Sunday, March 22, 2009

SXSW panel report: Wax Attacks!

The gist: Vinyl is making a comeback. Speakers from the pressing plant to the record shop discuss how they cater to the crate diggers and casual fans.

The panelists: Moderator: John Kunz, owner, Waterloo Records; Douglas Hanners, owner, Austin Record Convention; Jay Millar, marketing director, United Record Pressing; Monti Olson, senior vice president, Universal Music Publishing /Interscope; Mason Williams, director A&R, Rhino Entertainment; Sandy Bitman, owner Park Avenue record shop, Orlando.

The lowdown: According to Jay Miller of United Record Pressing, the plant has been producing vinyl since 1949. “Vinyl was king,” he says, “but it died off in the 1990s. I wasn’t even purchasing vinyl back then. It was mostly dance and hip hop DJs buying 12” records, and for a decade that’s what kept us afloat. But the rise of digital has led to a resurgence. As soon as I got my first iPod I was looking at my walls and walls of CDs and didn’t want to let go of all that artwork and those liner notes. And that’s exactly what I liked about vinyl, so I started selling my CDs and putting the money back into vinyl. People wanting artwork are turning to vinyl.”

Sandy Bitman, owner of Park Avenue record shop in Orlando, says for DJs, the 12” is all but dead. “They don’t come into our store any more. Instead it’s people wanting to buy LPs. It’s fun to watch kids of 15 or 16 competing with guys in their 50s and 60s to flip through the vinyl and get to the next letter.

Monti Olson of Universal Music says if consumers are going to spend 30 to 50 dollars on a record they demand a piece of art. “They’ll ask questions before buying a record, like ‘does it come with the original poster’, ‘is it a gatefold’, etc. Artwork is increasingly important to the audiophile market … there’s a social issue with playing vinyl. With an iPod you can’t really have a friend over to listen to music, but with an LP you can put it on, look at the sleeve. And I think we’re going to see more of that.” (By Alex Hannaford/

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