Saturday, 16 February 2013

Seduction by vinyl

Vinyl LPs have always had their champions. Ever since the point in the 80s when CDs became the dominant medium for listening to music, there have been people who swore the swore the sound was always better on a 33 RPM LP, and vinyl albums have often been priced at a premium to those little silver plastic discs.

This seems to have stepped up a gear since digital downloads knocked CDs off their perch, and there have been plenty of magazine articles, radio and TV documentaries exploring the enduring appeal of vinyl. A couple of weeks ago BBC4 gave Danny Baker three hour long shows to talk with various mates about what made the old LPs so great.

So far it’s been a minority interest, but this week I saw a sign that it’s a love affair that has obtained some weight in the mainstream media. On a platform at Baker Street Underground there was a large poster for the online dating service, conveying a sense of expectancy with the words “I listened to her favourite album before the date so I could understand why she loved it so much”.

Alongside the words was an image of a vinyl LP, the stylus on the grooves of the first track. It was a surprising choice, as for the vast majority of people that moment would mean slipping a CD into a slot or pressing a button on an MP3 player, but it was obviously meant to convey that there was something special about the man, the woman and the prospects for their relationship. The message was that it would produce something better than most first dates, or whatever any other dating service could offer, because playing an LP produces something CDs or downloads can’t match.

You could argue over whether it’s a message that stands up to scrutiny, but when the advertising industry stars to use an idea it believes it is sufficiently widespread to seduce a large number of people. It’s betting that there’s a demographic with money to spend and a readiness to accept the association of ideas: in this case that a guy who listens to vinyl is worth a serious relationship.

It might amount to a load of old tosh, but it shows that listening to music on vinyl – or at least the idea of it – has become seductive to more than a few music geeks.

Mark Say's collection of fiction, Perversities of Faith, is available on and Also check out

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Credibility and kiddie hackers

I can’t be the only person who wasn’t completely surprised by the news that, according to IT security firm AVG, kids as young as 11 are beginning to write malicious hack code to wreak some havoc and steal some data in the cyber world. We’ve heard plenty about hackers in their mid to late teens, but this fits neatly with the image of delinquent behaviour by junior geeks who are happier staring at a screen than going out in the real world, and is something you could believe of those who would like to but don’t have the nerve to spray graffiti or smash up a bus shelter.

But while the story sounds credible, the evidence seems limited. AVG came up with one solid example, and a lot of talk about patterns that suggest there may be a growing number of kids barely of secondary school age who are up to no good in the cyber world. It’s not clear if it’s a genuine trend or speculation based on a handful of cases.

It’s worth remembering that a story like this can do some good for the company that raises the alarm. It says it is paying attention to serious issues and concerned about the wide world in which it works. That’s why they carry out research and publish studies aimed at asserting their credentials as thought leaders; and when it makes the national news it’s a result for the PR team.

But it has to be remembered that this is all part of the marketing effort, and that the overall aim of such efforts is to boost a company’s sales. It would need a lot of time studying the data, and probably a lot of expertise, for anyone to know if the assertions are correct, and I don’t know whether the evidence behind AVG’s warnings is as strong as it claims. But when something like this comes from the private sector you know there’s a commercial element to it.

It might be a real phenomenon, in which case it’s a genuine worry, but it might be just a storm in a cyber tea cup.

Mark Say's collection of fiction, Perversities of Faith, is available on and Also check out