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Vinyl vs CD vs MP3

By: DJ Ron Slomowicz

"Real DJs use vinyl," some little raver screamed at me last week to which I responded "Poof - I guess I am just a figment of your imagination." Vinyl vs CD is the technology war that shouldn't be - especially now with MP3 working its way in. Let me give you my perspective..

I started spinning on college radio in 1991, which led to some on campus gigs. For portability and ease of use, I bought music on CD. DJs who played rave parties or club gigs were almost strictly vinyl - the cd wasn't even considered. After graduation in 1995, I decided to pursue club gigs more seriously so I bought a Denon CD mixer and taught myself how to mix (or at least segue painlessly between songs.) Dance music was hard to come by since most domestic labels were not too keen on putting remixes on cd. I found myself buying more and more imports.

Technology and tastes have changed greatly over the past 5 years - to the point where it seems most club DJs play a combination of cd and vinyl while others have even gone strictly cd. Dance remixes on cd are more available thanks to record labels and remix services and with cd burning - anything that gets distributed on vinyl can easily be transferred to cd for play.

Now there seems to be a new internet generation of discjockeys coming - people getting their music from MP3s off different web pages, trading with others and the villified online trading services. They download the MP3 files convert them to cd and bam they play the hottest hits as well. There is even software now where you can mix directly with MP3s.

For a music industry used to one form of promotion, the internet and other new forms of distribution are creating all kinds of mayhem. Advanced promotional copies of releases are sent to djs for their feedback and play. Getting these new records and exclusive remixes ahead of their commercial release sets the stage for the machine - the dj plays the new record, the crowd grows to love the record and then runs out and buys it. Or in the case of a bigger record - a buzz builds in the club and the record crosses over to radio and Mtv (ha ha). It seems to be a finely tuned machine, where everyone works together to break the big records they believe in.

The past two years has seen the new technological advancements hit the clubs. Through MP3s and CDRs, records are mysteriously leaked out - often months ahead of time. Think about Kristine W "Clubland," Veronica "I'm In Love," Cher "Dov'e L'amore," Madonna "Music," and Vernessa Mitchell "Issues," - these major club records were leaked and spread like wildfire through dj networks. Commercial releases were delayed, rescheduled or otherwise nullified. When dancers heard these records, there was no way to purchase them (legally) - so many went online and found them on Napster or bought one of those tacky bootleg compilations.

Thinking about this situation reminds me of 1995 when I went to Miami for the Winter Music Conference and overheard a guy say "my record is so underground, you can't even buy it." I laughed thinking - damn he is going to be successful. What's the use of making music that no one can buy? Let's face it, we are all passionate dance music lovers (or you wouldn't be reading this and if we love the music, we need to support it as well. I've got a few suggestions:

1. If you hear a song you like in a club - find out what it is and buy it. You can ask the dj (or as if in most cases he/she is inaccessible), check playlists, read industry magazines (Billboard/URB), look at charts and find the song. Then buy the 12 inch record or cd single. Doing this supports the artist, writer and label that produced the wonderful song that you love.

2. Buy only legal, licensed dance music compilations. Remember those UnCut and GoGirl cds that used to be in all the bookstores? Every time one was purchased it was like smacking your favorite diva in her face. Miss thing received nothing from that - her hard work in the studio and hard work on the road goes totally unrewarded. The record label and producer that financed the recording and remixing receive nothing either. How can someone stay in business when their work is literally stolen?

Here's a quick lesson on how to tell the difference between a licensed compilation and a bootleg. Look at the track listing - if you see songs by Madonna, Cher and Whitney Houston - odds are it's a bootleg since these artists rarely license their music to compilations. Check to make sure the compilation is produced and distributed by a legitimate record label. In the past two years, record labels have jumped on the ball to produce better quality and more timely dance compilations. Labels like Ultra, Robbins, Centaur, Arista, and CentralStation should be congratulated for their hard work.

3. When you download MP3s, remember all the people who worked to put the song together. If you like it and listen to it, buy it. If you don't, there may not be more songs like it in the future.

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