Call me a hipster if you’d like, but the time has come to write about vinyl. I’ve only been collecting records for a couple of months now, but at this point I’m willing to say that it’s going to be a lifelong hobby. Why vinyl? Let me explain.
A while back I realized that I hated every song I was listening to. No matter what Spotify playlist I selected, I was left with the same hollow vacancy in my ears and soul. My “Quality Music” playlist had grown to 1,582 songs (97 hours 53 minutes), most of which I binged for a week and then forgot about completely. Quality music? Yeah … not so much.
In the midst of my existential music crisis, I randomly heard two guys talking about records on a podcast. My first reaction was something along the lines of why in the world would anyone waste money on records when you can listen to everything on the internet for free. Call it the magic of vinyl, but a few weeks later I found myself impulsively buying a record player.
There are a lot of reasons that vinyl is an absurd hobby. First off, it’s expensive. A low range turntable is about $200, and if you actually want to hear your records you also need to buy an amplifier and speakers. Then after the initial investment, there’s the inevitable record addiction expense. And unfortunately, records aren’t even cheap! Another reason records are terrible is because they’re delicate and take up an absurd amount of space. Good luck moving if you have a record collection. If that isn’t enough, records don’t even sound better than digital music! Even with delicate care and cleaning, most records have static pops, crackles, and even skips. Audiophiles will argue that records have more depth than compressed digital music, but I don’t buy it. Just to recap, records are absurd.
Now that you hate records, let me tell you why I love them!
Back when records were popular, music was an experience. Music wasn’t just background noise for working out, cleaning, and driving. Music was something people appreciated like movies and books. I’ve never been invited to a friend’s house just to listen to music, and I think that’s an absolute shame. Music is an art that’s just as worthy of our full attention as film or literature. Just like so many other things in our culture, the vast availability and immediacy of music has stripped its value away. There’s no personal investment in music because anyone can have anything anytime.
The truth is that I don’t love records in spite of their absurdity, but because of their absurdity. It’s the absurd fact that I have to go down to a record store, flip through hundreds of albums, check for dust and scratches, weigh my options, and then weigh my wallet. It’s the absurd fact that I get excited when I see a recognizable album at a thrift store. It’s the absurd fact that my little wooden crate of LP’s says more about my personality than my appearance does. It’s the absurd fact that to listen to a song, I have to carefully remove a 12″ vinyl disc from a sleeve, delicately place it on a turntable, and meticulously align a needle. It’s the absurd fact that I’m not the first person who has listened to the used record I bought. It’s the absurd fact that I like watching the record spin. It’s the absurd fact that I can read the song lyrics on a flimsy paper insert. It’s the absurd fact that the first time I saw Off the Wall in my parent’s collection as a kid, I didn’t recognize Michael Jackson. It’s the absurd fact that after all that work I’m not just going to listen to a song, I’m going to appreciate a full album.
Vinyl is absurd and I love it.