Vinyl keeps on rolling, stays cool
As technology dictates how society consumes music, and generations have shifted from 8-track tapes to cassettes to CDs to MP3s, vinyl records continue to endear themselves to a new generation of listeners.
CDs continue on their trail to extinction, but vinyl has outlasted its competition and — while it is no longer the dominant medium of its market — it has carved out a consistent niche in the music industry and is the only physical format that has grown in sales for the last five years.
Vinyl remains viable because it offers listeners qualities, both functional and aesthetic, that just are not provided by faceless MP3 files.
“I think it makes music less disposable,” Vinyl Junkie record store owner Titus Haage said. “So you listen to 10 seconds of a song and you’re saying, ‘OK, I don’t like this. It doesn’t grab me,’ and you delete it. It makes music completely disposable.
“You didn’t pay for it, you didn’t put any effort into finding it, so it means nothing to just delete it and forget that it ever existed in the first place and kind of ruins the point of music as an art form.”
The uncompressed sound of vinyl is another reason why it remains a popular format. The quality of a CD is compromised when they are compressed to achieve maximum volume. Vinyl is an analog recording, which means that it catches the entire sound wave.
There is something romantic about buying a record and putting it on a turntable. The initial crackle of the needle hitting record is a unique experience. Eddie Vedder’s Pearl Jam song “Spin the Black Circle” is about his experience with his record-player. “See this needle, see my hand/ Drop, drop, dropping it down, oh so gently.”
Big album artwork is another aspect that is lost with digital music.
“Comparatively to the other formats, it’s the largest format of art. You can sit down with it,” Haage said.
Vinyl’s vitality also lies in its ability to be shared through generations. It can offer a view into what your parents or grandparents may have enjoyed at different times in their lives. Who knew that at one point your mom or dad wasn’t such a square and boogied to Led Zeppelin and T. Rex?
“It’s just a physical, tangible thing you can pass down. Some people buy trinkets to pass down. Why not music if it’s something you appreciate as art?” Haage said. “People will buy a painting and pass that down, so why not the music that you enjoy and the music that has been a part of your life? To pass that down, hopefully somebody else can appreciate that as much as you did at the time and it helps them get into it.”
MP3s and CDs are great for the sake of portability, but there is something pleasing about sitting down and listening to a record.
“The digital thing is a convenience,” Haage said. “You can have anything and everything as it is. But when it comes to art, art is not always convenient. Some of the people who appreciate it as an art might not always want it to be the most convenient.”