Category Archives: Vinyl

Pay Your Respects to the Amen Break

It matters little what sort of musician or music fan you are, chances are you have been influenced by the Amen Break.

These four bars, or about six and a half seconds of music, which were found on the track Amen Brother, the B side of the The Winstons‘ grammy nominated single Color Him Father, changed the course of music

It’s a drum break that has been replicated and sampled millions of times, and heavily influenced styles as diverse as hip-hop to rock, and given rise to genres such as jungle.

But the Winston’s never got paid for the track, not a single cent – not for any sales or radio play, and not for the countless times it has been sampled. According to Richard L. Spencer on an interview with the BBC, Gregory Coleman, who played the drum break, died “broke and homeless” around 2006.

But now someone has decided that perhaps its time to do something about this. I think the campaign blurb says it best;

“So here is where all of you come in, if you have ever written or sold any music with the amen break, or even just enjoyed one of the countless hundreds and hundreds of tunes that contain it over various genres and styles of music, please donate towards the good cause of the worldwide music community giving something back to the man behind the legendary breakbeat.”

The aim is simple, lets throw some cash the way of Richard L. Spencer – the person who wrote the arrangement for the track, and seemingly the only surviving member of The Winstons.

To contribute –

The Radio Show that Inspired this Campaign – (Will require an IP proxy outside of the UK)


Subscription Based Vinyl


There is little doubt that subscription services are the new big thing. Whilst Netflix and Spotify are the offering all you can consume music and video through your Internet connection, other mail based services are supplying everything from coffee, to razors, to cured meats. Now we are seeing vinyl enter the mix with the successful Kickstarter campaign from VNYL.

VNYL is a subscription service, similar to the original Netflix model, whereby paying a monthly fee you will be sent three handpicked records based on your chosen ‘vibe’. Once you’ve listened to the records, you can send them back in the prepaid packaging and VNYL will send more records out. Alternatively, if you decide you like the wax and can’t let go of it, you have the option of buying the record to keep for an extra fee.

The selling point is that “humans are at the helm” and it seems VNYL are affectively getting their message across. Their Kickstarter campaign had a total of 777 backers and raised $36,000 – $26,000 more than they were asking.

However VNYL is not the first subscription based vinyl service. Both Vinyl Me Please and That Special Record offer subscription services where for a monthly fee they’ll send out a monthly selection of records for you to keep. Likewise, record labels such as No Sleep Records offer a subscription to their entire annual catalogue for one upfront fee.

The advantage of services such as these is that it takes the effort out of vinyl. In VNYL’s case, you can have a consistent variety of wax without having to spend the time going to stores. Vinyl Me Know and That Special Record allow you to expand your collection and discover new music. However, these services do rely on you trusting your taste in music with another. Also, concerns about the quality of the wax being sent could also be an issue. For this reason it’s unlikely these services will convert anyone already collecting. But they may well open up a new market of people who like the idea of playing records, but have no time for the process involved in collecting.

More Stats on Streaming and Vinyl in 2014

Total Music Wallet Spend, 2014

As Nielsen Music trickles out their annual music sales figures, the tiny amount spent on digital streaming services and vinyl has been revealed.

Whilst the average music consumer spent $109 on music, only 3% of that was spent on digital streaming services, and 2.5% on vinyl and cassettes. In comparison, 35% was spent on admission to live concerts (this is good for artists) and 12% was spent on CDs.

These stats throw the analysis of last week’s stats out the window. Last week, some suggested the increase in demand for digital steaming services was leading the recovery of record labels. Instead, these figures suggest the turnover generated from digital streaming services is minimal, and record labels are still relying on CD sales for the bulk of their profits.

Turnover is an important figure in the music industry because most of their expenses are upfront and fixed. Whilst the sale of a CD has the added cost of manufacturing, this cost is minimal when compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the recording, production and marketing of an album. It is these costs which need to be recouped in order for labels invest in future releases.

With this in mind, whilst much of the press was downplaying the rapid increase in vinyl due to its minimal share of total sales, it would seem vinyl’s contribution to turnover is almost equal to that of digital streaming. This is particularly true when you consider that record labels will only see a faction of an online digital subscription through royalties.

What is interesting is that these two formats sit side-by-side. Whilst one is lauded as the future and the other dismissed as nostalgia, it seems that at this point at least their contribution is the same. And whilst there is little doubt that different types of consumers are attracted to each format, it is perhaps symbolic of the increasingly eclectic nature of music.


Music Sales and the Future of the Industry

In what is becoming as predictable as a new years day hangover, the start of 2015 has also seen the announcement of  a decline in music sales for 2014.

According to Billboard, Nielson’s 2014 music sales review is reporting a 11.2% drop in album sales and a 12.5% decline in single sales.

The report did not comment of the total decline of CD and digital sales, but it did note the 51.8% increase in vinyl sales, although this only accounts for 3.6% of the entire music market.

The report is however focusing on the 54% increase in demand for streaming services, a figure that is likely understated as it doesn’t includes non-interactive services such as Pandora. This figure is apparently the equivalent to an extra 56.1 million album sales, making it larger than the decline in physical and digital units.

The troubling thing is that whilst Billboard are suggesting this increase in demand is moving record labels back toward profit making status, it is seemingly at the expense of artists. Whilst Pharrall’s Happy  was the highest selling single with 6.41 million units sold, it has been previously reported that 43 million plays of Happy on Pandora translated into only $US2700 for Pharrall.

It’s also difficult to quantify units streamed as an equivalent to sales. Whilst some use streaming services instead of purchasing albums, many treat these services like a radio station – they simply consume what is aggregated for them, and would never have purchased this music otherwise. And whilst these services can be a handy tool for discovering new music, there is little evidence to suggest that this is actually occurs for most users.

The other concerning element is that music steaming isn’t as cheap as it initially seems. Whilst the subscription price is reasonable, only $12 per month for Spotify, data usage still needs to be seen as an expense. Mobile data expense and limitations means that streaming outside the home could be prohibitive. There is also ramifications for music consumers who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. The last thing the music industry needs is for music consumption to become an elitist pursuit.

Overall it seems the music industry is still in a state of limbo. No one seems to know when or how this will be gotten out of. Yet the artists keep writing and performing the same as it ever was. If streaming is the way out, it seems it will be at the expense of artists. But then this inequality has been documented time and time again over the industry’s 110+ year history. Let hope though that music consumers are not left worse off.


A Vinyl Review of 2014

Well as 2014 is on our doorstep, the news media has once again filled its white space with what is quickly becoming a mainstay of the end of year news: the rise of vinyl.

The most common angle this time of year is the one that comes with the least surprise; vinyl sales have once again grown, up 49% from last year. This means vinyl now represents 3.5% of total music sales, up from around 2% of sales at the end of the 2013. Whilst the resurgence is small, it’s bucking the trend of declining physical sales.

This growth is on the back of rock record buyers, with Jack White’s Lazaretto being the highest selling vinyl album with 75,700 units. It seems the gimmick of a backward playing, secret section vinyl album payed off with the next biggest seller being the Arctic Monkeys who sold about half that amount.

Top Selling Vinyl 2014

Top Selling Vinyl 2014

However, this year saw Billboard taking an interesting angle by suggesting Record Store Day is driving this resurgence. They point out that since the first Record Store Day in 2008 vinyl sales have grown 223%. They note that this has given major record labels the confidence to press the kind of numbers needed to get a decent return on investing in vinyl. But the story does note it was 2007 which saw the first increase in vinyl sales, so perhaps Billboard are looking at the wrong side of chicken or egg question.

Another interesting angle was taken by the Wall Street Journal who noted that vinyl is possibly becoming a victim of its own success. With aging equipment, fewer qualified repairers, and only a few suppliers of raw material, hold ups in the manufacturing process are becoming more common and more costly for customers. This story perhaps has some traction; Fat Possum records recently opened their own record pressing plant in Memphis, in order to overcome delays from backlogged record pressing plants. But then if Fat Possum are seeing the worth in setting up a new plant, it suggests demand for vinyl will find a way to fuel more supply.

So another year another growth in vinyl sales. Whilst it still represents a small portion of overall music sales, this continued growth is positive. Most of us are seeing friends sourcing out record players or parents dusting off theirs, and it’s now easier to find brand new, consumer turntables. The high price of second hand vinyl suggests that demand is still high, and the fact that it’s rock albums which are the highest selling suggests this is becoming a mainstream phenomenon.

Here’s to a healthy 2015, and more wax on your turntable.


Worlds Rarest Record Sells in UK

Darrell Banks Open The Door To Your Heart / Our Love

The worlds rarest record, Darrell Banks’ Open the Door to Your Heart, sold at auction overnight for £14,543.

Whilst not coming close to the most expensive single ever sold, interest in the auction still managed to crash the website which was hosting the action.

The London Records pressing of the 45 has Open the Door to Your Heart as the A side and Our Love as the B side and is thought to be the only copy left in existence.

In 1966 London Records lost a battle with rival label EMI for the right to release the single. As a consequence all copies of the London Records pressing were ordered destroyed. This is thought to be the only surviving copy.

The record for the most expensive single ever sold is Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You, which sold for £25,742 back in 2009. Do I Love You was also ordered destroyed by record label Motown after Wilson, who was reportedly unhappy with the single, asked for it not to be released. There is now thought to be only two remaining copies.

One Release, 12 Formats: Have the Format Wars Began?

F O R M A T S release formats
Music producer, artist and creative director, Trevor Jackson, has announced that his next album, titled F O R M A T, will be released on 12 different formats; 12 inch, 10 inch and 7 inch vinyl, CD, mini CD, Cassette, USB, VHS, mini disk, DAT, 8-track and reel-to-reel.

Due for release on the 25th February 2015, each format will contain a separate track. It will be followed up with the collection being available on vinyl and digital soon after the initial release.

Jackson is quoted as saying in The Vinyl Factory that “Every copy of a physical recording is different, a real object that has its own little story – a one of a kind, personalised by the effort you put in to purchase it, each time you touch it, and the unique ritual that goes along with playing it.”

Clearly Jackson is attempting to connect with the physical aspect of music but interestingly makes little mention of the packaging; an element that vinyl lovers often tout as being one of its pros. Instead, the ritual of listening music seems to be on Jackson’s mind. In a world where listening to an endless catalogue of music is as simple as pushing a button a smart phone, ritual is something that has all but disappeared.

But, as is pointed out by Tonedeaf, listeners being able to experience this album in its intended ways seems an unlikely, with very few VHS, 8-track and reel-to-reel players remaining in existence, particularly in the homes of consumers.

But will this see more music being released on more formats. Whilst the return of vinyl is still discussed in the mainstream press, the hip-hop community is beginning to re-embrace the cassette – a format prevalent in hip-hops early days due to its portability, durability, and most importantly, the ease at which mixes could recorded.

As an artistic statement Jackson has made a pertinent point – each format has its place in music, either through history, ritual, convenience, or quality. And whilst it’s difficult to see the mainstream world going to this extreme, it potentially opens the gates for artists to further consider the format they want their music released on, and consequently listened to on.

What format would like to see the return of?