Monday, September 24, 2007

Ethnography Topic

Over the past twenty years, the format for which music is recorded and distributed has evolved substantially, moving from the cassette tape to the CD, which is now on its way out to make room for the digital world and mp3s. The one format which has seemed to stick around since the beginning of recorded music, however, is the vinyl record. As more convenient and consistent technology became available, the mainstream format of music shifted from record to 8-track to cassette tape to CD, and now to digital mp3, but even through all of this transition, the vinyl record has still been in production for a variety of reasons. On the dawn of a digital age where the physical recording of music is being done away with entirely, the push for sustaining vinyl records seems stronger than ever.
This new movement of artists and music-lovers which centers around vinyl culture has become a unique and substantial subculture, different from the DJs and artists who used the physical record in they're music making. Rather, all sorts of musicians from a variety of genres--especially new, hip, and up-and-coming acts--are making a point to release their albums on an LP, with some artists going so far as to put vinyl exclusive tracks on their LPs or offering free digital downloads with the purchase of a vinyl copy of their record.
Why at this point in time are so many artists interested in sustaining a format which is vastly more difficult to use and maintain than the digital music of today and is generally more expensive than releasing a CD or mp3s? Who are the people who buy vinyl? Why are the young people who are interested in these artists biting at this out-of-date format? Do kids even know how to cue up records anymore? Are the vinyls purchased for nostalgia or vintage aesthetic or for actual sound quality or more practical reason? What is it about a vinyl record which makes them attractive to a generation where vinyl has never been the standard for listening to music? How has this new interest in vinyl affected the subculture of longtime record collectors and vinyl nuts?
There is definitely a youth culture rising up around this antiquated format and artists trying to save the vinyl record from demise in the digital world, and this culture could be a indicator as to how the culture on the whole is going to respond to the complete digitization of music.