. Just fade one track in and the other out and you got yourself a dancefloor.  Who cares that the sound quality is shit and the tracks are off beat as long as you mix them fast while you point your fingers at the sky and jump up and down a bit.

So since everybody and their moms can now dj, there is no doubt that veteran forces want to protect their turfs agains the never ending hordes of start-struck laptop and iPhone armed newbie disc jockey.

See it from the marcoeconomics perspective: If Thailand starts to produce cheap watches – the western world will put up trade barriers against those watches – both to keep the quality high and to protect the watches produced in the west from falling prices. If the supply of DJs greatly exceeds the demand, the clubs and influental members of the Dj tribe will no doubt find some barriers to put up.

One such barrier is the vinyl. No matter what, if you know how to beatmix properly on a pair of 1210s – you’ve been doing this for a very long time compared to a newly started laptop dj.  The club promoters (who also play vinyl) will no doubt be able to argue that the vinyl djs are more trustworthy to book since they’ve been on the scene much longer then the laptop generation. Basically, if we dare to look beyond the vinyl hype and the skills required to mix vinyls, it’s really all about the veteran Dj society guarding their turf against the kids showing up at the gig armed with the device below. Or a similar one.

 

When it comes to major gigs in major clubs like Berghain, Rex, La Terrrazza, Fabric, 2:35:1, Culture Box and Culture Hall you need to have a dozen of releases on reknown labels and a good agent. For the rest of DJ society it’s all about hustling our way into the gigs. Playing vinyl automatically differentiates you from the rest and heightens your chances to succeed, the same way as your networking and big mouth skills would.

The vinyl prestige does not seem to end in many years to come. Richie Hawtin got flamed severely on facebook a few months ago after questioning wherever the vinyl is not an outdated medium already.

In 2012 Laptop Dj + Vinyl Dj = true.

The coolest tech news is that the Traktor and Serrato technologies have been creating a secret passway to both the vinyl world and the much more comfortable world of mp3 djing. Providing the hardcore vinyl Djs the possibility to both drop some of their favorite original wax and play some new newly purchased or promo mp3 by bringing along a couple of time-coded vinyls. And a laptop, And a soundcard. And a bunch of cables. And a midi controller. Did you really think your record bag would become lighter?

Of course you might wanna leave the original 12″ at home and just go the club armed with two timecoded ones. lt will still look like you are playing proper vinyl, at least to an untrained-eye audience. And there are some new feature to come, that mostdefinitely will be cursed by the veteran generation.

Digital and unlimited a VS physical and tangible

Naturally, I saved the best part for last. This one is a deep and philosofical position that can be talked about forever. So I’ll try to keep it short.

When it comes to electronic music the amount digital tracks released every day is virtually countless. There are 700,000 electronic dance tracks on Beatport alone. And ten times more on more mainstream stores like iTunes that announced it’s 10 billionth mp3 purchase already in February 2010.

No doubt the mp3 compression cuts away a few frequencies too many, leaving the quality a bit lower than the original sound of the vinyl or wav cd. That can be easily heard by a trained ear and on a good system – like Function 1. If you have some friends with a Function 1 system lying around in the basement make sure to try it out by first playing a vinyl through it and then a 192kbps mp3 ;)

Beside the sound quality (99% of the clubcrowd won’t notice the difference) the vinyl gives the owner the priceless experience of look, feel and touch.Remember the first music record you bought? No matter if your age is 15 or 55 I bet it’s still either a cd or a vinyl. Remember the joy of tearing of the plastic and putting the record on? Crashlanding in the couch to explore the cover art and the booklet while the first sounds of your new audio-treasure filling up the room. That’s pure magic, a feeling not far away from the one of loosing your virginity.

Same goes to vinyl. Each cover-art tells a different tale, each record has a real life story to it – “I found this one in the hidden Techno Import shop in a side street in Paris”, “I first played this one on that awesome roof top party in Barcelona, where the needle woudn’t stop jumping”. Further on, the printing technology of today brings us 12″s in  all kind of cool different colors and even different shapes.

Furthermore owning physical vinyl automatically creates quite a different mindset to the general “all digital unlimited” 2012. Since creating a new mp3 track is a zero cost operation – the value of each single mp3 gets watered down to zero, and below zero when you start moving tracks by Gigabytes and clugging up your harddrive. That’s probably the main philosophy behind the music and movie piracy of the last decade – Everybody is aware that “stealing” somebody’s else music is a wrong thing to do, but since a single tracks can be duplicated by a single click – it suddenly feels more ok to down it for free from Pirate Bay, Torrenttech or similar – it’s not the same as breaking into a real life record store.

The “unlimited” nature of a digital releases is the sole reason for the hype surrounding the vinyl only ones. If you bought one of the 200 limited vinyls – you can be damn sure that there are at most 199 other djs in the world playing the same track as you do. Unless somebody made a digital rip.

Last but not least there are white labels. The records produced in a small amount (usually less than 300) – with no info stated on the label itself. It can contain anything from three tracks from a well known artist who prefers to be anonymous just for once to a bunch of amateur remixes using unlicensed parts of a Madonna tack. In any respected record store, you will find a white labels section full of mysterious vinyls. Some very good. And some very bad.

So to summarize the evolution of vinyl into 2012.

Since the amount of new digital tracks released every day is overhelming – the djs naturally are turning back to something that they can hang on to, something physical and tangible. Especially if the music is limited to vinyl only. The old-school veterans will keep whining about the vinyl being the one and only art of Djing. While the innovators will furthermore invest time and money into combining their analogue skills with the new digital ones brought by the laptops and midi-controllers. Limited edition vinyl is still the way to go if you want to release some really cool tracks. Especially if you haven’t cleared the sample license.

For all of you who read this far: Here is a bunch of vinyl only releases of 2011:


by Dj Skyjacker (aka Alex Esserof We Manage With Love& House Music With Love

About Alex Esser:

DJ, surfer and entrepreneur residing in Malmö, Sweden. I've been DJing since 2004 and started the HMWL blog back in 2007. My music network is always open. Holler @alex_Esser on twitter.


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