Only 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!