The Second Disc

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Waxing on Universal’s New Vinyl Project Initiative

with 13 comments

Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 11.24.54 AMOnly in 2013 – a year where vinyl is expected to sell 5.5 million units this year, the largest number since the early ’90s – would Universal Music Group’s new “Vinyl Project” score so much digital ink.

The premise is simple: UMG now wants to take crowd-funded opinions into what titles get pressed anew and stocked through online retailers and local record stores. The goal, according to the new site, is to utilize the label’s “extensive catalogue to offer sought-after deleted recorded to be re-pressed in this great format.” Those who fund will have access to limited edition goods, like digital downloads and personalized art prints.

More details are unlocked for those who take a brief survey through The Vinyl Project’s site. You’re asked your favorite qualities of buying new vinyl (package quality, audio quality, etc.) and which titles, from a list, you’d be most interested in purchasing. (The actually pretty-neat incentive for your opinion? A 20% discount off a purchase from UMG’s vinyl store.)

It’s always nice to see any of the majors – particularly Universal, which has been relatively quiet despite one great, long-awaited box set and a whole bunch of new repertoire at their disposal – get up on that unpredictable stallion we call catalogue music. But, as is too frustratingly often the case, there are a few head scratchers in the mix.

Among the “rare and deleted titles” suggested by Universal include titles by Cat Stevens, Sting, Michael Jackson’s early Motown LPs and Sonic Youth – great records all, but easily purchasable in their current form: out-of-print, but in respectable quality and quantity that these secondhand copies are cheap. (I could be wrong, but as a nascent vinyl collector of a year or two, I thought that was the draw of collecting LPs in the 21st century: getting good finds for cheap with the occasional Record Store Day finds – among the only new vinyl I think I’ve bought – in the mix.) Would you really pay $20 and up for a 180-gram pressing of something you can buy in reasonable enough quality for $5 or less? (Before you answer, consider that another one of the titles on the list is Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, which just came out on vinyl again last year.)

What I’d rather see is either: a) crowdfunded titles that no record company would ever think of (like a physical, vinyl answer to Legacy Recordings’ Vault initiative), or b) keep spotlighting the most famous artists, but put rarities out on vinyl instead – and outside the typical RSD twice-a-year cycle. Putting a rare B-side or dance mix (or several) on an LP and including a digital download of good enough quality would be lots of fun – perhaps an easier way to get stray tracks out into the open than waiting for an anniversary edition of a record to string ’em all together.

As always, the voices that matter most are yours. So what do you think of The Vinyl Project? Sound off in the comments section!

Written by Mike Duquette

July 16, 2013 at 14:04

Posted in News, Open Forum, Reissues, Vinyl

13 Responses

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  1. The list of titles that they sent was laughable! Most of those have been reissued in recent years, while original copies of many of them were still plentiful for a few bucks! I was hoping they would look at some more “recent” artists like Garbage, Cocteau Twins Fontana albums, Hole, The Cardigans, and PJ Harvey — many of whom had vinyl releases before, but whose titles are especially rare and costly!

    patrick

    July 16, 2013 at 14:13

  2. There’s so much stuff in Universal’s coffers, there’s no reason to only put out obvious titles. If they don’t go for some of the more obscure stuff, what’s the point? How about some Captain Sensible?!

    Marsh Gooch

    July 16, 2013 at 14:33

  3. Yeah, I have a feeling these will be on Uni’s radar for reissue, regardless of the feedback they get. Do you really think the 40th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road later this year will go by without an opportunity to buy it on vinyl? And is it really an opportunity to make them available for all retailers, or just gauging interest in possibly selling an exclusive UniversalMusic.com version of the album? I think they might be co-opting the phrase ‘funding’ to mean ‘pre-order from us instead so you can get extra add-ons’.

    Like Mike said in the main article, show me something different. Put out the second disc of Def Lep’s deluxe ‘Pyromania’ as a live album. Or a Tears For Fears b-side collection. Something that doesn’t make me think Universal Music employs lazy caretakers for their music catalog.

    kpa272

    July 16, 2013 at 15:02

  4. Agree with the previous comments. Still, there are a few interesting things thrown in the mix in addition to the ‘usual stuff.’ But my browser won’t go beyond ‘Page 1’ in the ‘New Releases’ section.

    Of course, these are priced too high for me to afford all of the ones I want. Most if not all of the ‘classic titles’ still can be found used for way cheaper prices.

    Bill Janowski

    July 16, 2013 at 16:34

  5. Taking another spin, I hope that when and if they begin to release some vault albums, that they also release them on CD. There are still a lot of LPs that have never been released on CD and speaking for myself, I switched to that format many years ago and have no intention to go back to vinyl.

    Bob Metcalf

    July 17, 2013 at 10:02

  6. While it’s great dropping the needle on an unplayed heavyweight pressing, it’s not the only thing I love about vinyl. You’re right, Mike, part of the appeal of vinyl shopping is finding something you’re curious to hear for less than even a digital download.
    I agree with kpa272, this sounds more like a “pre-order” plan to gauge interest and not a “crowdfunding” system to press rare and interesting titles. They seem to be pushing the same old catalogue warhorses, a lot of which I recall seeing with “Back To Black” stickers on them just a few years ago.

    Rock_dawg

    July 17, 2013 at 11:46

  7. I can’t seem to navigate the site. Where is the list of titles on which to vote?

    Jason Michael

    July 17, 2013 at 11:47

    • The list of titles shows up when you take the survey itself. I don’t know how well it navigates on a desktop/laptop, as I did the survey on my iPhone (it was surprisingly well-suited for mobile, which I appreciated).

      Mike Duquette

      July 17, 2013 at 12:19

  8. Weird. I’m attempting it on my desktop, tried it with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, but I can’t open the survey. All I get is a hashtag added to the end of the URL after I click on it. I guess websites are being designed for smartphones now, but I don’t have one. I’m real old! And cheap! I spend all my money on music. Thanks for letting me know where it is, though.

    Jason Michael

    July 17, 2013 at 12:38

  9. This seems pretty slimy to me. It almost makes me look forward to the end of the major labels.

    Warren Buffet

    July 17, 2013 at 19:43

  10. With the unbelievable variety of LPs at garage/estate/tag sales, the idea of even paying $5-10 at a used record shop (when you can find one) seems too much. Records at such “Saturday” sales rarely cost more than $1, and often less. Over time, you can build an incredibly diverse collection of titles that will never be re-pressed in this business scam (probably at $50 per record).

    Kevin

    July 18, 2013 at 08:14

  11. It feels like a scam to me. I know Universal doesn’t want to overextend itself and press a lot of copies of something with doubts as to whether there’s a market for them. I know they want to contain possible losses and maximize profits, but there’s a better way to do it than this, which is just manipulating the crowdfunding concept to sell product they’ve already sold, as opposed to using that communication in a more constructive way.

    BOLLOCKS.

    Dw Dunphy

    July 20, 2013 at 14:44

  12. If they really want to do a Crowdfunding model of small run product, I’d like to see them fund the completion of the Squeeze Deluxe editions on CD rather than vinyl editions of anything. We got Frank, Ridiculous, East Side Story and Argybargy. Lots of rare tracks and better mastering to accomplish for the balance of their catalog.

    Robert Hollowood

    July 28, 2013 at 16:44


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