Vinyl Record Sales Soaring

Here’s a headline I wouldn’t have predicted: Vinyl record sales double in ’08, CDs down. Of course the vinyl sales remain a niche market, increasing from what had dropped to a relatively low number. This is also not a true sign of old technology winning as the big winner in recent years has been MP3’s. Computerworld reports these numbers:

In 2008, 1.88 million vinyl albums were purchased, more than in any other year since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking LP sales in 1991. The previous record was in 2000, when 1.5 million LP albums were sold. More than two out of every three vinyl albums bought in 2008 were purchased at an independent music store, according to SoundScan.

Vinyl record sales rose 14% between 2006 and 2007, from 858,000 to 990,000. In contrast, CD sales plummeted over the past three years, from 553.4 million in 2006 to 360.6 million in 2008. MP3 sales grew from 32.6 million to 65.8 million during the same time period, according to SoundScan.

Industry observers say vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because new buyers are discovering the value of owning albums, with their cover art, large liner notes and warm sound.

“There’s nothing like a vinyl record. It’s analog. It sounds as close as you’re going to get to the artist. If you’re that guy who sits in that optimum space in your living room, you’re definitely going to hear the difference,” said Steven Sheldon, president of Los Angeles-based Rainbo Records.

“Now, with that said, 99% of the public listens to music as a background off of iPods and everything else,” he said. “That’s by far the worst sound quality, but it’s also the most convenient — and convenience sells.”

Technology Is Not The Solution For Republican Problems

In discussions of rebuilding the Republican Party some have been distracted by concentrating on technology as opposed to their fundamental problem of promoting ideas which are unpopular and often contradictory. Patrick Ruffini at NextRight points out  both the value of technology to match that used by Democrats along with the need to concentrate on message. He also notes that the message desired by grass roots is often quite different from that of the national party:

Were and the netroots primarily about technology or ideology? The answer is both. They were instruments for the ideological “reformation” of the party that just happened to use technology. They were both successful because they tied technology to sense of political purpose, direction, and action. I understand we won’t “be like” the left, but this is a very useful lesson for the right.

Without technology, the Democrats’ path to power would have looked very, very different. Their purpose-driven use of technology sped up the process of giving the grassroots an ownership stake within the party and feeling like they could safely get involved in official Democratic politics again. Right now, there is a poisonous divide between the official Republican Party and the grassroots. This is the inevitable consequence of the bailouts, spending, and Medicare Part D and probably couldn’t be any other way after eight years in the White House. But over the next few years, it has to be a goal to get the grassroots looped back into the party and in fact get them in the drivers’ seat shaping the ideas and priorities of the party. For an opposition to be effective, it must be united. This means breaking down or rendering irrelevant the elitist mindset of the political class that divides it from the grassroots, and working as one united Republican Party in the think tanks, on the ground, and online to be an effective foil to the Obama Administration.

One problem faced by conservatives is that there are vastly different views not only dividing the grass roots and the party but dividing conservatives in the grass roots. Julian Sanchez at Ars Technica discusses both the question of technology as well as pointing out the same problem with the conservative coalition I discussed here yesterday.

Conservatism has much bigger problems right now than a paucity of Twitter skills. (I say this, for what it’s worth, as someone who’s often classified as part of the broad “right,” my frequent criticisms of this administration notwithstanding.) Front and center is that the end of the Cold War and a governing party that made “small government” a punchline has left it very much unclear what, precisely, “conservatism” means. The movement was always a somewhat uneasy coalition of market enthusiasts and social traditionalists, defined at least as much by what (and who) they opposed as by any core common principles. The Palin strategy—recapturing that oppositional unity by rebranding the GOP as the party of cultural ressentiment—is just a recipe for a death spiral. Conservatives don’t need to figure out how to promote conservatism on Facebook; they need to figure out what it is they’re promoting. To the extent that a new media strategy is part of opening up that conversation, great, but it had better not become a substitute for engaging in some of that painful introspection.

That brings us to Erickson’s essay, about which I wanted to say a few more specific things. First, I understand all too well why he insists on getting outside the beltway and talking to technologists rather than political operatives who know a little tech.  Washington is absolutely crawling with snake-oil salesmen who’ve discovered that you can make a tidy living extracting cash from credulous politicos who didn’t learn anything from the last dot-com bubble, provided you’re able to sling Web 2.0 jargon passably. “Go outside the beltway” is probably a decent heuristic for anyone who isn’t confident they can spot the hucksters.

Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator shows that it is possible for a conservative activist to both understand the importance of ideas but also support ideas which are a political dead end. He quotes the above passage from Sanchez and responds:

This is true, and as John Hawkins pointed out, the current wave of Republican technophilia is based on a profound misinterpretation of the Obama phenomenon. The high-tech stuff didn’t drive the enthusiasm, the enthusiasm drove the high-tech stuff. And, uh, who has a growing online army of more than 60,000 enthusiastic supporters? The same person who is odds-on favorite for the nomination in 2012? It seems to me that a fairly obvious plan of action is at hand, if only the damned snobs would stop whining about it.

While I disagree with his support for Palin and his belief that backing people like Palin will lead to anything other than continued disaster for the GOP, McCain is correct that it is support for the candidate which is more important than the high-tech stuff. If technology alone was the key to victory, Howard Dean might have won the 2004 Democratic nomination and Ron Paul might have at least done more respectable in the 2008 Republican race. Taking advantage of technology will help Republicans promote their ideas, but first they must come up with ideas beyond the social conservatism and anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin which have turned the Republicans into little more than a southern regional party.