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How to Write a "Vinyl is Back!" Story

Last Saturday marked Record Store Day, a global celebration that encourages folks to head down to their local record store and buy some vinyl. Pleasantly, the initiative has done wonders for local businesses. Besides boosting sales, Record Store Day also offers an invaluable service to writers: It presents us with a peg to hang our "Vinyl is Back!" stories.

See also: Why I Gave Up On Record Store Day

The "Vinyl is Back!" piece has been a news staple for decades. It allows business reporters to let their hair down and jam a little with some funky tunage, just like back in their freewheeling J-School days. It also gives editors an assignment for music writers they don't particularly like.

As with any established genus of story, "Vinyl is Back!" articles follow a strictly enforced series of guidelines.

Headline If the headline to your "Vinyl is Back!" story lacks a pun, you should hand over your badge and gun and retire. Luckily, headlines are usually in the hands of editors who love nothing more than writing gems like these:

Vinyl Is Back In The Groove [CBS]

Vinyl revival: Records spin back into popularity [Hattiesburg American]

Vinyl records spin back into vogue [USA TODAY]

Dust Off the Vinyl [Fox Business]

Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back [TIME]

Back to black [The Economist]

Other suggestions for headlines:

The Tables Have Turned on Vinyl Sales

Dropping the Needle Leads to a Lift in Profits

"Grooves," Those Radial Notches on Records, is Also a Colloquial Term That Evokes a Sense of Familiar Yet Cool Comfort, Which is Appropriate Given the Resurgence of Vinyl

Do Kids Even Know What Records Are? Pressed vinyl as a musical format is old. Children, on the other hand, are not old. What happens when these two things meet? Who cares, but write about it anyway, like this CBS report:

Schoolkids at P.S. 8 may not know exactly what the large round black thing is.

"It's, it's, uh, I don't know," one said.

"A CD?" another asks.

"It's a disk," said another.

Hey, if you were born in the age of digital sound, you might not know exactly how this it works, either. But they threw out guesses:

"It's something really old and it plays music."

"And it's so huge because in those days CDs hadn't been invented and this is kinda what it was."

"When you play it, it sings music out."

"It's a record!"

And ... it's coming back.

It's important to write about kids discovering their parents collections as if they are finding carefully hidden easter eggs or pornography, and -- just like with porno -- making an instant connection. From USA TODAY:

"There are tweens, teens and twentysomethings looking through Mom and Dad's record collection...All of a sudden Mom and Dad are a lot cooler than the kid might have expected."

And from TIME:

Many young listeners discovered LPs after they rifled through their parents' collections looking for oldies and found that they liked the warmer sound quality of records, the more elaborate album covers and liner notes that come with them, and the experience of putting one on and sharing it with friends, as opposed to plugging in some earbuds and listening alone.

On the next page, more tips on how to write your "Vinyl is Back!" story.

 

Platitudes A "Vinyl is Back!" story needs to be full of quotes that treat records with a hallowed reverence usually reserved for Cooperstown inductions or a dictator's state-sanctioned obituary. To wit, the Washington Times:

"Vinyl records exemplify authenticity in the digital age of the music industry. Culturally, we've lost value for the tangible."

Or CBS:

"I think it's got to do not only with the sound but the ritual of playing the record...and also just the whole packaging. It's like a gift every time you open it."

Or DigitalTrends.com:

"Record Store Day is a great day to come out and celebrate what record stores have been to our lives...to celebrate vinyl, the single greatest invention ever."

Must-use Descriptive Terms There is a fine balance between trumpeting the superior sound of vinyl while also evoking its quaintly archaic auditory delinquencies. In order to tip-toe this line, please use only the following terms:

  • "Pop"
  • "Crackle"
  • "Fuzz"

    These monosyllabic descriptors remind readers of children's breakfast cereal (fun!) and not sub-standard listening quality (not fun!).

    How to Refer to Digital Music Write about iPods and MP3s like the resistance talks about Skynet in the Terminator movies. Only sinister techno-weenies would understand this mumbo jumbo, unlike the pleasant pop or crackle of an LP.

    CBS:

    "It's a groove, whereas a CD takes music, audio, chops it up. And it's done in little packets of data. And the trick is that you listen to it, if the data is quick enough, your ear 'makes up' for the difference. Theoretically, they scientifically have proven that we can't hear the difference. But there is something. There is something different."

    TIME:

    MP3 files tend to produce tinnier notes, especially if compressed into a lower-resolution format that pares down the sonic information.

    USA TODAY:

    Music today has "become like sonic wallpaper," a popular criticism in vinyl circles. "There's a whole generation that never really got to experience music as art...They may value the portability (of downloads), but they still want to have an experience."

    Photo Check out that picture on the first page. It's a perfect "Vinyl is Back!" editorial photo. Look at all those people perusing the colorful racks -- vinyl must really be back!

    Please resist the urge to use a photo of an empty record store, as the reader may look at it and wonder, "Is vinyl really back?" You never want them thinking this because -- haven't you heard? -- vinyl is back!

    [ngreene@villagevoice.com][@nickgreene]

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