In Seattle it doesn't take much for us to get excited for summer. Averaging about 226 cloudy days a year (that's about 62% of the year) we eagerly await the first days of sun after a long, wet winter. It's a very frequent occurrence to see us running around in shorts and t-shirts on a sunny day, even if it's only 50 °Fdegrees (10°C degrees, for the rest of the world) outside. It doesn't matter if we get frost bite, as long as it's sunny outside, it is summer! It's not hard to imagine then, that after having the wettest winter on record, these last few weeks of sunny, record breaking days have gotten us more than a little excited for what's to come... that is, until summer does come and we all complain about how miserable and hot it is, but I'm completely off topic now...
To celebrate the onset of sunny weather I've been spending the last few days studying for midterms revising my playlists to get ready for summer. Doing this often leads me down the rabbit hole, discovering great new artists and albums, and in turn, wanting to add these albums to my physical collection. Discovering new music is a topic I've discussed before (*cough* shameless plug *cough*), and so I'd like to focus more on my collection, and why I think you should have one too.
The Merits of a Good Collection
I am a sucker for the physical. Take books, for example--90% of all the reading I do is on my laptop, but I will always prefer having a good book in my hand than on my screen. When you interact with the physical you get more out of it. When you read a book online all you do is read. Pure, simple, and distilled down. Reading a book in person is so much more.
A book has weight. There's a feel to the pages under your fingers. A sound as you turn through the story. A smell that leaps out from the paper. A book is so much more than reading - it's an experience for all the senses.
This is why I think that anyone who truly enjoys music should own at the very least, some of their favorites. Services like Spotify are great; I stream music all day long because it's convenient and my choices of things to listen to are so much more expansive than any collection I'd ever be able to put together. But ultimately, there is a little bit lost when you replace the physical with the ethereal.
Why I Chose Vinyl
Regardless of your take on the subject there is no denying the recent resurgence of vinyl. Sales over the last few years have kept going up, and while they may not have reached the levels they did in the 70's, record labels, both large and small, have begun releasing more and more new content on vinyl.
I personally see this revival two ways. On the one hand, it's a great shame that I can no longer find classic vinyls like Pink Floyd's The Wall at a price that doesn't involve giving up my left kidney, but at the same time more of the newer groups I listen to have started to release their music in this medium. Quid pro quo, I guess.
When you ask someone why they prefer to buy music on vinyl they'll almost always tell you that it's because it sounds better than any other format out there. The truth to that statement seems to be a little complicated, if there's any truth to it at all. I will say that vinyls do have a warmer sound to them that I haven't heard from any other medium, but personally, that's not why I love vinyl.
I prefer vinyl for the process, the ritual, that comes with it. When it comes to a CD all you have to do is pop the disk out of it's case, put it in the player, and you're done. Perhaps that simplicity appeals to you, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's something to be said about delayed gratification - about putting a little in, to get out a little more.
Vinyls are delicate, they have to be kept clean and handled properly. Listening to them isn't as simply as dropping the needle down either (unless you like scratched albums). It's not a difficult process, far from it, but it's a slower, more mindful way of listening to your music.
Vinyl & the Value of Streaming Services
Given my above testament I wouldn't blame you for thinking I only listen to vinyl and that I want you to drop streaming music. The honest truth is that I only listen to something from my collection one or twice a month, if at all. Most of the time I listen to music on the go, and I don't think I'd make many friends bringing a turn-table onto public transit; and for that matter, streaming services like Spotify are great because they provide a lot of things that mediums like vinyl can't.
For one, there's being able to try something before you buy it. In fact, a recent report shows that 45% of people listen to an album on a streaming service before buying it on vinyl. Streaming services offer the opportunity to listen to an album in no time at all. Yes, you can go to the record store and listen to the album in person before purchasing it, but that's a higher barrier of entry than just powering up your phone and opening Spotify. And yes, I am well aware that I just touted the joys of a more involved process, but there is no denying the benefit to trying something out during your morning commute, and then just picking it up later. We live busy lives, spending our time needs to be done intelligently.
The other big selling point of streaming my music is the fact that not every album warrants purchasing. Take an album I have at home, Forever Young by Alphaville. There is only one song on that entire album that I like (Forever Young), and I like the song enough that I didn't mind buying the whole album, but that's not the case for every song I like.
There's a place, I think, in everyone's enjoyment of music for services like Spotify, and for vinyl. The satisfaction of cultivating a physical collection isn't something to turn your nose at, and neither is the ease and simplicity that comes with streaming your music. Consider starting up your own collection in whatever format you prefer, and if nothing else, physical collections tend to be good conversation pieces.