It's almost official-vinyl's dead...

Although I prefer the fidelity of purely analog vinyl for home consumption I have always felt it odd that as forward a thinking an objective as electronic dance music and one so based in necessity spurring its constant change that it has been so long tethered to such a quaint 19th Century invention as the turntable and record. These were Edison handiworks for godsakes, seems only logical that vinyl's days are numbered as technology increases and drives the need for convenience and portability. Dancetracks in Manhatten closed yesterday, one of America's premier dance record stores, they join a growing list of vinyl outlets forced into extinction. Last year America's largest dance music distributors Watts Music and Studio Distribution closed unexpectedly sending shockwaves through the industry while collector prices for rare singles skyrocketed at nearly the same time indicating that vinyl's days as the DJ standard were rapidly coming to end and at this year's NAMM convention I found oodles of respected DJs touting the latest software solutions for performance, sophisticated interfaces like Serato, DJ friendly CD players galore (CD players I am convinced will be the next decade's eight-track players) and even cool set-ups that were iPod friendly. On the other hand if I was looking for turntables I was hard-pressed to find a single one at this massive gear convention and certaubky no one was talking about vinyl. SF's In-House Records shuffled out of this mortal coil before summer's end this year and last week it was the disintegration of the UK's last major dance music distributor Amato. Dancetracks closing is just another in a string of long expected closures. Many of my collector friends have shared their opinions with me over the past year and all see this death as a day long expected but certainly not gleefully looked upon. For crate junkies this means the end of an era and the death of a way of life and drawing the death card is never an easy pill to swallow.

I am ambivalent about the death of vinyl, it's expensive for one and extremely limited in terms of what is available especially if you live in a small out of the way place like I do (as if I ever had any luck buying great records on the regular in LA, London, New York, or San Francisco.) They also take up tons of room, certainly more than any of the hundreds of shoes a former girlfriend owned-something she coyly labelled her little obsession. I'd say I am way beyond the point of little obsession based on those criteria; I have been DJ'ing and collecting for so long I have literally lost count of the number of records I own, our house is literally consumed by thousands of little twelve by twelve inch squares. On the other hand everyday I get a hot new promo emailed to me for possible play or review in the form of an MP3 or AVI. I can't help that the industry is changing the rules on me but all I know is that all of my favorite new tracks these days come from Beatport, Juno, Stompy, or IODA-all MP3 download sites ala iTunes. The tracks are available any time, cheap, and take up no space other than that of an external hard drive and they are now ready for Serato or a CD player.

Okay I may be a little sad that the romances of being a true vinyl junkie are rapidly coming to end but as a married cat in my mid 30s I gotta expect that time will soon be ending these pursuits no matter. However, I still remain a (semi-)working DJ and the digital paradigm shift has given me a new lease on life allowing me to play fresh new tracks more regularly and changed my passion for travelling around by car or plane to search through dusty old shelves for one more suited to sitting at home browsing on the internet. Yeah DJ'ing has changed and some say for the worse but change is the constant quotient and is the nature of this life and dance music is but a hyper-kinetic model of life. There is a light at the end of this tunnel to be found in this story and that is Dancetracks has finally reached a point where its download business has surpassed its vinyl business so time to move on and so they shall. Dancetracks can now be found online at: http://www.dancetracksdigital.com
I expect others to follow suit as the record store redefines it self in the next 5-10 years.


Sean said...

Nice column Sean. It's funny to come from the guy who started Vinyljunkie.com, but as I would expect, your point is clear and concise as always.

All my records are here in Chicago now and I don't know what to do with them now. They are 80% tracks that I bought because I liked them so I can't bear to part with them....and they are just TOO MANY to record them all.

Through the years I worked at the record store, when I saw a dj come in with 10 crates he was parting with, it was always a "good day" (scoring things I had been looking for forever) and never a reality check (this will be me someday".

Sean-Michael Yoder said...

I know it all seems paradoxical. Thanks for your own insight and for the comment. I want to keep playing music but space is a serious limitation and moving is practically a health hazard. On the other hand some of your half liked treasures could be some young DJs new classic. It's tough, we never think about the end as humans.