The warmth of analogue

analogue cassette

 

In recent years, listening to music has come to be dominated by digital downloads and streaming music services. However, despite the rise in popularity of these digital formats more traditional formats like vinyl records have still been going strong. In fact, an article in The Guardian earlier this year reported that in 2014 vinyl record sales in the first half of the year totaled 4 million but that was up 40% on the same period in the previous year. Similarly, in the UK, in 2014 vinyl record sales were at 1.2 million but they were up more than 50% on 2013 levels. Those numbers represent a very small fraction of total sales of recorded music but nevertheless those growth numbers are impressive and reflect a growing interest in a more traditional recorded music format.

However, it’s not just vinyl records that are experiencing a renaissance. Remember audio cassettes?

Check out the video below from Bloomberg Business about The National Audio Company that produces audio cassette tapes. The growth of the firm is astounding and is being driven by the ‘retro’ movement and, particularly, customers under the age of 35. Millennials, if you like.

 

When I watched the short film there was a couple of quotes that really stood out for me and that came at around the 3’20” mark.

The first quote was:

“There is the under 35 age group who have learned now that life is not comprised of MP3s and earbugs and they like the sound of analogue”

and the second was:

“There was a drive from the independent bands to get that warm analogue sound again”

The second quote really struck me and made me think….if analogue is warm then what is digital?

Is it potentially cold?

I asked my brother about this (he’s a musician) and he reckons that digital formats are often too clean in their feel and they lose the atmosphere and emotion that goes into making a piece of music. He went on to say that analogue is much better at capturing these type of emotions and that is why they are still popular with and engaging significant numbers of people.

That made me think about customer experience and made me question whether a wholly digital customer experience could suffer from the same lack of warmth?

I don’t believe there is a definitive answer to this but, I do believe, it’s a question that merits asking particularly when it is emotion and warmth and care and connection that drive real engagement.

Perhaps, one answer is that in the drive to digital we shouldn’t forget to add in a bit of analogue.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: cassettes via Compfight cc

9 comments On The warmth of analogue

  • Adrian, I have been ruminating on a post with a similar angle… I think that there are a few factors coming to play. First, the fact that vinyl sales are so small, for me, speaks also to the desire to be different… (e.g. exotic). Secondly, in terms of music, there are many different and interesting avenues being explored to make better quality digital music (e.g. HRA – HD Tracks, Pono, etc.). Thirdly, I think there’s a link between the vinyl ‘movement’ with other nascent niches, such as the return to handcrafts, knitting and gardening… or repurposing old clothes or recycling old materials (‘trashion’), vintage… I do believe that the underlying trend is the desire to feel real! To feel your hands being used. To feel part of specific community. I expect the vinyl movement to stay small yet passionate!

  • Thanks for sharing that, Adrian. I had no idea there was a resurgence in vinyl or cassettes. But I agree with the conclusion you’ve drawn… I’ve written about that before, as well: technology vs. humans. I think there are times when technology is fine, but there are other times/interactions where people want more of a human touch.

    Annette 🙂

    • Hi Annette,
      Indeed, I think the trick is figuring out where the balance is. However, I guess the tricky part will be that it may be different for each and every firm and that’s where really understanding and knowing your customers will help.

      Adrian

  • Adrian, hell will freeze over before I go and dig out my old dansette.

    If the sound really is warmer (and I have to admit to a healthy dose of scepticism) would we not be better trying to engineer the warmth back in?

    • Hi James,
      Oh, go on get your dansette out 😉

      I do believe that folks are trying to engineer the warmth back in but when it comes to sound the challenge seems to be figuring out how to deal with much bigger file sizes and associated file transfer issues and hardware capabilities. Will that solve the problem? Who knows

      However, if we look at this issue and apply it to customer service, the digital and analogue and warm/cold issue could be illustrative don’t you think? For example, in many cases a digital solution may only take you so far and can be complimented very well with the addition of a bit of warm, human, analogue service.

      Adrian

  • Pingback: Hands on. The Pleasures of Vintage, Touch and Using the Hands -Minter Dial ()

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