Using vinyl and USB drives for the distribution of music: Revolutionary?

CD sales have been dropping every year, and fingers are pointing at every imaginable source. Internet piracy, legal download sources such as iTunes, and internet streaming could potentially to blame, but who can get accurate figures on that data? Surprisingly, vinyl is on the rise, courtesy of the nostalgia factor,the more tangible medium, warmer sound, and supposed better audio quality. A few indie bands have steadily been releasing their album in the vinyl format as well as cd, but distribution has generally been limited to indie record stores, live shows, and online catalogs. This however, is about to change.

I am a huge supporter of the record replacing the CD, and I would love to own records and have all the benefits of the vinyl medium. The huge album cover for more creative art, the feeling of placing the record on a turntable, setting the needle, and listening to the warm, popping sound of the latest effort by my favorite band drifting across the room. Records are just cool.

The main obstacle in the way of the vinyl revolution is the difficulty in converting the record to digital files playable by your favorite digital media browser. USB turntables are still expensive, and generally are not suited for both good audio playback and conversion. The ability to have easy access to the music in digital form will be a big factor in vinyl overtaking CDs in terms of distribution and sales. My suggested options? I have two.

1. Bundle a memory card with the vinyl album with the files preloaded. For the audiophiles who require the digital files to be FLAC in the best quality available, at least 800-900MB of space will be required. Therefore, 1GB SD cards would be the best choice. These cards are priced as low as $5.99, and the more accessible 1GB USB drives start as low as $9. Keep in mind that these are retail prices, and would probably be available for two or three dollars cheaper when bought in bulk or wholesale. If the actual vinyl album could be sold for $9 and bundled with a $6 USB drive containing the digital files, the total is a very reasonable $15. I really think people would pay for this.

2. Another option is for the music industry to sell the records by themselves and include a online way to download the files, using either the label's own dedicated server or even via a online service already in place, such as a redeemable iTunes gift. This could be a cheaper option, though obviously not everyone who buys music will have the means to download an entire album, either because of a slow internet connection or a lack of a computer altogether. Still, this would be the most convenient option for most music consumers, as the trend of getting all of one's music from online sources is growing exponentially with every passing year.

Personally, though, while I do support this growing trend of vinyl, I would decline to join the movement for one simple reason - I travel a lot, and plan to move a great deal. I would not even consider packing up a heavy record collection and fragile turntable and moving it every time I feel the need to have a change of scenery. Being able to put 200 CDs in a box that I can easily lift is something I care about a great deal. I support music, I pay for my music, but I do not like having to transport my music.

Having said that: Kick ass, vinyl! I'll be busy downloading.