Blowback Innovation

by Peter Doyle

Blowback InnovationThe CIA has a term ‘blowback’, that refers to the  unintended consequences of an action. An example is the unintended consequences of overthrowing the moderate left wing government of Iran in 1953, resulting in a 1979 revolution and theocracy. There is a blowback stirring in innovation.

Recently, I decided to get rid of my old LP collection. I hadn’t listened to them in years and they were taking up space. I live in a small college town, where there is not one, but three used record stores. So, I hauled a box of old LPs down to one of the stores to see if any, of what I considered junk, to be of interest. I have a pretty eclectic mix of old music,  seven inch singles from the 50s, 60s and 70s,  obscure groups from the  80s and early 90s to a wide selection of fairly popular albums going back to 1970s. They are all in good condition.

While I waited for the owner to serve a customer, I glanced in the bins, and was surprised to see shabby versions of some of the same LPs I had brought down, priced $15 and more.   I began to wish I had brought more boxes down. The owner Ethan, told me to leave the box and come back in a few hours. When I returned he gave me a healthy chunk of change, about 20% of what he would be selling them for. I asked him who bought these old LPs, he told me that the hottest selling item in music was LPs. He was right, in 2012 4.6 million LPs were sold, that was an increase of 17.7% from 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/arts/music/vinyl-records-are-making-a-comeback.html?_r=0).

Many new groups are releasing their music on vinyl exclusively.  They see the digital route as the road to piracy and no remuneration.  Ethan pointed to a collection of high priced LP covers up on the wall, and he told me they would be sold within a week. I asked him where they found turntables, amplifiers and speaker to play them. He led to the back of the store and showed me a collection of Technics, Marantz and other names I had not seen in decades. Most of the turntables were priced over $250.

I was curious about this phenomena, after all analog LPs have crackle and pop, they can warp and the sound has less dynamic range. So I did a little research. What I found is that, whatever the technological benefits of digital, people like LPs because of the album art, the printed lyrics and inserts. Owning a record collection was more than collecting music by a favorite artist, it involved other artistic expressions as well. Those experiences could not be replicated by downloading to an i-pod, no matter how good digital sounded.  As I was leaving the store, I asked Ethan if he had any interest in CDs, he told me no “they are digital”.  A case of what could be called musical blowback.

image credit: politico.com

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Peter DoylePeter Doyle is an award winning media marketing, news and documentary producer using rich media to accelerate innovation and commercialization. Check me out at http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterjdoyle

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