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Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

on May 09, 2013, 12:00am

records Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

Fans of vinyl waste no time in extolling the virtues of the medium, from the warmth of the sound to the satisfaction of slicing through the plastic wrap after purchase. Vinyl sounds good. Vinyl looks good. Vinyl feels good. But beyond what some still see as a fad, there live deeper reasons why we love vinyl. David C. Giles is a reader of media psychology at the University of Winchester in the U.K. He co-authored a paper titled The Psychological Meaning of Personal Record Collections and the Impact of Changing Technological Forms. We spoke to Giles to get some more insight on the fond feelings we have for vinyl.

Sacred Objects

records 6 Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

“The ‘sacredness’ of a record is connected to its uniqueness,” Giles says, and for anyone who’s chased a white whale in whatever form, it’s not hard to understand the extra meaning attached to an object that’s either rare or hard-won. In Giles’ paper, which included interviews with music fans, one vinyl collector commented on the lack of challenge in downloading music saying “The idea that some little twat can go onto the Internet and press a button and use their credit card to buy stuff that I’ve practically lost limbs over is aggravating.” Giles also says that vinyl, especially in cases where folks feel compelled to complete an artist’s discography, for example, ends up being even more meaningful as an outward sign or artefact of fandom.

Facets of Self

records 2 Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

The physical presence of our vinyl collection can represent us in a few different ways. For one, it can serve as a cultural autobiography showcasing the very best, and very worst of our taste and judgment. “They make us cringe but they are still part of who we are and how far we have come,” Giles says of the tendency he found amongst collectors to hang on to records they’d describe as “embarrassing.” There’s also the representation in the form of putting our records in a prominent place like a living room. “If we choose to show off our musical collection then it becomes part of us, or at least it’s a visible part of us that we are revealing to the people who we welcome into our home,” Giles says. That’s a little harder to do with an iPod.

Social

records 3 Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

“Most fandoms are profoundly social,” Giles says. Whether it’s arranging times to share and spin records with friends, or killing an afternoon at a record store, the social interaction bolsters people’s feelings about the activity. Think of the growing mobs at Record Store Day, or even the crowds at Comic-Con every summer. “There’s nothing that galvanizes people’s commitment to a cause like seeing and meeting like-minded others,” Giles says.

Visual Appeal

records 4 Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

We like bright shiny things. It’s a matter of attraction. In the modern age, album art has just about been lost, which is often lamented as artwork is an extension of the “musical artefact,” as Giles put it. While the Internet has afforded us other ways find visuals related to the artists we love, a band website or random Instagram doesn’t have a direct tie to the recording. “I very much associate certain LPs with the sleeves– the accompanying imagery is all part of the music, not just the front cover but the inside sleeve, the pictures surrounding the lyrics, and other images,” Giles says.

Physical

records 5 Five Reasons You Love Your Vinyl

The appeal of actual objects is probably one of the best used arguments to for vinyl– how can you own what you can’t touch? An actual record’s presence is reassuring. “A record on your shelf sits there in full view and each time you walk past the shelf, you’re reminded it’s there,” Giles says. But besides dealing with the insecurities of going digital, it is much easier to attach sensory or emotional value to a physical object, like childhood teddy bear. In that way, the physical ties back in with records representing past selves and bits of memories from other times. That’s not to say associations are impossible to stick to an MP3 – obviously not. But for anyone who’s moved residences with crates of records, physical collections require a different kind of love.

Photos by Jeremy D. Larson

15 comments

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Jared Silva
May 9, 2013 at 2:05 am

Couldn’t every reason, with the possible exception of Sacred Objects, work for people who buy CDs too? The explainations don’t seem exclusive to just vinyl records.

Artie Petro
May 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

Yes, but in my opinion, to a lesser extent. If only because a CD is essentially a miniaturized LP. And when an LP shrinks down to 1/4 its size, so does the impact of the above characteristics. If my records are a “Facet of Self,” then I’m putting more of myself out there when I display an LP collection versus a CD collection. I think in this case it really is a matter of more is more.

Riot Nrrrd™
May 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m in my mid-50s with an IKEA 5×5 unit nearly full of albums and singles collected over the past 35+ years. I used to go crate-digging twice a week when I was young. So I should be all “Right on man!” about this article, right?

No. I could care less about albums anymore. Getting up to change it over after 20-25 minutes? No thanks. I consider the coming of MP3s/WAVs/AIFFs/FLACs to be a godsend. Give me convenience anyday.

“But for anyone who’s moved residences with crates of records, physical collections require a different kind of love.”

Yeah, the love of breaking your back maybe. I’d rather hoist my 12 TB RAID box.

“Think of the growing mobs at Record Store Day”

Yeah, they’re all there to get crap to put up on eBay so they can make a killing. Can’t imagine anything I’d hate more than dealing with that clusterfuck.

“… one vinyl collector commented on the lack of challenge in downloading music saying “The idea that some little twat can go onto the Internet and press a button and use their credit card to buy stuff that I’ve practically lost limbs over is aggravating.””

GTFO yourself dude. Yeah it’s terrible that we have this worldwide resource to find music nowadays that years of crate-digging in a big city might never even turn up. Give me a break!

Maybe we should go back to the horse-and-buggy days. After all, it’s so organic and nostalgic. There’s nothing like the smell of a horse after a good long trot. You can never get that from a car.

IvanRott
May 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Boom. Roasted. I share this sentiment. That being said, I still purchase records I really, really love. Sometimes I play, sometimes I leave ‘em sealed (if they’re in that condition when I buy them). It’s just nice HAVING them.

Tyree Dawson
May 13, 2013 at 3:36 am

I’ve seen people try to sell the records they bought on ebay. the dealer looks on ebay and sees it’s not going for anything. Some bright idea. As for me, I use EVERY format. There is stuff on vinyl that is not on P2P. And you are DEFINITELY NOT the only person with that one mp3. I’ve ripped my own vinyls to mp3 and wav. And to the OP, getting 14 crates cross country for $441 (2001 pre 9-11 shipping rate) was a B. Now I’m in Thailand with 145,000 mp3s only missing a couple of vinyls I either forgot to rip or it came out bad and I can’t go back because either I won’t go back to the US or…sold the vinyl on ebay.

Sam Gruszka
May 31, 2013 at 1:28 am

Really, it’s the idea of just listening to music on the computer/on an mp3 player versus the experience of sitting down and listening to a record. I’d consider them rather different occasions, and as such I see them as both being worth my time. It’s no different than any other type of new technology (old gaming consoles versus emulators, analog synths versus digital synths) — they serve slightly different purposes and each have strengths and weaknesses. I do have to agree that the writer of this article seemed unnecessarily antagonistic towards digital audio, for whatever reason.

Jason Gross
May 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

Good article! We all have cherished (and bad) memories associated with certain albums too- where, when we bought them, who we listened to them with, some special place/time where we played it, etc.

CoolCounselor
May 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The educational aspect of record collecting can not be overemphasized in my opinion. Much of what I learned about music, musicians, art and culture came from the album, the album cover, the photographs, the lyrics, and the liner notes. History, irony, sarcasm, wit, and revelation were often embedded in these objects.

Beto
May 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I started my LP collection more than 20 years ago – from second hand sales and such. The CD was the future and records were the past, everyone wanted to get rid of them. Therefore, it turned a way to discover great music on the rock bottom cheap for me. Take a chance on some unknown album just because I liked the cover, things like that.

It’s funny how things change. These days, however, I am more interested in living a semi-nomad life and less on gathering stuff, including records. I think the 500+ I got are enough to get me going. (maybe it’s a blessing I live nowhere near a decent record store). In fact I am currently digitizing the ones I’d miss the most at the highest possible quality, and much of the sought-after “warmth” of vinyl sound -the aspect I care the most about- is actually preserved in digital form. I can live with that.

the Tile Ninja
June 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm

It’s funny, I started buying VHS at rummage sales and secondhand shops for the same reason. Dirt cheap way to see many movies I never saw, and kind of quaint to boot

Rory Burns
May 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I’m very surprised and disappointed that the sound quality of vinyl was ignored in the article. For me, that’s the reason for having vinyl: the sound is more complete and fuller than what is available in the digital medium – at least it is on decent equipment with a new record that hasn’t been played hundreds of times. Using the term “warmth” to describe the sound quality of vinyl is a misnomer: if the equipment used to play the music back (stylus, cartridge, tonearm, preamp, amp, etc.) tend to distort the sound by making it warmer, that’s what you’ll get. If the equipment doesn’t distort and manipulate the source signal, then you’ll get an accurately reproduced sound.

Tyree Dawson
May 13, 2013 at 3:30 am

just get a vinyl distortion plug-in on your player and you will get the same sound

barp
May 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

If it’s those idiosyncrasies of your particular equipment (warmth/character/whatever) that you’re stumping for here, that’s fine, but it’s been shown conclusively that at this point even “lower quality” (i.e. lower sampling rate) mp3s are indistinguishable (to human ears) from analog recordings in terms of frequency range (which I’m guessing is what you mean when referring to “complete” and “fuller” sound):

http://rationalblogs.org/rationalwiki/2013/02/20/perfect-sound-forever/

(check the bit about high bit-rate audio)

Brian
May 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Always nice to see some vinyl appreciation!

the Tile Ninja
June 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I agree with four of these points. The one I don’t is “sacred objects”, because to me that borders on (or steps over into) either idolatry or at very least a “hipster brand of consumer culture”, to pin it. Disagree? Explain to me why or how it DOESN’T fall into either of these. What should have been the fifth or first point, as it stands, is the warmth of sound, as described in another previous comment. What I used to explain to people is that these electronic artists that I like (Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Amon Tobin, Plaid, etc…) are making music on Macs and “PC-Computers” (to quote Ninja from Die Antwoord) but when they put it back on vinyl, it turns digitally produced music back to analog again! How cool is that. That seems to humanize it for me. Consider this.