Vinyl in a World of Digital Music An Interview with Tom Tom Mag’s Mindy Abovitz

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While Judie and I were attending the Create.Work.Inspire event sponsored by Dell and Intel last week we had the chance to sit down with Mindy Abovitz, the founder and editor in chief of Tom Tom magazine. (As an aside, we both really love the magazine and highly recommend you check it out.) While the conversation was ostensibly about the Create.Work.Inspire project, Mindy was the driving force behind it, we couldn’t resist using the time with her to ask a few other questions. One that we had been dying to ask had to do with the recent uptick in vinyl record sales. As you may know, vinyl actually saw an uptick in sales last year. (For example, vinyl record sales jumped 55% in the UK last year.) And while vinyl sales, when compared to digital music, is miniscule, seeing any increase in sales so many years after music went digital really caught our attention. We asked Mindy if she had anything to say about it.

During the conversation, we touched on the warmth of digital of analog sound, the power of cover art. We even spoke a little bit about the creative process and the awesome album art.
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One of my favorite pieces of album art is something she still owns – ELO’s Out of the Blue.
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Another favorite of mine was Styx Paradise Theatre – not only was the cover art phenomenal…
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but the LP was actually a printed piece of artwork as well!

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

3 Comments on "Vinyl in a World of Digital Music An Interview with Tom Tom Mag’s Mindy Abovitz"

  1. I never cared about album art – as a purist, I cared about music for … um, music. But what I DO miss are the liner notes.

    As for the sound quality, that is a real rathole … on the one-hand, digital is always a downgrade from analog based on one being a continuous signal  and the other being sampled.  So it doesn’t matter at the depth or rate of sampling, it is inherently inferior quality. 

    BUT … even 25 years ago we passed the point at which the human ear could recognize the difference.  Well, that is partially true – CDs had that ability, but the MP3 quality has taken a while to catch up.  That happened a few years ago and now if you have a quality MP3/AAC/whatever file it is functionally equivalent to the analog album.

    SO … why do people say analog sounds ‘better’?  Well, the main reason is due to distortion.  When a digital signal distorts, it is ugly.  When an analog signal reaches saturation and nears distortion, the harmonics actually spread and create a warmth.  Which is why a ‘clean’ guitar with just a hint of distortion has a warmer and more intimate sound than a clean signal.

    Also, since we know that most of the increased vinyl record sales are going to people who are old enough to have bought vinyl before, there is definitely a nostalgia factor – and the stuff being bought was mostly originally released on vinyl! (Abbey Road was the #1 vinyl record of 2011).

    Finally, there is just something about dropping a needle to vinyl, hearing that pop and hiss just before the song starts and so on … it brings us back in time.

    But the final confounding issue with analog vs. digital is that there are almost no recordings with a TRUE analog signal chain throughout.  And once you add something digital – record, mix, process, etc – you have digitized the signal, even if you then re-convert for mastering.  So almost all of those vinyl records are actually digital masters.

  2. All I know is that years ago I had an awesome record collection of old punk rock records and some newer stuff I collected through college. Sadly I got rid of them all when my record player broke. 🙁
    And while I couldn’t tell the difference, I did like the hands on nature of vinyl over mp3.

  3. My wife definitely has ‘vinyl only’ stuff – like her Partridge Family collection, that she will plop on the turntable once a year for a listen.  Me … if I want to hear it I will more likely digitize.

    The really funny thing with this whole vinyl nostalgia is that no one seems to remember having their car eat tapes, those wonderful skips that came along way too often, replacing needles, and those 45RPM inserts that always seemed to go missing!
    And honestly, for every ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, there is 1000 examples like every Lennon or McCartney solo album that has two good songs and 8 piles of garbage.  And while I know artists lament the few ‘hidden gems’ (Darkness is my favorite Police song, and with out the album I wouldn’t know it existed because it never got ANY airplay … but that is me …), but the majority of unknown songs from popular music are simply filler …

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