A few weeks ago Neil Young famously exclaimed that the vinyl resurgence is just a “fashion statement.” He claims that most new vinyl doesn’t sound better than the CD because the vinyl was pressed from the digital masters. Well, that’s not always the case. The Dave Matthews Band just released their Under The Table And Dreaming 1994 album on vinyl for the first time which was actually remastered from the original tapes for vinyl. But I get the general point he’s making.
However, vinyl is much more than just the (perceived) enhanced sound. Digital listening doesn’t come with the warmth of a record on a turntable. The imperfections. The serenity knowing that mom’s not going to call and interrupt the song. This music is beautifully and intentionally detached from my phone. No distractions.
Vinyl is an entire experience. Wonderfully tactile. I love examining the 12″ cover. And back cover. Most vinyl come with lyric inserts to read along and many come with extra artwork, stories, credits and photos. When we stare at our screens for the majority of our days, it’s nice to look at art that doesn’t glow and isn’t the size of my hand.
As we move our entire lives into the digital sphere, we humans like to maintain a bit of the physical space. We crave it. And embrace it. Where all the world’s music is at the touch of our finger (literally), I’m building a physical vinyl record collection that I’m proud of. And will happily share with people when we’re together.
Taking it out of the sleeve and placing it on the player. Hitting start and watching the arm drop the needle. It’s an experience. It’s enjoyable.
Alphabetizing the collection and taking the time to put the most recently played record back in it’s proper place. It’s an experience. It’s enjoyable.
Shuffling through the records at the record shop (or Barnes and Noble) while stumbling upon one of my favorite records. It’s an experience. It’s enjoyable.
We expect everything digital to work perfectly and be sorted, organized and alphabetized to the point of immediate convenience. However, we don’t demand the same kinds of conveniences in the physical world. And going through the motions of physically sorting, opening, finding, buying, viewing, smelling, touching and discussing vinyl is not a chore. It’s an activity. And one that clearly people are craving.
In 2014 vinyl sales were 6% of ALL music sales – the biggest piece of the sales pie since 1988. Vinyl is coming back with a vengeance. And it’s great for musicians. We can sell more physical product at shows that people actually want. (Who wants a CD anymore?) Vinyl makes great souvenirs from concerts. And can be enjoyed for years after the show.
I get it. You’re trying to sell your Pono player. I don’t quite get why anyone would buy it. David Pogue debunked its biggest selling point that it sounds BETTER than a CD. Well most listeners actually thought the iTunes file sounded better in an A/B test. So there’s that. Even Pono’s engineers stated “no significant technical advantage over CD-quality.” And Pono isn’t mobile to the point of fitting in my pocket. It’s a damn triangle. And can albums cost upwards of $25?! Most of the vinyl I buy doesn’t even cost that much! How do you get off charging that?
Neil Young swung and missed. But not before convincing 18,220 people that this $400 player with songs that need to be REPURCHASED (some a 3rd or 4th time) will change their lives.
I’m a musician. I’m an audiophile. But I will choose vinyl every single day of the week over Pono. I grew up buying CDs. My vinyl collection started about 3 years ago with the purchase of a turntable. My latest record is available on vinyl and sells well at shows. I am the exact person Neil Young is chastising when he calls this resurgence a “fashion statement.” And it attempts to belittle the experiences outlined above. Music is my passion, my love and my career. And I am happy to use as many of my senses as possible to fully experience it.
Photo is by Takahiro Kyono on Flickr and used with the Creative Commons license.