From Gutenberg to Bach

How the world of print could learn a thing or two from the world of music

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about the “resurgence of vinyl”.  No, I’m not talking about flooring…I’m talking about music – as in records! And it got me thinking about the parallels between the music industry and the printing industry.

In 2013, 6.1 million vinyl albums were sold in the United States, up from less than a million in 2005 and 2006. The same trend can be observed in the UK and in Germany, where LP sales have climbed to the highest levels since the early 1990s. Global vinyl sales amounted to $218 million in the past year and it’s all but certain that the vinyl comeback continued in 2014 (source:

Industry experts are speculating as to the reasons for the resurgence of such a seemingly outdated technology. After all, why go to the hassle of what’s involved in playing a record (in addition to the care required for the actual record itself) when you can simply click a button on your cellphone, tablet or computer?

Ironically, that’s likely at the very root of the cause. Because anyone who has ever listened to vinyl knows the unique little hisses and noises that emit when listening to a song. But those sounds are what give the song its true character – character you just can’t get in digital.

Findings by ICM Research earlier this year showed that 15% of those buying physical music do not intend to listen to it, but only collect it (source:

The parallels to print are uncanny. We are an industry with a rich history in craftsmanship and (very) old-school technology. And although we have struggled over the years, we have the opportunity to marry some of these old-school techniques with new-school ideas.

People want a tangible product. They want the tactile experience you can only get when removing a record from its sleeve. The same holds true for print. Now, couple that with current technology, where you can get download codes and specialty-colour vinyls. Where you can incorporate QR codes and AR (Augmented Reality). The result is that you truly get the best of both the physical and the acoustic/visual worlds.

Gotta Groove VP of Sales and Marketing, Matt Earley stated: “You can pay a rush fee for almost anything you want to buy in the world. But when it comes to vinyl pressing, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s an old-world technology. Not a whole lot has changed in the past sixty years.”



In an article recently published by Barb Pellow, she writes: “Greeting cards are taking on a whole new dimension with their ability to blend interactive elements. Unifying print and digital media increases the value of the typical greeting card by enhancing its ability to engage and interact with the special people in your life.”


Direct mail is another example of “what’s old is new again”. In a recent Yahoo small business article by Joseph C. Kunz, Jr., he compared direct-mail marketing to e-mail marketing and examined what’s best for a small business. His conclusion: Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Direct-mail marketing is definitely not dead and has the ability to get your message into the physical hands of your prospects. And they will most likely spend more time reading a brochure, postcard or letter than they will an e-mail. But, as with anything, you must catch the reader’s eye if you want them to read your message, whether or not it’s in digital format or print. He added that, while e-mail marketing is cheap, quick, and easy to implement, it will not be replacing direct mail for a very long time.

One of the best things about e-mail is that it’s trackable. This data can be used to analyze open rates, clicked links, and conversion details. All of this data can help you fine-tune your e-mail content and message. And once you hone in on the right message for the right audience, you can develop the right print campaign for optimal success. The reality of the situation is that direct mail and e-mail marketing complement each other beautifully. Each method makes up for the shortcomings of the other. Together they create a powerful tool in your marketing mix.

Let’s take a cue from vinyl. Let’s take a moment and absorb the shift that’s starting to take place. Do we need to limit ourselves to greeting cards and direct mail? Why not business cards, packaging, or magazines?  And, of course, album covers!


Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121