The following rant was given by a person with close ties to the record industry, a Belgian record shop owner who prefers to stay anonymous.
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I don’t think it’s the fault of the consumers that there are all these vinyls coming out which some people might call hipster records. I blame the labels and manufacturers. For example it became super trendy to print 180 grams records – don’t ask me why. It sounds just as good on 150 grams. Sometimes people now want to make sure it’s 180 and I don’t get why it’s important to them, I really don’t think they would be able to hear the difference. Maybe the grooves are a tiny bit deeper. Labels even started putting 180 grams stickers on the sleeves because it sells well and people see it as a quality mark. A regular record used to be 150 grams, and it’s really just as good. When it’s thinner than that, you do hear a difference though. For example when you go back to the 80s, when there was an oil crisis, and they were forced to make much thinner records. They make you believe that today’s quality is so great, but when you compare it with the 60s it’s not true. The latter were very thick and cut very deeply, which means they still sound great today. Now, when you have the slightest bit of dirt or a scratch, it doesn’t work well anymore. I’d actually really like to know why they don’t produce it the old way anymore. They make it sound so fancy these days with their “100 grams virgin vinyl remastered quadruple speed” or whatever, but they just don’t sound as good anymore as the 60s or 70s originals. They now publish remastered records of stuff that was originally released in 2003 – why already now?! It’s just sales and marketing strategies; it’s completely unnecessary. Of course it’s good to remaster a record from the 50s and clean it up a bit, but from 10 years ago? It doesn’t make any sense. I’m not saying only buy originals, that would cost you a fortune. Reissues and repressing is definitely a good thing in general. But then there’s the whole colour craziness, which, I don’t know why, is especially a thing in the metal scene. Sometimes a record is released, and I’m not exaggerating here, in 20 different colours, although there are only 100 copies available! These coloured ones sometimes cost 80€, while you can just buy the normal version at 20€. A lot of fans are apparently willing to pay for it. The only thing is different is the colour. What they don’t realise is, that the normal black ones are actually of better quality. I think the fans will have enough of this sooner or later and not try to get every single colour of a certain vinyl anymore. The bands and labels that are doing this aren’t even the major ones; it’s the more underground ones, which is a bit of a paradox. The only people who profit from this are people who buy these records just to resell them on ebay and the normal fans are suffering from it. The bands don’t profit from it either! It’s very weird. You can’t even get most of these special records in your usual record store, you can only purchase them through special pre-order campaigns and stuff like that. In these cases the money might go directly to the bands at least. I don’t mind that, the days when people had to come to a record shop to buy a vinyl are over anyway. And I get tired of having to answer questions about colours all the time, I’d prefer to talk about the actual music instead. It has become extremely rare that a band just releases a totally normal record without any extra features. And I don’t have the impression that it is a statement, it has become a necessity. I cannot remember a recent record in the pop or rock genre where there was only one version on sale. Dance is more for DJs and working so there it probably doesn’t matter as much and they know that the black ones are the best and last the longest. Recently everyone has been talking about the latest Jack White record. His label Third Man has issued lots of weird 7” in the past, always trying to take it one step further with all these special features. Now you can play one track at 78 rpm, another one at 45…one you have to play backwards, the vinyl glows in the dark, … all this crazy stuff. He got so much media attention with that, and it has nothing at all to do with the music. The track that plays at 78 rpm doesn’t even sound good. You have to put the needle in the centre of the record, almost on the paper, and you mostly hear some blurry sound. But it worked, and he sold more vinyls than anyone else has for a very long time. Even weeks before the release people came by the shop asking if we will have that special edition. But it’s not even a special edition, there’s only one, the one with all these gimmicks. I don’t think all this fuzz is necessary. It’s astonishing how the vinyl has resurfaced again through rock and pop. There was a time when only the dance scene was still using vinyls. Maybe it’s because people want a nice piece of art; they want the real thing again and that’s great of course. Let’s hope it lasts!