I was settling in for a long winter’s nap — well, dozing during the January blizzard that lightly dusted the East Coast with two feet of snow — when the Nielsen Company’s highlights of its 2015 U.S. Music Year-End Report startled me awake.
Among the predictables are significant increases in music and video streaming and the delicious confirmation in the report that “Radio reaches more Americans than any other device or platform. 93 percent of adult consumers (18+) use radio each week, more than TV (87 percent), smartphones (71 percent), PCs (54 percent), TV-connected devices (40 percent) and tablets (29 percent).”
But what confounded me, in this age of high-resolution audio, was that sales of the quaintly titled Vinyl LPs — you know, LPs as in long-playing and phonograph record — according to this report, achieved a new album sales record in of nearly 12 million units in 2015. The report says this is the 10th straight year of growth in vinyl sales, and that the rock music genre accounts for 68 percent of the album sales. (You can read it at http://tinyurl.com/rwee-nielsen.)
Was the purchase of a Gates CB-500 turntable plus accessories ($677 in 1973) an investment for the future? Just when I thought I could retire the Technics SP10-MKII and Stanton cartridge with calibrated weights for adjusting the tracking force, this report suggests to me, “Hey, grab your old records from the garage! Let’s have a dance party and spin some disks!” This resurgence of interest in analog recordings suggests radio stations could build an audience around a weekday evening program based on a disk jockey playing analog disks over the air. Extra audience points to stations that have the means to resuscitate their Gates CB-500 16-inch turntable, Micro-Trak tone arm and Shure M-44-7 stereo dynetic cartridge w/.0007-inch diamond stylus*, which are still packed, unloved, in the basement storage closet at the transmitter. (*Actual cost for this package from Gates in 1973, including the IC turntable preamplifier, was $677.45. That’s over $3,500 in 2016 dollars.)
On another end of the spectrum, high-resolution audio is generating interest in the automotive industry and with home enthusiasts.
This is audio that has been remastered to a linear format typically with a 24-bit depth and 96 kHz (or higher) sampling rate — or the analog master has been converted directly into several high-resolution formats. Some of the purveyors of downloadable hi-res audio files even offer a pedigree associated with the music to show its origin, and that the music isn’t just up-sampled or has zeroes stuffed where the extra bits should be.