Video might have killed the radio star, but it was digital that killed the recording industry. And I’m not even an analog snob. I like digital. So I’m not talking about sound quality. I grew up on warbly 8-tracks, hissy cassettes and scratchy records. I was so ready for digital in the ’80s. And except for a few audiophiles, we all embraced it. CD sales soared! The industry was healthy. Was.
Up until recently, young people always bought the most music. Not today. Right now is the first time ever that people over 35 buy more music than people in their early ’20s and teens combined. The problem is that today’s youth don’t pay for CDs or downloads. They don’t believe in it. They will pay to go to a show. And pay top dollar for a tattoo. And they’ll pay $10 for a pack of smokes and an energy drink but they won’t pay the same for a CD or a download.
When I was 14, I worked after school at Bruce’s Cafe in Tullahoma making $1 an hour. A record cost $6 then. So, six hours’ labor mopping floors and washing dishes for a new album. I loved it. I did this over and over. So why do today’s kids not buy music anymore? Because it’s just data. Ones and zeros. Nothing tangible like a tattoo. Or vinyl. They don’t pay for anything that’s just floating around in cyberspace. To them, a CD is just a glorified thumb drive. It’s nothing personal. But take a guess what they are buying? Kids today are buying vinyl. Old school, analog before it was cool, records! They go in to record stores with money in their pockets in hopes of finding something they will like. They look at those big album covers with cool artwork and they pick something out, take it up to the counter and BUY it. Just like my generation used to do! Kids are buying music again!!!
Will it be enough to save the industry? Probably not. Not the way it used to be: Maseratis and Lear Jets and quarter-million dollar record deals. Music Row may never again be lined with thriving studios and labels like in days of yore, but then again, nothing is thriving like it once was (except Hollywood, guns and football).