I’ve had a record player for about a year and half, and my collection has grown to a point that I am proud of. I like to think that I have the right record for every person that might come over, but there is always that one question in the back of my mind: Are vinyl records really worth the time and money?
The common arguments that record enthusiasts resort to when justifying their collection is the sound that comes out of a record player. The imperfect crackles and the crispness of a needle on wax. Along with the sound is the look. In a digital age, being able to physically hold a record makes it a piece of art in more than just one form. All these things are true, but they aren’t what make records special.
When friends are over and you put on your iPod, the music becomes the background of the event. You can put on a specially selected playlist and forget about it altogether. A record player, on the other hand, demands attention. It isn’t just background noise, but becomes part of your conversation, or your meal, or your study session.
Records are imperfect, there may be a piece of dust on the needle or a scratch from that time you dropped the vinyl, but the imperfections make a record human, and allow them to be a part of the moment as opposed to passively being left in the corner.
Then the record will end, and you have to flip sides. Physically getting up and having your train of thought interrupted can be annoying at times, but once again, the record forces you to pay attention to it.
You form a relationship with your records, and from the moment you leave the record store there is already a specific story to go along with each vinyl. You aren’t just clicking a couple of buttons on your computer, but are actually interacting with it. The difference between MP3s and records is like the difference between texting and actually talking to someone. A text message can be perfect, but a conversation is human, and records are the most human way to listen to music aside from seeing a live performance.
While I am writing this, I am listening to a record that was once my Dad’s. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I can’t see giving someone a USB stick with MP3s on it as having the same meaning. Records have made it through 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and will make it through whatever Apple and Bono come up with next. It may not be for everyone, but if you are a music fan, vinyl is your friend.
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