On Friday 12th July (with the vinyl significant date of 12/7) a panel of music industry opinion formers took part in a live-streamed debate, in front of an invited audience at East London’s Google Campus. The panel – which included James Lavelle, boss of the legendary record label Mo’Wax – discussed what vinyl still meant to them in this era and what its implications were for today’s music business.
Chaired by The Telegraph’s Clive Morgan (himself a DJ and resident at Ibiza’s Space nightclub) the event was streamed live via dance music portal Soundplate.com and fans were encouraged to interact or share their own views via Twitter. ‘When the world ends, they won’t find a cloud,’ quipped Lavelle (referring to the digital music platform Soundcloud) ‘, there will just be a stack of vinyl…’ Lavelle’s Mo’Wax arguably defined a generation though its vinyl culture; which combined street art with the label’s unique trip-hop sound, and has just raised over £30,000 via Kickstarter for an artwork retrospective exhibition.
Contributing via a video feed, Kiss FM and Realplayaz label MD DJ Hype disagreed. ‘There’s no profit for the label in vinyl,’ he explains ‘, the sales are minimal, and it’s not worth it. Technology moves on. I don’t have a brick phone, I have an iphone… it’s a dying art form and we need to accept that it’s going…’ Mick Wilson, DJ Magazine’s Tech Editor joined the conversation ‘, I got into music because of the community aspect of vinyl and the social element it nurtured. I used to use it for pulling women; inviting them to come and see my record collection,’ he jested ‘, I don’t think the format will die…’
Funk Butcher, DJ and Houseology label boss was questioned about the craft of using vinyl ‘being able to mix as a DJ puts you on a different plateau to other DJs, putting the time and effort into it earns you respect, I think the digital format makes the DJ market a little bit too open...’ Pirate DJ Uncle Dugs (currently hosting a vinyl only show on Rinse FM) told the panel he has a very personal relationship with his record collection ‘I can tell you where I was when I bought a tune in 1991; what shop, who served me… I think this is lost in today’s generation, music should be something you cherish forever… but I have to carry CDs with me now ‘cos clubs just don’t have the turntables anymore…’ ‘Dance music is like classical music, and these days the clubs have the highest spec sound systems…’ Lavelle continued … ‘You have to keep the levels up on vinyl,’ contributed Wilson.
Is the physical format holding back the music industry? Digital music specialist lawyer Peter Adediran thinks so: ‘, vinyl is a transition to a new media mass format. Digital files aren’t perfect yet; Music Week may have reported an increase of vinyl sales, but no one is investing in vinyl production companies, the critical mass consume music digitally – the devices they play music on are for a digital format…’ ‘Sasha was the first big DJ to champion NO vinyl,’ explained Lavelle ‘, CD came along 25 years ago and destroyed vinyl; the day (Dire Straits’) ‘Brothers in Arms’ came out on CD the world changed - now the biggest thing is what people can acquire in their living space…’
Clearly pressing the format isn’t cost effective. ‘It’s harder for the mass market to make money pressing vinyl,’ Wilson pointed out ‘, But I think a niche market can still survive with the format.’ DJ and Digital Label Manager Sonny Wharton stated ‘, if we pressed any vinyl it would just be on a nostalgia tip, a labour of love, not a business decision.’ ‘Digital music and the internet has made the world smaller, in the past if you bought an import on vinyl you’d pay a premium for it… ’ interjected Morgan from the Chair. ‘We’re a throwaway generation,’ Wharton added. ‘These days we’re more aware of every release,’ agreed Lavelle ‘, I used to get ten records a week, now I get 200 downloads. You can make a record and put it out there – someone might discover it. You don’t need a record label anymore… to sell a Mo’Wax record in Alaska was impossible 20 years ago, now people can get our digital releases all over the world…’ ‘But they won’t remember buying them in a week’s time,’ laughed Dugs.