What happened to vinyl records? Let’s play a game. Go to your local record store and try to find Justin Bieber’s Believe, which sold almost 1,500,000 copies in 2012. Can’t find one?
Okay, try again. See if you can find anything by Nickelback. Still no success? Okay, now see if you can find anything by The Pixies. What, an entire shelf’s worth? Why do you think that might be?
Simple economics, people who listen to vinyl tend to be quite discerning about what they listen to. You won’t find them listening to airy, saccharine or Top 40 guff with synthesized instruments. They listen to bands that have artistic integrity, and actually write their own songs and play their own instruments. They listen to great songwriting and have an ear for production. As a result, bands that meet those criteria are the ones you’ll find in your record shop.
When you listen to vinyl exclusively, you unconsciously make the decision to never, ever have to be confronted with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. And that’s lovely.
Record Buying Is an Experience
In a tucked-away corner of my hometown is a small, independent record store called Probe Records. This has been a Liverpool institution for the longest time. Generations have grown up visiting this place, and spending hours upon hours wandering through their expansive collections.
There’s something wonderful about buying records. It’s the type of experience that is sadly lost on the iTunes and Spotify generation. It’s the type of experience where you show up and spend hours upon hours aimlessly looking for music. You take gambles, and you drop money on albums not knowing whether they’ll be good or not. You speak to people and get to know their recommendations and opinions, and ultimately make friends.
It’s a vastly more social experience than any app or online marketplace could ever be.
Vinyl Sounds Better
Sorry, folks. This one isn’t up for debate. Vinyl sounds better than MP3s ever could. I’m not just talking about that warm, mahogany-rich sound that vinyl is famous for, but in general. It’s just better. Most of the music we listen to, is stored and broadcast in a lossy format, where details are lost and quality is reduced. This is because audio is compressed in order to make it small enough to shove on a phone, or to broadcast over the airwaves.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to a streaming service like Spotify (but not Tidal, which streams in lossless), or an MP3, or even to the radio. You’re still not getting the full picture of that track. Vinyl is what’s called a lossless format. Nothing has been lost when pressing a record. It sounds as good as the producer or band intended.
There’s another, much more important, the reason why vinyl is better than anything else. Vinyl, for the most part, escaped the ‘loudness war’. You see, with the rise and rise of digital music (CDs included), it has become possible to artificially engineer a track louder than it naturally should be. The problem here is that it has a massively detrimental result on audio quality. Indeed, it causes songs to sound distorted and become unpleasant to listen to, and strips them of their depth and texture. Because vinyl is an analog format, it doesn’t really suffer from the same problems. For example, check out the comparison between the CD version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Hump de Bump, and the vinyl version.
Vinyl Can Make You Money
When you buy an MP3 on iTunes, there is no way you can turn that purchase into an investment that makes you money at a later date. That’s because you don’t own that particular MP3. You merely license it.
But, vinyl… that is an entirely different beast altogether.
There’s an entire industry of people purchasing, collecting, and reselling vinyl, because overwhelmingly it keeps its purchase value, or even appreciates in value.
When you collect vinyl, you’re not just buying music. You’re making an investment you can sell on a rainy day, or even pass down to your children. There are even apps and websites — such as MyRecordList — that make the process that much easier.