The Case for Vinyl

The music industry is in a transitional period. In recent years, we've seen record store giants like Tower and Virgin go under. We've heard of massive downsizing at record labels and music magazines. Many bands have decided to forgo labels completely and release music independently. Any fan with a WordPress account can start a music blog.

My Britpop obsession started at age 11. Whenever my parents and I went on vacations in big cities, I begged to stop at the nearest Tower or Virgin mega store and raid the import section. Mine was probably the last generation of music fans that scoured the shops for the imported singles and Japan-only releases with tracks unavailable in the U.S. I also forked over money for the imported British music press: the NME, Q, Mojo, etc.

The Internet has made these practices obsolete. There's no need to collect expensive imports just to acquire B-sides; you can easily find them online through legal or illegal means. You don't need to buy a $10 copy of Q to read about your favorite British bands thanks to blogs. For music fans, it's a completely different landscape.

Emily White's piece for the All Songs Considered blog shook the Internet. The almost 21-year-old confessed to having only purchased 15 CDs in her entire lifetime yet boasts an extensive mp3 collection. To those of us that poured over liner notes and spent too many hours (and too much money) searching for imports, this concept was entirely foreign. I'm only a few years older than Emily White but I found her attitude towards music completely baffling.

Record stores have reported that vinyl sales have slowly increased over the past six years. Obviously, some consumers still want to own their music physically -- just not on CD. This attitude I can understand. When the stereo in my car went, my mom had our audiophile friend install killer speakers and a new audio interface with an iPod hookup. I've got no need for CDs anymore (though a mix CD is the quickest way to my heart -- just an FYI, boys). I haven't carried a Discman since high school. My iPod carries all of my music so I can wander San Francisco to the beat of my own soundtrack. (If anyone at Apple reads this, please don't ever discontinue the iPod classic! It's essential for music nerds on the go.)

But I love vinyl. I still buy the occasional CD but the majority of my expendable income goes to sites like that specialize in out-of-print records and other rarities. I have my parents' old stereo system set up in my living room. There's nothing quite like the crackle of vinyl as the speakers warm up. Mp3 files are ridiculously compressed -- you don't get that with vinyl. It's one of the purest ways to listen to music.

The music industry has caught onto this trend assuring that new albums are released on vinyl. Often they include a download code for a digital copy so that you can enjoy the new release on both your turntable and mp3 player. Some indie bands are even releasing albums and singles on even more obsolete formats including floppy disks and cassettes. It's lo-fi at its finest. Additionally, classic albums are being re-mastered and re-released on 180-gram vinyl.

Will vinyl save the music industry? Probably not. Is this reignited love for vinyl just a passing trend? Also doubtful. There will always be audiophiles and music nerds willing to scour record stores and websites for the perfect find. Music fans can also buy LPs and 7" singles directly from artists or independent labels either at shows or via online stores. While I will forever be grateful for the convenience provided by my iPod, I will always prefer vinyl and I know I'm not alone.