For the record: An introduction to the collecting vinyl
Good morning Twinsburg! I write this as I listen to Zeppelin III on vinyl, sipping my coffee, and enjoying this amazing weather we are getting today. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about a craze that you may not be aware. I’m guessing you may not be aware of it because when I bring my record collecting up in conversation with people… they say, “You actually by records? Why?”
So, as an introduction to this series “For the record”, I think it’s important to give you a little context as to my background. I was born in 1982 (that makes me 29, going on 30 for those who are less blessed with math skills such as I) in Leroy, Ohio. My generation, was born in the 80’s, grew up in the 90’s, got our education in the early 2000’s and were introduced to the work force during probably the worst economic time since the Great Depression, in the late 2000’s.
So, now that you know how old I am (or how old I’m not depending on your age) you can start to have the sense that I’ve seen music and entertainment in multiple formats. The 80’s were all about the cassette tape and with that, vinyl records, which had really been the dominant (only) format of music distribution since music recording for decades, was on a rapid decline. Society (as we are even today) was obsessed with the convenience of being able to jam so much entertainment into such a portable space. Not to mention, we could now make our own mix tapes!
By the time the 90’s came around and CD’s came on the scene, vinyl records were all but extinct. (this thought is important later - keep this in mind) By the time the 2000’s came around (and the advent of the internet) MP3’s were the new thing and once the iPod was released… even CD’s couldn’t hang in the game as it related to convenience and ease of use.
That takes us to now and the whole reason I’m writing this today. To tell you about the AMAZING turn around vinyl is making. According to USA Today, vinyl sales were up 39% last year, and are up another 20% over last year, to this point in 2012. That’s right, those dusty, warped, crusty records sitting in your basement are flying off the shelves to collectors like myself who are looking to get that tangible piece of music history.
So this take us back to the “You actually buy records? Why?” question. Well, I can only speak for myself so I’ll tell you why I buy them:
1) I want something real, something to hold on to, something dynamic that I can look at while I listen. Let’s be real folks, and MP3 is about a dull experience as one can have listening to music. While it sounds great, it’s as one dimensional as it gets.
2) It sounds better than you probably remember. I won’t get into all of the physics of it but in music recording there are two different formats: analog and digital. Vinyl is an analog format and what you get with an analog format, is a rich, wet, full sound that MP3 compression CAN NOT deliver. Why? MP3’s as you probably know are a compressed file. In order to compress the file, they take only a sample of the sound wave you are listening to and those waves that are high in the spectrum or low in the spectrum are lopped off. When you are listening to a record, you’re listening to 100% of the sound wave.
3) In many cases (at least for the classic stuff), the music was written by the band for vinyl… not for MP3. Let me give you an analogy. Have you ever seen Transformers at the movie theatre? At the theater, you are watching the movie on film. (an analog format) So, the picture while a little grainy, made those transformers are real as they could get. Then the movie came out on Bluray (a digital format) and you watched it at home on your 51” plasma tv and you thought to yourself… man, those transformers look so fake? They looked fake because the picture was so good in fact, that you could tell the difference between the CGI computer animated graphics, and the real objects behind them. Music you see, is much the same way.
There are more reasons why I love collecting vinyl records, but affordability is NOT one of them. No… records are NOT cheap. Especially, those that came out in the 90’s, when CD’s remember, were just about the only format music was being released in. Dave Mathews for example, a prime artist in the 90’s would release an album and press maybe 2,000 copies on vinyl. His records can sell for over $200+ on eBay. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
So again, this is just the first in my series “For the record”. I hope you enjoyed some of this background and the explanation for my obsession. My collection today (pictured above) consists of roughly 250 records. The records I own span many decades and is split pretty evenly between the old (ie. Beatles) and the new (ie. Blink 182). In future articles, I’ll try to write more about the music itself as I review different records and how I interpret them. If there is an artist or album you think I need to check out, tell me and I’ll give you my opinion about my listening experience, the album artwork and more.
Thanks again, rock on Twinsburg!