By: Keegan Priest
Since 2010, 110 million people have registered to a music streaming service. Companies such as Apple and Spotify have provided us the world’s largest music database. With thousands of hours of songs from all across the globe spanning from the past hundred years, some could say streaming is the best thing to happen to music consumption. Finding new music has never been so easy. Whether it’s on a company curated playlist, or through your computer generated recommendation, new music is always at your disposal. It’s hard to comprehend how music listening happened before streaming because the only way to find new music was either through the radio or through a suggestion by a friend. What was even riskier about that, was that you had to buy the physical version to see if you even enjoyed it.
But physical music has still played its role in consumption and in the past four years, has seen a renaissance. In 2015, the purchasing of vinyl records hit a 30 year high, and every year since then the US has sold over 4.5 million units; but why is there an increase in an obsolete medium? What can vinyl provide to a music listener that streaming can’t?
The simple answer is that it’s all based on the listener and it’s all preference. Here is my argument for why vinyl is significant:
In a complex, depth piece of musical work, an artist usually explores every aspect of the music. To the album cover, to the mixing and the mastering, to the album notes, music has more than just what you can hear. Buying a physical album can bring those other aspects to life and make you more indulged in the art. Some physical copies come with liner notes, additional photography, accompanying mediums such as film and screenplay, and writing pieces by the artist. You can fully experience an album a way you can’t by just playing it.
Along with the insides of a vinyl fold, people like just the idea of having a physical thing to represent the music. It’s easy to find something insignificant while just on your screen, but by having to take it out of the sleeve and to put it on the player, you are able to put more physical attachment to it. While having to put effort into the music, you push yourself to pay attention to it; and because vinyls are an album, you have to listen to the body in its entirety. It takes a lot of effort to pick a single song on a record.
Vinyl can also be used as a collector’s item and is all across the country. People amass thousands of records. What is cool about records is the various types of differentiation? You can get autographed versions, versions that were printed at the time of release, and special disk colors. It’s a cool feeling knowing that your Miles Davis record came from the 50’s and that your Sgt. Pepper’s vinyl was signed by every member of the Beatles.
Not only are these older records satisfying to have, they sound pretty amazing too. Before tapes and CDs, vinyl was the most prominent medium for music and most musicians mixed and mastered for music and designed their sound to specifically for wax. That’s why listening to old soul or jazz on vinyl sounds a lot cleaner than through digital. Most mp3s you find of these recordings on Apple Music and Spotify are just extracted from the vinyl in the first place. Some people like listening to more modern music on vinyl too because of a similar reason. When running through the needle, the record tends to sound warmer than digital does.
One of the best reasons to consume vinyl is the culture around it. It is the best thing to go to your local store and be there with people who love music just as much as you do. It is a great way to find suggestions, talk about your favorite music, and argue about your differences. Though vinyl may be a more expensive hobby, the process of searching and buying things at a music store makes the experience worth it, and you forget the price. Throughout the country you can go to unique shops with new people, specializing in genre and preferences. The city you’re in defines the music in the store, and it’s an awesome thing to travel and experience it.
These arguments might come close to some, and pretentious to others. I completely understand where both sides are coming from; but when it comes down to it, it’s just personal preference and your want to spend time and money for music. If physical music is something you enjoy or are passionate about, national record store day is April 21. Go out and support your local music shop and see a live show or buy some vinyl.
Image: Rachel Zeh