Over the last two years I have accumulated a reasonable amount of vinyl records, enough I'd say to call a 'collection'. It isn't the biggest collection in the world nor the smallest (shall we say more than 100 but rather less than 1000), and it's fair to say I'm sold on vinyl. Vinyl sales are surging, and though they make up only a tiny percentage of overall music sales, what is significant is that vinyl record sales have grown at such pace at a time when other physical formats are in a state of great decline. It's more expensive than other (more accessible) formats, it's fragile, some might say it's dated, so why have vinyl records become my music medium of choice, and the choice of increasingly more people?
1) The Artwork
I like to think of myself as a creative person, and so for me the visual experience of vinyl is definitely up there with the top reasons why I've made the switch. In my opinion, the aesthetics and physical aspect of vinyl records are key to their appeal and are just as important as any argument over sound quality. To have all 12 by 12 inches of artwork in front of me, to be able to see every detail of 'The Stone Roses' or 'Revolver' album artworks is something that I feel is lost with CDs and certainty with digital downloads. Albums that were made well before the wave of CDs have had their artwork squeezed down to a tiny fraction of how they were intended to be viewed and as such a huge amount of detail and thought can go unnoticed. But not only is vinyl giving me the chance to really appreciate the artwork of albums gone by, but it allows present artists more room to play with and really think about the artwork, rather than it just becoming an afterthought.
2) It's Tangible
The previous point touches upon this, but I feel like inherent tangibility versus the nothingness of an MP3 file gives it the edge.Vinyl records react badly to weather and moisture, they warp, finger smudges and scratches make the needles bounce and skip, but the fragility of vinyl records only adds to their appeal to me, I actually have to spend some time looking after them. As a result of this, vinyl allows you to have some sort of sentimentality about your music collection, it takes up substantial room, you can see it growing and your money has gone into something that you can actually cherish.
3) The Sound
Whether or not vinyl in reality has a better sound quality than its digital counterparts is a whole different debate to what I am trying to explain with this post, that's one for the audiophiles to battle out. For me, along with vinyl comes a certainis down to analogue’s limitations in capturing and reproducing sound). But for me it's those pop and crackle noises that give it it's unique character.
4) The 'Personal Touch'
There is a certain process to choosing a vinyl, taking it out of the sleeve, putting it on the turntable, setting the speed and placing the needle in just the right place. It so much more special than using a computer or iPod, there's a real activity to it and it really is a personal experience. The 'vinyl experience' holds a certain intimacy and romance which is hard to replicate with digital formats. If I'm playing a 7 inch (or of course, a full album), after going through that whole ritual I feel inclined to at least give the song my full and undivided attention for the whole 3 or 4 minutes running time. Along with listening to a record once you've brought it home, it's the buying experience that's also extremely personal and exciting. Nothing in the world can beat the joy of perusing the shelves of a record shop. Whether I'm on a mission to find something in particular or just hoping for a chance find, it's the thrill of the hunt that makes it so enjoyable (along with a record shop also of course comes some great conversation with like minded people).
5) It Can Be An Investment
Finally I think it’s important to note that buying vinyl records today is pretty well the only way to purchase music that is likely to give you a return on your investment. I myself have no intention of going into buying vinyl and selling it on, however it's certainly a bonus to know that vinyl records both new and old retain a lot of value. A used CD is virtually worthless and an MP3 file can't be sold on at all. Following on from this idea, for me, buying a record knowing somebody else has listened to it decades before adds to it's charm.
What do you think? Are you sold on vinyl? Or do you think it's just a fad?