In an era where thousands of songs can live on an iPhone – or on “the cloud” – it must seem insane to buy music on vinyl.
But there’s a fair number of collectors and aficionados out there. Here’s some possible reasons why (some or all of them might apply to me):
SOUND: I haven’t developed the audiophile’s ears yet, but there’s a sentiment that the sound from vinyl, especially from a really great turntable and sound system, is ‘warmer’ than CDs or media files, which have a sterile quality to them.
NOSTALGIA: It’s a sure bet that many customers at a record store, or at a record fair, will be over 40. Many of us have memories of vinyl music as children or in our teenage years.
TANGIBLE FACTOR: There’s something about having an album – an actual piece of cardboard with vinyl inside. Holding the artwork, the physical piece, is something that resonates with people, in a way that a fleeting MP3 file may not.
COLLECTIBLE FACTOR: I’ve never been a “collector” in my life. I’ve never had that urge to complete the set, so to speak…..until I began buying vinyl. The collector gene is strong in a lot of people.
THRILL OF THE HUNT: It’s a lot of fun for me to just go and browse through stacks of records in a store. Working in a bookstore cured me of my old habit of browsing used bookstores, but to me, finding a quirky new-to-me album is a lot of fun.
COST: So, here’s the thing. Collecting vinyl can get very expensive if you’re seeking out older stuff, specific genres (especially soul and jazz), out of print or rare albums, and so on. But it can also be inexpensive. I’ve found a number of albums – some I owned before in other formats, some that were new to me – for a dollar or two.
The Billie Holiday album (pictured above) hits a few of these spots for me. The sound is really interesting and clear. I love the artwork, the tangible factor. It was a find in a long “hunt,” and since the store had a sale on its used records, the cost was fair enough for me to roll the dice and take a chance. I knew enough about Holiday’s music to know I’d probably love it, anyway (I did).
Make no mistake, I’m still buying music electronically. Vinyl will never be as simple as downloading an iTunes track or an MP3, never as easy as opening Spotify.
But sometimes? That’s the point.