Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Occupy Audio" My [Rear End]

The Wall Street Journal notes that Neil Young's latest release, Americana, will cost $10 on CD and $42 on LP.
Young summarized his feelings on the need for better sound quality with a rallying cry that might apply to his pricing strategy, too: "Occupy audio!"
I'm going to call bullshit on Neil Young and his "occupy audio" rallying cry. You have to work on Wall Street to afford LPs at those prices. One of the reasons I stuck with LPs while CDs took off was I could get them dirt cheap while the music industry hideously overpriced CDs (while constantly promising that prices would come down soon). But now the tables have turned and LPs are a luxury good for well-heeled "aesthetes." Sure I like the way LPs sound better than CDs, I also enjoy the experience of putting an LP on my turntable more than slapping a CD into the player. Maybe that makes me an aesthete or maybe that makes me an idiot, but I'll be [darned] if I'm gonna pay that kind of price for the privilege.

In my entire life I don't think I've paid $42 for a vinyl record more than a handful of times, and I own some pretty nice, collectable stuff. I didn't pay $42 for my first pressing Gram Parsons records, I didn't pay $42 for my first press UK copy of The Clash's London Calling, I didn't pay $42 for my Funkadelic records, and I sure as [heck] didn't pay $42 for my copy of Tony Orlando and Dawn's Greatest Hits. That beautifully pressed and packaged Trypes LP I wrote about yesterday cost me less than $18. (That's a fair price for a new vinyl record, and I'm happy to support the efforts of a label like Acute Records.) The only time I can remember paying more than $42 was when I bit the bullet and bought a near mint copy of PiL's Metal Box on eBay, and I agonized over my extravagance for weeks afterward. Records aren't worth $42 to me, and I don't care whether Neil Young presses them in Germany or on Jupiter, or what kind of fancy wrapper he puts on them.

Perhaps the most insulting part of all this is one of the reasons these new LPs tend to sound better than their CD counterparts is because they intentionally make the CDs sound like [human waste]. As I've documented here many, many times modern CD mastering typically involves sucking all the dynamic range out of the music as well as applying overly-aggressive EQ. After foisting "perfect sound forever" on us for years, the music industry now tells us LPs sound better, and are happy to charge me a $30+ premium so I can congratulate myself on my ability to discern the difference between a common, vulgar, digital CD and a finely pressed, analog LP. But the truth is, if they're both well mastered, I struggle to hear any difference at all between LPs and CDs. Sorry, I want absolutely no part of this [unicorn infested] charade. I'll just scavenge yard sales for CDs now that the cultural elites are dumping them.

Honestly, I think what really irks me about the whole thing is the fact that Young has appropriated the language of the occupy movement to promote a product that is priced strictly for the 1% crowd. It's in poor taste, and it's insensitive to the economic struggles that so many Americans and others around the world are facing at the moment. Occupy audio my [rear end].

Update 06/25/12: Portions of this post were edited due to moral objections from my children. All replacement words are now in brackets [ ]. I apologize for the use of potty mouth.


Kaiser said...

Bravo!! Finally someone has the guts to call it like it is! New vinyl is way overpriced - that's why there's tons of it sitting in FYE and Best Buy bins with nobody buying. CDs, when mastered well (and there are plenty), are way more enjoyable than they are currently portrayed. That's fine - let the elite dump those yucky old Japanese Pastmasters CDs - I'll take 'em!

chris yak said...

I'm with you on all counts. I've still got lot of my old vinyl but very little "cool" new expensive vinyl. I'll take it one step farther - I love Record Store Day, but some of the items on sale for that special day is for those with lots of money or fanatics. I'm not so much about collecting as listening to music, so I feel a little left out because of vinyl pricing these days.

Anonymous said...

Don't look now, but Neil's latest record "Psychedelic Pill" was just released on vinyl for the affordable price of $79.99!!! As much as I enjoy the vinyl experience, some of these new records are absolutely ridiculous.