Vinyl Record
Isn’t it peculiar that in an age where music is quite literally handed to us on a plate via digital subscription services, many of us still choose to purchase our music on the most archaic and arguably outdated format available on the market? The thought alone of vinyl surviving long enough to see the 21st century is enough to make your grandad’s head spin, but few would have predicted it to have surged so much as it has in recent years. Earlier this year, the Recording Industry Association of America reported figures suggesting that physical music sales outsold that of digital downloads for the first time in 7 years, accounting for 17% of overall industry sales in 2017. Yet the question lingers – why vinyl?

Record Store
For many of us, vinyl offers an unparalleled listening experience that few other musical formats can deliver. There’s certainly a sense of nostalgia encountered when putting on a record by the likes of Supertramp or Joni Mitchell that you rustled up from a second-hand store and hearing it spring to life as the needle hits its groove. The subtle warmth, the crackling of static, the minor degradations in pitch – it really does feel quite special. It’s a feeling that resonates particularly with younger listeners, many of whom were raised in an awkward era between the fall of CDs and the rise of digital downloads with no physical product to collect and adore.

The prospect of holding your favourite LP in your hands and poring over the tiny details of the album cover and liner notes as you listen to it in its entirety is something that few born in the 21st century would have enjoyed. After years of listening to music through sterile white earbuds, it’s no surprise that many are seeking for this thrill. There’s also an enduring aesthetic fascination with album covers that plagues many vinyl enthusiasts and several record buffs tend to buy LPs for the album artwork alone. It’s not uncommon to see classic Beatles albums and reissues of Stone Roses records hanging on the walls of a house without a record player. Most album covers are timelessly cool, and even the terrible ones have some kind of novelty about them that many collectors find simply irresistible.

listening to a vinyl record
As well as the nostalgia and tangibility, many choose to listen to vinyl for the sublime listening experience it provides. In contrast to the compressed digital files used by most streaming and download sites, vinyl is a totally analogue listening format, resulting in a more organic, warm and arguably higher quality listening experience. Although some streaming services are beginning to use higher quality audio files to appease picky listeners, there’s also a high chance that vinyl listeners will be using a fairly decent turntable and a set of speakers, increasing the sound quality by tenfold. There’s also been a resurgence in the manufacturing of entry-level, all-in-one turntables with built-in speakers, which can be found in most department and hi-fi stores around the globe. While these modern turntables don’t boast the incredible audio quality of many higher end units, they serve as a viable option for many budding enthusiasts looking to spin their favourite records on a budget, removing the pretentious stereotypes associated with collecting records and making listening to vinyl a wallet-friendly experience for everybody to enjoy.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see vinyl overtake streaming as the dominant listening format anytime soon – but you can’t deny that there’s something magically timeless about spinning your favourite record. Like the old saying goes: you can’t hug an MP3.

Written by Will Brewster