The Draw of Vinyl in a Digital Age

I spent this spring break in my hometown, which is conveniently the same town where I attend college. Thrilling? Always.

So naturally, when I was without too much to do, other than work afternoon shifts at a frozen yogurt shop, I spent all of my tip money on a glorious impulse buy: a record player.

I’ve visited at least three friends in the last couple of months who have been spinning records in their living rooms when I arrived at their houses. There was something so lovely each time about the tangible nature of dropping a needle to begin an album.

Fully recognizing that I was completely over-romanticizing the practice, but armed with the knowledge that my parents have held on to the large album collection from their respective youths, I bought the player and one live Fleetwood Mac album for less than $60. So far, it’s been a completely worthwhile purchase.

After buying the player, I drove one night to the small house that my dad recently built on some farmland 30 minutes away. The house doesn’t have Internet, so to entertain ourselves after dinner, we sat in the living room listening to bluegrass on the radio and sifting through three massive boxes of records. He let me take a dozen or so with me, keeping most of the good ones for himself (ahem).

Why did he have to keep "Thriller"? He wasn't even a dedicated MJ fan...

Why did he have to keep “Thriller”? He wasn’t even a dedicated MJ fan…

He gave me his opinions on the superior sound quality of vinyl, I listened to stories of old concerts he attended, he told me where many of the records came from, and we speculated on the meanings of some questionable album art.

I fully believe that the benefits of digital music hugely outweigh any small degradation of sound quality, but there’s a communal aspect to physical music that we experience less of in our digital music-consuming lives. 

I hadn’t experienced what it was like to hold this piece of music history in my hands, having not seen the records since I was a kid, and there was a thrill associated with the uncovering of an old practice.

Records are artifacts, and when more and more media is digitized, I think we miss art and artifacts that can be held in our hands or watched as they spin on a turntable. And thankfully, there’s plenty of room for both.

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