Some people out in the dance music world harbour the impression that Ears To The House doesn’t like DJ Sneak. This isn’t so – we absolutely love the fact he has principles and opinions, and isn’t afraid to voice them. In a scene full of very timid individuals who won’t speak about anything other than what their PR person has told them so, we’re glad to have him around.
However, this will never stop us from asking questions – not least when he makes ridiculous vows like promising to remove all his music from digital stores. Sneak is an astute businessman – showed recently when he got a sponsor for his Friday night streamed shows – and he must know that unless he owns the master recording rights, he has no power to make that happen.
Back on Tuesday, we reported on his forthcoming four-track EP. The Paris-based Frappe label said “we’ll see” about the prospect of a digital release, stating that it would be “vinyl only for the first six months” – leading to the prospect of Sneak releasing new music on digital for the first time in a few years.
Since then, the man himself has been on social media talking about his love of the format. Over a series of four Instagram posts, he explains the roots of house music – referencing Chicago’s strong background in the development of the genre. And whilst Chicago wasn’t the only city involved, it’s certainly true that they played a critical role.
He then mentions “American house records manufactured on vinyl exploded across the world” – presumably referring to the fact that Europeans, and the British in particular, started hearing these records and took to them much more enthusiastically than American audiences at the time did. The fact they were released on vinyl rather than anything else probably had more to do with technological limitations at the time, though.
His third post, saying “the American house record still holds its value”, just leaves us baffled. Holds its value compared to what? It’s certainly true that there are plenty of house records from the 80s and 90s that are worth plenty on the market – but so are records from other genres. Or is this Sneak’s way of saying these records are simply better than what’s being released today?
But it’s his fourth statement which has us wondering if he’s been drinking his own kool-aid. Here it is…
What “return of vinyl culture” is Sneak referencing here? The Guardian published a report in July citing a 21.7% increase in US vinyl sales during the first six months of 2023 – but those people are not buying underground house music. They’re listening to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, and buying their vinyl, too.
Statista did some research into this earlier in 2023, so what did they discover? Well, vinyl sales in the USA peaked at around 300million units per year in the late 1970s, with those numbers plummeting in the following decade. Sales were down to roughly 20million units per year by 1990 – making vinyl a much more specialist medium amongst DJs, but certainly not the public.
And as the chart here shows, there has been a resurge in recent years – the first year where vinyl sales in the USA started rising again was 2006. Vinyl is, strictly speaking, selling about as much as it did during the early days of house music.
But let’s not insult anyone’s intelligence by trying to pretend vinyl’s glory days are back. The days of people cancelling their subscriptions to Spotify and then making room for a turntable in the living room are unlikely to be around the corner…