The Grey Blog


Vinyl Rising
March 12, 2008, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Serious

There are rumblings of a return for vinyl. There’s quite a lot I like about this…

  • I like that smaller and smaller digital technologies (MP3s here) are freeing us up from form (it doesn’t have to be a CD anymore)
  • I like that things (records) are becoming more than just things (records with coupons to download MP3 versions of the songs)
  • I like that unlikely partnerships are forming (they call it the vinyl-MP3 tag team in the link above, which is a great image)
  • And I like the thought that the old master, vinyl, is dusting itself off for a final swing at the shiny, hard-plastic upstart (it might be the tag team thing that got me thinking this – oww… down on the canvas… must… get… up… it hurts… oh shit, he’s climbing the top rope… summon… the… strength… he’s jumping… quick, leg to chin! BOOM! Right in the kisser! Take that, CD! Who’s laughing now!? Who’s Laughing Now!!??)

Anyway, I’m quite enthusiastic about this stuff, so I’m going to go on a bit.

Smaller and smaller digital technologies are freeing us from form

Now that music’s got so small that we can stick days of it in our pocket, we have a lot more freedom over what we make of our music collections, physically. The music storage isn’t a constraint anymore – it’s just bytes – so we’re free to pick shapes and sizes and materials based on other things.

My iPod Nano (I know they used to be girlie but the new ones aren’t, fact) is small enough that it’s a bit of a fiddle to use. The interface, not the music, has become the constraint here. What else will determine the form our music collections take in the future? Where we listen, when we listen, who we listen with, the type of music, the extra context it gives it…

It’s not just music. Money could have a physical overhaul. That’s been turned into bytes now. What else?

Things are becoming more than just things

Steve Jobs reckons the iPod’s initial success over other MP3-players was down to it being more than just hardware. iTunes + iPod made a complete package.

I think that’s a helpful way to think about products – how to make them a complete package. With records that might be about getting the MP3s too. But how else can we turn products into packages and make them more than just objects?

A good brand does this a bit I suppose… but I’d rather push the product. With a fashion client at the moment I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to bundle some services with their clothes… so it’s more than just a pair of shorts/jeans. What about connecting objects together? Or having them refresh themselves somehow? Or maybe it’s just thinking of some surprising uses for them.

Unlikely partnerships are forming

It’s not the most obvious tag-team. At first, vinyl and MP3 feel like competing formats. But they actually compliment each other pretty well.

Vinyl: nostalgia; sound quality; ceremony; artwork; notes; feel; smell; and obvious function (you can see it working).

MP3: portability; shareability; fileability; searchability; editability.

Co-operation is a wonderful thing. And we can find it in unexpected places.

Vinyl for the win!

Finally, it’s nice to see we’re not all turning into space cadets. There’s still a role for things as old and analogue as vinyl. The shiny CD feels a bit smug and soulless somehow. But it was made to be digital, not physical, and it might be losing out on both now.

(Fast forward 20 years and I’ll be pining its death. Fickle like.)

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