Vinyl records —you see them everywhere from thrift stores to Hot Topic to the merchandise table of your favorite band. Until I was a teenager, I didn’t know what a record was other than décor for a 50s themed bat mitzvah. Now, they’re everywhere! The odd thing is, vinyl is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect to be popular in the 2013 music business. This begs the question; why are we so obsessed with spinning records in today’s age of digital music consumption?
As I write this, I’m listening to Balance & Composure’s debut full-length Separation album on — you guessed it — vinyl. It’s a beautiful purple and green swirl that’s simply hypnotic as it spins. The rain outside is adding to the neo emo/alt grunge vibe quite a bit. But what makes this vinyl more special to me than listening to the album on my headphones or though my laptop speakers?
On a record, you cannot skip tracks. Your record player does not have the ability to be interrupted by text messages or distracted by a game of Bejeweled. The album is played in its entirety, no breaks, skips or checking Facebook. The thing about vinyl is the experience: you absorb the entire album as it’s meant to be listened to, beginning to end. You can do the same thing on your iPod, of course, but it’s the way you can hold a CD or record in your hands that can help a fan further appreciate a band’s work. Much like a shirt or a poster, a physical item is something that can show your support for an artist just as easily as buying the album on iTunes can. Maybe in today’s age of pirated zip files and stray MP3s, bands are resorting back to vinyl as a way to give fans a tangible form of their music that’s a bit more unique than a digital album.
Whether you stream your music through Spotify or prefer a limited edition vinyl, each channel of consumption is still a show of support. In recent years, we’ve seen a handful of artists actually encouraging their fans to illegally download their music, the reasons ranging from their label screwing them over to other local acts just stoked about people downloading their music in the first place. Any (legal!) purchase you make towards a band is one they’ll appreciate, and if some people want to listen to music on vinyl, who are we to judge? I know personally that my favorite records are ones I’ll want to listen to straight through, and vinyl is a great way to do that while supporting the artist. It’s the experience that record collectors so deeply desire, to have a couple drinks at a friend’s apartment surrounded by good company and a few vinyls spinning the night away. It’s a physical representation of why we all love music in the first place.
Photo courtesy of eggrole/Flickr