A Conversation on Why Vinyl Matters

Apr 20, 2018

Kari Hedlund: [00:00:00] We're talking with Jennifer Otter Bickerdike author of a new book out now Why Vinyl Matters: a manifesto by and for fans of the vinyl format.

Jennifer you spoke with so many people in music musicians and industry folks including Lars Ulrich, Fatboy Slim, Henry Rollins people from labels like, Beggars. Nick Hornby author of High Fidelity, Third Man Records, the co-founder of Record Store Day.

How did you figure out your interview list?

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:00:31] First of all congrats and thank you for getting my last name right. Go Girl!!  It's awesome. I have to say that when I got married to my English husband I remember my grandma being like I'm marrying English guy. Like what's his last name and I said Bickerdike. I can take laughs for about 20 minutes. So thank you.

That's the way I got my list together people I want to interview is just literally being a total fan girl thinking I was being quite selfish as well. I was kind of like who would I want to talk to. So I didn't really think you know the reader necessarily. I was thinking of if I had to sit and talk to someone for like an hour. They did it.

No it's not personal friend whose opinion would I be interested to get and whose opinion and thoughts would I be interesting to read. So I literally started it for myself, as being someone that admires all the different people like there's no one in the book that I don't previously think is awesome in various ways. So that's how I started. And I mean I had to think about I got about a third of everybody I asked. So you know some of my first people that I got was Henry Rollins and it was funny because I literally found his e-mail online emailed him and I'm like this is going into some random like spam black hole. And within an hour he emailed me back and was like listen if you get a publisher he said listen if you get a publisher I'll give you an awesome interview. But you know in the meantime he used my name you could attach my name to your project and that really kind of helped kick start me getting other people because of Rollins involved gave it credibility. Oh yeah that was how the yeah the ball got rolling on on the big names and the big people in the book.

Kari Hedlund: [00:02:16] Yeah you got some great people on there and it's it was really fun very varying views throughout the whole not just all musicians but just kind of varying views of the whole industry and people who are passionate about music and vinyl

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:02:30] It's funny because some of the you know you think that some people like Fab Five Freddy, the graffiti artist and obviously mentioned in the Rapture by Blondie. I thought he'd be really into vinyl but more was like vinyl over. Are you talking about vinyl like that was kind of his vibe and like you know as an interviewer you hang up from one of those conversations and you're just like oh no how am I going to you know this is this is the narrative that I'm trying to create but to have the opposing view I think actually gives the book quite a bit of balance to serve it being the whole thing being like vinyl is great it definitely is a mix of opinions like

Kari Hedlund: [00:03:04] Oh Fatboy Slim had some really surprising sort of cynical views about records in today's world too which was surprising to read.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:03:12] Yeah he was one of my friends. I have so many funny stories which I won't go into right now but the whole the whole book is you know I'm meeting people that I've been on for a long time and with Norman I actually did that interview at his house and in hope which is a beautiful sunny day as houses right on the beach in Hove. And it was just it was just hilarious because I kept forgetting that he was Fatboy Slim because he's just so cool and like normal and fun to talk to you and I when he was singing you know like he'd given up on the vinyl he's just using you know digital for him I'm like Is it really come on now look I can't believe it. Except with more profanity on the radio obviously because I just could not believe it. I'm like there's no way to come on you know. And you could see in his face. I don't know if it comes across in the book but you could see in his face that it was really hard for him to you know he's still got kicky I think the quote is he got pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century not using vinyl. So yeah that was really kind of fun. But then his whole kind of but he was like almost like misty eyed talking about his record collection at times. So it was that was a really great interview to do he.

Kari Hedlund: [00:04:26] One of my favorite lines from your book was that with Fatboy Slim he compared watching a deejay use vinyl akin to watching someone write a penny farseeing around.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:04:36] Oh my god I can't believe you knew what that was. Being American by the way because I said What is that. And he's just like it's this big but it's a bike with a big wheel and a smile. I don't know what that is. I'm sorry. And you like drew a picture of it on a piece of paper for me which is again like that's why it's so funny because it could have just like Google the picture of it but he drew a picture of it for me.

Kari Hedlund: [00:04:57] So one of the main questions you ask everyone throughout the book is Why is Vinyl important. How do you personally answer that question.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:05:06] I think vinyl is really important because it's a tangible piece of your identity that you're holding in your hands. And you know I did my Ph.D. was on Joy Division. Believe it or not. And one of the things I wrote about with Joy Division is you're listening to the songs that Ian Curtis wrote and he's lyrics are things that you feel and emotions you have but you were not able to put those emotions really into words and that's why vinyl is important because it is that kind of part of your identity and who you are. You may not be able to express yourself perfectly but that piece of music explains who you are as a person and you know a CD is great. But like the example I always use my my aunt got to bless her. This is probably like a decade ago. I remember it went to her house for Christmas and like the total white trash that she has down deep she'd put CDs all over the pine tree in the front of the house to decorate it and I was like Ha. And I remember when I was telling her that I was doing the vinyl book. She was just like nobody cares about vinyl. And I said what about like all of your Van Halen collection that you had from like the 70s and 80s. Do you still have those and she's like of course. And so there's that difference between she'd hang up like you know a CD out in the elements to be destroyed by the weather and her birds peck at it. But God forbid anybody touch your vinyl CDs there was so much more disposable they are on vinyl. You know vinyl is quite fragile you have to take care with it. It's just it's just a completely it again represents the emotive part of ourselves in the way that other formats don't.

Kari Hedlund: [00:06:42] So since writing Why Vinyl Matters stats came out from last year and they've been increasing over the years but vinyl accounted for 14 percent of all physical album sales last year. Where do you see the future of vinyl in the coming years. Do you think this trajectory is a trend or what are your thoughts.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:07:01] Yeah I get asked that question actually a lot like is it has a piece like discogs for example. I had to do like Roundup kind of thing for discogs and I just I don't think it's peaked. I think that we're just I don't think vinyl ever going to be the main form out like it was before. You know like before CDs came along. That's not going to happen. But what's going to happen is people are going to discover an artist maybe it's on streaming or download or one of the other things a digital native you know that's all they're learning and learning the first human contact often with music or YouTube and then to kind of go that next step that people are going to buy the vinyl because when you're listening to something online like oh this is good. But do we physically purchase something with money and then you have it in your house. It kind of solidifies your relationship with that artist or be like I really do like this be on our support this artist. And I think that is what the trajectory we're going to have will be kind of like the main mainstream will will be the streaming and the downloading and the real fans will be going for the vinyl. You know that will continue to be the way that it goes.

Kari Hedlund: [00:08:07] So throughout the book

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:08:09] I think one thing that is keeping it from that tipping point though is how expensive vinyl is if you know more with more pressing plants opening up hopefully that price point will come down. And so people will have more access to vinyl in terms of the entry level what the price will be more doable for more people.

Kari Hedlund: [00:08:28] Yes. So in your book a lot of the interviewees kind of talk about vinyl as and not just in your book but I've seen other places too where people talk about vinyl is sort of a nostalgia factor and there's maybe an age group that's interested in this maybe the millennials or maybe older Gen X years. But I was noticing on the stats from 2017 that Ed Sheeran's new one was in the top 10 album sales for vinyl. So do you do you think that says something about what age is engaged in buying records that seems younger it's skews younger than I would have thought

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:09:04] Yeah I mean that's kind of a nerve thing is there definitely is this is that hangover still of the like older white dude buying the records and that definitely is a contingent. But what's happening is you have you know kids have never been in a record store or going into a record store in discovery and it is like a museum of culture and music. And Ed Sheeran such a great example because he kind of crosses over like the same aunt that hung the CDs on the Christmas tree. I was doing an interview with Ed Sheeran and like I can tell her so many other people she's like oh my god she doesn't care but she's like I love Ed Sheeran.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:09:39] So it's like the kind of crossover appeal and I think that you know I get having that product by and really opens up the market place for kids like they feel cool the product looks they love Ed Sheeran and they identify with Ed Sheeran and being able to purchase again give me an entry way into other other kinds of you know vinyl products and you know the fact that it's even available on that format I think is a really important thing because a couple of years ago most you know not that many artists had their releases on vinyl right away. So Ed having that as part of the package of the stuff he put it put out I think is really powerful.

Kari Hedlund: [00:10:14] So Record Store Day is approaching this Saturday all around the world. We're having our own celebration with a pop up record store of donated records because we don't have a record store in our area that celebrates so and I know this has been a kind of transformative thing in in general terms I guess for the vinyl market. But what do you think Record Store Day. What do you think its impact has been on vinyl.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:10:39] It's been a huge thing. I mean I just wrote something recently about record store day and one of the things it is most and I think I may say in the book actually is. It's like this beautiful story like the revival of vinyl and record store day like those two stories together because you have like all of these massive huge corporations versus this form out this from pretty much discarded and independent record stores which have been priced out of the marketplace and yet against all odds these two things together revive the physical part of the music industry. So you know I think it's people going into you and celebrating those community spaces because a lot of indie stores are a community space in terms of all different people in those in those places medium exchanging ideas.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:11:26] Etc, etc and those are mean they're almost extinct before record or they happened and his vinyl is that perfect kind of format again at the perfect moment where the kids that were had only come up with digital we're coming of age enough to be able to go and purchase albums so now like a 20 something you know records are days and going since they were probably like a tween or a teen when they first started probably getting into music. Now that's just normal for them. So the vinyl part I think has been a massive massive attraction to Record Store Day.

Kari Hedlund: [00:11:57] You gave me the chills at the beginning of that answer. I can't remember what you just talked about it you just talked about the blending of the unlikely resurgence of old vinyl and record store day record stores and how it's just kind of come to this perfect moment of an unlikely success story I guess in a way that's kind of where you're going with that.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:12:24] It's really I mean it's amazing because they think it's someone that was not raised my parents were like This is the record store.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:12:32] You know I came of age going to record stores and you know very much the whole it's very it's very much like an 80s sort of childhood memory which a lot of people it's funny because a lot of people I interviewed for the book were in my same age bracket and there was this kind of like repeated narrative of I got on my banana bike or I got on my bmx bike and I rode to this store you know you can't drive and you're like 12 13 years old and this kind of idea like I know for me it was going to be like you know the rough side of town aka the college area you know what I mean so it was like riding my bike to the college area of town having someone with dyed hair who in the 80s that's like outrageous having somewhat of a nose ring crazy you know and it's like a communion like they're giving me my first Smiths record they're giving me Ned's Atomic Dustbin and giving me all these records you know Sonic Youth. Oh Husker Du these older cool kids seem kind of dangerous. That's how you get educated into different ideas and different you know just a different way of thinking that happens at a record store and the way that I don't think it happens anywhere else really.

Kari Hedlund: [00:13:42] So the introduction in your book states a few facts like the most mentioned album throughout the book which is Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and also gives the number of records bought by the author. You in the name of research which was 108 records. Can you tell us about any of those records you bought for research sake of course.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:14:00] What are you what would happen is like I'd be like listening to something on my computer when I was writing or talking to people and I be like oh my god this sounds so much better on vinyl. Oh my God. And like I got this weird obsession with 45s. So I started just like buy in like I had found this is so random I found Bette Davis Eyes on 45 and I'm like I must have that.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:14:25] So I was buying a lot of 45 of discogs and eBay but then also just going into you know going into a lot of record stores and talking to people and just kind of taking in the whole culture and that was really really fun. And it's it's weird because I find myself almost trying like build up the record collection. My parents had when I was a kid which was really strange like I'm like buying all these Billy Joel records. My mom had purchased me and I mean this is what I'm like. People are not that into this but I'm finally Huey Lewis The News sports and it wasn't really I think trying to trying to recapture it when I was first excited about music. And those were the records for good or for bad. That got me really pumped on music when I was first getting into

Kari Hedlund: [00:15:09] We've been talking with Jennifer Otter Bickerdike author of a new book out now Why Vinyl Matters: a manifesto by and for fans of the vinyl format. And don't forget about Record Store Day. This Saturday we're going to be celebrating from 12 to 5 at Brigid's Pub in Bemidji hope to see you there. Thank you so much Jennifer for being on NEW music with me and good luck on your book.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike: [00:15:32] Thank you so much darling available and all fine record stores bookstores and of course Amazon.