Written by: Audra Colliton
As a collector of vinyl for 8 years, I can easily say it’s on the rise. However, I can also attest to the fact that I am biased. I have seen an increase in people my age shopping at my record store, younger people at events like the Record Riot, and the release of cheap turntables everywhere in every color can defend that opinion.
Vinyl is on trend right now, but as a musical format, I find it to be the most tactile. As a music enthusiast, I have collected my fair share of CDs, tapes and digital downloads. CDs are often too small to fully appreciate the small booklets in the covers, tapes are even smaller, and digital is subtracted from the physical environment entirely. Vinyl is different; it’s tactile and large enough to fully appreciate. For that reason, covers are more elaborate, the inner sleeve may contain more things like posters, calendars, and even large booklets or paper stands. Zeppelin had pop up effects on Led Zeppelin III, the Rolling Stones incorporated an actual, zippable zipper on Sticky Fingers, Alice Cooper’s Love it To Death came with a calendar from 1971 with a picture of Alice being hung with a noose. There are so many additional things to vinyl in comparison to CDs it’s impressive.
Vinyl also has a different sound quality and lasts longer when cared for properly. I cannot fully describe the sound it has, but it feels more real. That might just be my bias shining through, but I’ve heard similar statements from other collectors. They also last longer in comparison to tapes, which, after several uses, will expel their tape and get worn out. CDs, after a number of years, literally rot, which is another thing to take into consideration. It’s true that vinyl can be severely damaged and can skip, but proper care is crucial.
Besides that, we have to consider how we take in music day to day in the digital, divided era that we live in. We take everything segmented, taking out the terrible and only focusing on the “good” music, or the singles of an album. CDs and tapes you can easily skip through. Skipping songs on vinyl takes some skill and when I first started I never did it in fear of damaging my albums. So, as time went by, I listened to my albums fully, taking the good with the bad. And I realized that albums are merely storytelling devices, some stories are good, some stories are bad. Sometimes the story is not linked up, sometimes the stories intertwine perfectly.
An example of an album that does this is Arthur by the Kinks. Sure, you probably know “Victoria”, however, the tracks that follow are vital to the story, and the discontent felt in the story doesn’t fully echo through “Victoria”. Discontent is felt through songs like “Some Mother’s Son” and “Shangri La” due to the sad and sarcastic nature the Kinks instill into the lyrics. Albums are a composite piece of work, and to fully grasp the art, it must be taken whole before zeroing into songs. I’ve come to find some of my favorite songs are my least favorite in comparison to the album as a whole.
Some stories are terrible, like Their Satanic Majesties Request, that tried to rival Sargent Pepper’s and horribly failed, however the album is still sought after by collectors that value the art, and can actually be worth money just because of the art.
In general, vinyl is an experience that cannot be replicated on a digital platform.