by Zach Losher
I am taking a look at the independent music industry as whole and will be focusing on one record label—Domino Recording Company. I chose this label, in part, because I spent the summer of 2009 interning at their NYC branch. This experience gave me firsthand exposure to how Domino and many other independent and major label companies were (and still are) responding to disruption caused by digital music (i.e. p2p torrenting and loss of profit).
By the time I began at Domino, the vinyl boom had begun, but had not seen its most explosive growth yet. Just to clarify, in the late 2000s record labels’ (especially independent ones) profits started to rise, but not because they were selling more CDs. These labels were selling more vinyl records. What had become a niche culture after decades of competing with new audio formats began to come back into vogue (here is a NYT trend piece about the phenomenon). During the summer of 2009, Domino issued almost every release digitally, on CD, and as vinyl. If I remember correctly, vinyl outsold CD for every release issued over the course of my time there. As part of their radio promotion department, I was getting requests from stations across the country trying to get the vinyl copy of the records being released.
This put Domino in a unique position. They, along with a few other independent labels, were already printing every release in vinyl format as well as the other formats. As the fervor (trend) for vinyl grew, Domino was in a solid position to capitalize. They already had stock that could be sold instantly while other labels spent extra money to reissue records on vinyl that may have been recently released only on CD and/or digitally. I’m not trying to suggest that vinyl has saved the music industry. Digital sales still trump all other formats, but for independent labels vinyl sales have continued to grow while CD sales dwindle. Domino used other methods to adapt to the changing environment. They reconfigured their licensing department in order to push licensing music from artists they represent to film studios, video game companies, commercials, and other avenues.
Here are a few links to recent articles explain the vinyl boom and how/why it is happening: