You only need to look at your social media feeds to see more and more music listeners are hot on vinyl right now. It’s a thing of excitement and enthusiasm. Amy posts a photo of her newly set-up turntable in her living room. Steve shows you all his limited-edition 12” vinyl re-issue by Band X, straight from the courier. Kerry’s IGTV video shows her grinning like a loon as she spins an old Nineties 7” single from the cover of the NME that she’s rediscovered in her mum’s attic. There’s something special about vinyl, and we love it too.
Does vinyl sound better? You know the answer. It has a warmer sound, with more richness and depth. Digital music is compressed to fit on whatever it’s being stored on, so there’s a noticeable loss of sound. There’s also a tendency for bands to mix digital music loud to compete with other songs that it is being played before or after. It starts loud, carries on loud and ends loud. There’s more dynamic range with vinyl, so you’ll hear the subtle changes in volume. You’ll also hear better clarity of bass, middle and treble. It’s a far more authentic, real and human sound, rather than the music being translated by machine into a series of zeros and ones. Compared to its digital sister, with vinyl, there is literally more music there.
Beyond the actual sound, the attraction is that a vinyl recording is a tangible object, a sizable piece of plastic that carries music, wrapped in a two square foot canvas of imagery. A ‘record’ has gravitas, it occupies space. It’s no surprise that vinyl lovers’ houses are also crammed with books. For them, the format is as important as the content, and they are inseparable from each other. The song lyrics, the pictures, the details of songs, and who did what on each song are points of interest. Knowing the producer of a record might open your ears to other music they have worked on. You find out that Elliot Smith recorded mainly at home. It’s an experience that goes far beyond the sounds in your ears.
When listening to an album or EP digitally, the songs can be played in any order, put on a playlist or some tracks might even be deleted by the listener. With vinyl, an artist creates a program with a beginning, a middle and an end; songs are ordered to tell a story, a narrative, with the dynamics of each song also playing a part. The format encourages you, the listener, to embrace this journey and experience, and to listen to the album from start to finish. You get the whole story.
Taking notes from visual artists, it’s pretty common now for artists to release vinyl as limited editions. This means that you can be one of the few owners of a particular recording, which feels much more personal. As many artists sell vinyl direct to the listener, it helps to create a real meaningful bond between them. And this is surely the essence of what music is. Long live vinyl!
I’m a bit excited. With my interest in film-making rekindled, I’m working with the fantastic illustrator Louise Wright on the video to the first single from my latest album The Broken Family DaySaver.
The Creatures of Simplicity tells the story of a mis-demeanor in a wooded area…
I think there are enough videos of bands larking about on stage, up trees, in subways and in industrial estates to last a nuclear half-life-time at least, so we’re attempting to come up with a video style and a way of shooting that hasn’t been done before.
With my lack of tact apparent in recent pricing experiments, I’d be a fool to make a claim that couldn’t be substantiated. You’ll have to wait about three weeks to see the previews of the video to prove me wrong and enlighten me on a similar music video, so in the meantime, here are some storyboard images. To listen to the song take a stroll to The Creatures of Simplicity on Bandcamp. Happy sunshine!
There’s a shop in Birmingham that stocks photography, illustration, t-shirts, tote bags, jewellery, books and CDs that have been Created by artists living In Birmingham. Artists can set the price and sell their products through the shop, with a generous 75% of the sale going to the artist. I took a stroll there on Saturday 25th April so that the shop could stock my latest album The Broken Family DaySaver.
I filled in a delivery note, pricing 5 CDs at £80 each, and handed it to a member of staff. He was taken aback at the price I’d put on my music. He said that £80 was too much to charge for a CD.
He then took me to the section of the shop that sold CDs and used them as an example of how CD pricing in the shop worked. The range of pricing was between £5 and £10. He said it was unlikely that anyone would buy a CD for £80. Funny that, because there’s a shop around the corner that sells polo shirts for £250 that could sell for a tenner, and people buy those. As we discussed issues of potential pricing, I said that I’d be willing to lower the price to £60. No. £40? No. £20. No. £15? Please? Yes. The staff member said if I had one copy of the CD that was in a frame, he’d consider stocking it for £40.
As a songwriter who depends on music sales for income, this was most disheartening. If the attitudes of the member of staff reflected attitudes of a music-buying public in general, I’m royally fucked. Here’s how:
An artist working in two-dimensions can price an A4 print at £10. Another artist can price a A4 print for £80. They are both working in the same medium with a piece of art that is the same size. Both artists will have reasons for their pricing. It will reflect the expense and time taken to produce the item. This is an accepted practice in 2-D visual arts. But, it seems that where CDs are concerned, a self-released home-made CD-R, stuffed into a jewel case, apparently has the same value as a limited edition CD released on a record label that was recorded and mixed in a professional studio, packaged with a lyric sheet and original artwork in a digipak, with a barcode and shrink-wrapping, with all the songs assigned with ISRC codes, PRS song codes and registered with Millward Brown for chart qualification. So, the expense and time and artistic integrity involved in producing a work is not taken into consideration with the art form of music on a CD. CDs or CD-Rs with music on ’em are all apparently worth around £7.
It’s not enough to frame a CD in a digipak with a lyric sheet and original photography for it to have added value. The frame must be made of wood and glass. This framing adds immediate value on a piece of art, whatever the medium.
Does this attitude to the pricing of CDs as shown by the shop reflective of general attitudes to buying music today? Are CDs all worth about £7-£10? Maybe All CDs should be made free? Maybe with current trend for music sharing, that musicians don’t have a right in the 21st century to make money from music. Maybe a highly-crafted and well-packaged CD is worth £80. Let’s put it to the test by offering you, the listener, my album at a variety of prices:
To get The Broken Family DaySaver for free, then send an email with the title: ‘Ben Calvert I Don’t Believe In Paying for Music, So Send Your Album To Me For Free’ to firstname.lastname@example.org, and leave your address. I’ll post a copy of the album to the first 100 responders.
To buy The Broken Family DaySaver for £10 (+ £2 postage and packaging) go to the Bohemian Jukebox Shop
To buy The Broken Family DaySAver album for £80, click here:
Whichever option you take, you can buy safe in the knowledge that inserting the album in a frame of wood and glass will add around £25 to the piece’s value.