How do you build an early buzz in the world of alternative rock? Simple—release your new album on vinyl. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden all made their latest albums available on limited-edition LPs, sold at independent record stores. This week, Sonic Youth’s new album, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, will be released on vinyl-seven days ahead of the disc version. Says Geffen’s Ray Farrell, ”Sonic Youth never lost its underground status, and vinyl’s a strong part of the alternative marketplace.” Next up: Stone Temple Pilots, who plan to distribute a limited number of LPs of their next album, Purple, this summer.
Early vinyl releases ”create anticipation,” says Atlantic’s Karen Colamussi, but according to Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, the format should be released as a matter of course. ”A lot of people have not bought a CD player yet,” he says, ”and it’s important not to exclude them from anything that’s going on.”
Even though wax accounted for only half a percent of total record sales last year, Chris Johnsen of Grand Royal, the Beastie Boys’ label, insists teens are buying the groovy stuff: ”If they don’t have a turntable, they go to Granny’s to listen.” In fact, Grand Royal will press 7,500 green-vinyl copies of the Beasties’ upcoming Ill Communications.
As the Beasties know, LPs never died in the hip-hop sphere, where wax- scratching DJs are heroes. Says Speech, Arrested Development’s head rapper and an LP champion: ”Vinyl records have wide grooves, which enables a better bass response.” Plus, he says, ”the covers make for nice wall hangings.”