By Max Wiater
I’m not a fan of digital music distribution. There – I’ve said it. Come at me, iTunes devotees. Now that whole albums can be downloaded to your computer in seconds and synced to your MP3 device immediately, acquiring music has become less and less complicated.
But it may also have become less and less satisfying.
Maybe that’s why vinyl records have such devoted followers. Whether they’re snatching up freshly pressed music, or sorting through the worn, used discs in thrift-store bins, vinyl fans know what they’re really looking for.
They know that the allure of this music medium comes mainly from the physicality of playing a record and the tangibility of the disk, as well as the album art and inserts. Even the records themselves can be picture disks, or have intricate color splatters and swirls or designs. There’s more to experience than just music, and vinyl listeners get it. Holding something in hand that is a work of art only adds to vinyl’s appeal.
In contrast to the simple, uneventful task of downloading a tune, purchasing a vinyl record can bring a euphoric rush of excitement. Tearing the plastic and practically Frisbee-tossing the record onto the turntable, lining up the needle perfectly with the first song, vinyl listeners can feel the life within the music with each static pop. Playing a record requires a bit of attention; one can’t simply click a mouse and have music play, but a record (usually) needs to be flipped, or if you want to listen to just one song, you have to place the needle accurately at the beginning.
One of the main reasons vinyl records are still popular is the way they sound. The needle on a turntable essentially creates friction as it’s spun over the grooves of the record, which then send the sound to speakers. This gives the music a punch and emphasizes the intricacies of songs. When dust and other particles get stuck inside the grooves, pops and white noise can be heard along with the music, giving it added character. These static noises create a listening experience unlike anything digital.
“But, Max,” you might say, “you have an MP3 player – what the heck!”
Yes, it is true – I own a Zune HD, so come at me, iPod enthusiasts. The current technology trends have influenced the vinyl industry to include download codes for recently released albums. So vinyl buyers everywhere can take their music with them and not be confined to their turntables. Speaking of turntables – some manufacturers now include a USB jack to connect and record their records into MP3 format. If you see me listening to my Zune, it’ll be a digital rip of Bon Iver’s, “Bon Iver” vinyl record.
These changes to the vinyl industry, along with a devoted audience, allow vinyl records to remain current in the digital age. Though there are easier ways to obtain music, vinyl records bring joy to collectors and create a music experience unlike anything else. And with the added incentive of vinyl-ripping and MP3 codes, vinyl records are here to stay.