You know those online casino adverts that flash up in your GoogleAds that blare out “over 3,600 free spins available here!” and you are sucked in to want to play. Well, the sellers of vinyl records should shout the same tagline, as the humble record offers endless free spins on the turntable for the devoted music fan. No digital streaming subscription fees payable here!
You would be surprised to learn that it has been a whole century since the first vinyl hit the timetable. It was so revolutionary at the time that it sent a shock through the music world and made recording an essential. Even today, after the innovation of the CD and then the digital track, vinyl has a place in the hearts of many. The question we should surely ask is: how can vinyl records still be popular? The answer: first, they sound better, two, the album artwork is a collector item and three, they are just plain cool!
Let’s take you through these answers in more detail.
The first thing an ardent fan of vinyl will tell you is that it sounds better – pure and simple. While there are all sorts of criteria you can apply to this that could support or disprove this faith in vinyl, true believers will always speak of that quality there is to the music when played from vinyl. That quality is a mystique that cannot be quantified in gigabytes. There is an authenticity, a rawness, to the recording that is polished away in digital tracks. There is a character to vinyl that is lost when everything is perfected on a computer before being delivered to your ears.
Even when there is click or a jump or you need to nudge the turntable to get it out of a crack, there is something delightful about the authenticity of this recording.
The album artwork
When you would buy an LP you were not only buying the music but an adornment from your home. As each generation passes on the love of vinyl, they also pass on some iconic artwork and sleeve commentary that comes as part of the package. When they released CDs, they tried to recreate the aura of the sleeve cover – but something was lost when it was shrunk down and put behind a plastic case.
It is not only the beauty of this art that can be pulled out from a collection and admired, it is also the tactile feel of the sleeve between the palms of your hand. To pull the music from the sleeve and place it on the turntable was an act of reverence, like a ritual by a priest. Remember that quick blow across the surface to remove any surface dust? There’s little point in doing that on your iPhone.
Just too darn cool
There was that time when your favourite artist released a special edition album and you waited in line to be the first to own it and store it in your collection. There might be a collector’s edition in a different sleeve or there might be a deluxe track. Whatever, you would spend half your monthly pay to own a copy of that limited run.
Now, there is an art to ownership of vinyl. There are high street and online stores that offer the latest vinyl releases. However, the true, cool, vinyl devotees are out in the junk and charity shops searching for that classic album for their collection. It is the act of ownership that is so important and the idea that you have a piece of physical history for that band in your collection.
For some, this coolness is about making sure you have the complete set. If you are an avid fan of Bowie, then creating the complete back catalogue for this great man can be a hobby in itself. You will find yourself searching car boot sales and odd cartons in dusty shops to find the coveted item that will fill that gap. It is a calling!
While for those relatives of vinyl lovers, there is the perfect gift option. Imagine having to give your music-loving pal an iTunes card for his or her birthday. It doesn’t quite come from the heart as well as a vinyl record from the local independent music shop.
Vinyl is timeless
There is no best before date on vinyl. There may be more convenient and mobile forms of music available but there isn’t anything that stands up to the experience offered by the record. New tech will come and go, look at the CD that had its moment and disappeared – or the cassette. These forms did not endure because they didn’t add the same value as vinyl – and this is why it will endure.
And, let’s end on this point: vinyl really does sound better!