It was bound to happen. After years of decline and the steadily rising tide of iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, et al--CD numbers are now in free fall--and the LP has finally regained its position as the world's most popular physical music format! Boosted by sales of Radiohead's "In Rainbows," and Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," LP sales edged past the CD a few weeks ago. Elvis Costello's upcoming release, "Momofuku," will only be offered as a hi-fi LP or low-fi download. The CD is on its way out.
The Compact Disc was introduced in 1983, and three years later CD sales outstripped LPs, but since CDs sold for $15 to $17, twice the price of an LP at the time, a lot of buyers resisted the changeover from analog to digital. Some preferred the sound of vinyl over the cold, hard shriek of first generation digital, and early CD players were many times more expensive than a good turntable. Sony's first CD player, the CDP-101, sold for close to $1,000 in 1983, which would probably be over $2,000 in 2008 dollars. But the music retailers, seduced by the CD's greater profits cut space devoted to vinyl, accelerating the transition from analog to digital. If there was no vinyl to buy, you had to get the CD. We didn't have the internet back then, so free wasn't an option.
Today's vinyl surge is fueled by a greater awareness of sound quality by music fans and artists, who have grown tired of hearing the power of their music thwarted by low-bit digital. After all, the iTunes version isn't actually cheaper to buy than vinyl, and the fans are aware of the new reality: if it costs the same, why not buy the best sounding version? Some vinyl fans get the best of both formats and transfer the vinyl's music to digital for their iPods.
The six decade old LP format has finally regained its position as the music format of choice.
Have a great April Fool's Day!