My Love/Hate Relationship with VinylMay 10, 2017
So I recently bought a record player that I couldn’t afford. It was on special and has all the features I was looking for. It even has a cassette player for the most extreme of hipsters*. As such, I have made it a resolution of mine to buy more vinyl. Why, you may ask, would an extremely poor student with thousands of dollars in debt waste their grocery money on outdated, cool-for-the-sake-of-cool technology? My Spotify is filled to the brim with everything from Pete Townshend bootlegs to Solange’s latest masterpiece. I pay twelve dollars a month for the entire history of music. There is no need for me to buy records.
I appreciate the importance of listening to an album from start to finish. The artist has slaved over creating each song and sorting them in a particular order. But I’ve noticed that I skip songs, flip between albums, and judge an artist after a whole thirty seconds of one track. Listening to vinyl there is much less temptation to do this. The simple act of placing the needle down implies that I am committed to the entire album experience. Prior to putting a record on, I consider how much time I have, what I need to do in that time, and whether I have the capacity to listen to this album in that time. It is an organised event. Because of this, I find that I also concentrate more on what I’m listening to. It’s true that the sound quality isn’t any better on vinyl. But there’s a beautiful crackle and rawness to the sound on vinyl that I am very much drawn to.
Moreover, the basic concept of having a physical representation of my musical collection is something quite fulfilling. Much like a favourite piece of art or photography, waking up and seeing your favourite album covers on your bookshelf can fill you with a great sense of joy, even inspiration, for the day ahead. It allows you to express your passion for music in a tangible form.
In saying this, the whole world of vinyl is a privileged one. Not only do record players start at minimum $150, records these days cost almost twice the asking price of CDs. Even second hand records at $10 and under are fewer and harder to come by as independent record stores are dwindling. Some travel a fair distance in order to get a particular or cheaper record. It is such a commitment, in terms of both time and resources, that most cannot afford. The player also needs to kept in mint condition, which adds extra costs. It’s old technology, and thus expensive to repair. As such, the street cred gained from owning vinyl is almost elitist in nature. The point needs to be stressed that if you listen to music via a free online platform such as Youtube, iTunes or Spotify, it does not make you any less of a music fan. Conversely, having a solid vinyl collection does not make you the next editor of Mojo.
Entering the vinyl sphere has its advantages. I am loving the feeling of finding a great record, getting it home, dropping the needle, and spending the next forty five minutes on a musical journey. But let’s be honest, it is next-level wankery. Many have endlessly argued over which platform is best for the musical listening experience. My view is; it doesn’t matter what apparatus you use, as long as you are listening.
*Cassettes are silly. Let them be dead.