Vinyl records: they just mean more

Photo courtesy of Jack Purdy

There’s only a few things I like more than listening to live music. It’s one of those things you just have to see in person to keep your spirit fresh and renewed.

It is an art piece unfolding before your eyes and ears that can be so many things, but at its core revolves around usually the same thing: a drum beat and a guitar. It is different for everyone, but it’s never left me going, “Eh, whatever.”

Live bands, especially ones playing big venues, are curating their shows every night to be an experience that is best when consumed in full.

There is a reason for the beginning, middle and end of a show, and how they order their songs.

There are stories being told, emotions being brought to the forefront, skills being demonstrated, all for the sole purpose of creating an experience for the listener that brings an infusion of life.

The next best thing in COVID times to replicate that isn’t a YouTube video of an old show (although I have done that many times), it is the physical vinyl experience of an album. It is intentionally choosing how you want to spend your time digesting an artist’s work in a setting they know people seek out.

I have spent all of my life a music fan. My dad ran a music magazine called Paste in the 2000’s and brought in tons of great music that shaped my development in many crucial ways.

My siblings and I were religious Sugarland and U2 fans (still are) at the earliest I can remember. We were Brandi Carlile fans way before it was cool. We had songs from The Jayhawks’ “Rainy Day Music” album memorized by age six.

I have been to upwards of 400 individual sets of music in my life. My iTunes in middle school boasted over 50,000 songs that I inherited from the Paste collections.

But yet, even in the absolute nerdfest that was my music hobby, it was high school before I even knew what vinyl was, or knew how it worked.

My entire livelihood of music was streaming, CD, or live. I had no real understanding of the vinyl “method” per se of listening to music, an ironic scenario considering my dad grew up on vinyl, ran a music magazine, but we never had a record player.

So, being one who saw the next step in my hobby, as well as the comeback of vinyl seriously making headway (vinyl now outsells CD’s), I made my dive into vinyl. Every Record Store Day I would walk to Sunbrimmer Records (R.I.P.) in Avondale Estates, GA where I lived to acquire a new record, usually a U2 or Bruce Springteen.

Beach trips to 30-A required a trip to Central Square Records at Seaside, FL.

I do this now because listening to vinyl in full is one of the best ways to respect the design and intentions of an album.

That means the album cover, the artwork in the sleeves, the track order, the liner notes, all of it is there to be appreciated as a unit in a particular way.

Streaming is convenient and mobile, but vinyl is a real commitment and an experience that can be shared.

Every time I put a record on in my house, I have my housemates in mind.
I have the mood in mind. I have what I want the record to accomplish in mind.

The need to flip the record to get to all the songs creates an intentional engagement with the music.

You literally have to hold it in your hands to get to all the songs.

It’s tactile. It’s a privilege to get to be the one to flip a record, not because I’m the one in control, but because it creates anticipation and creates an intentional pause in the record that in a way, I get to play.

I become part of the album in those 15 seconds it takes to flip and place the needle down.

When I’m doing that with people, it’s an event.

Offering to let someone do the record flip with one of my records is one of those simple things that is always thrilling for the person who gets to flip, especially when it’s their first time.

It may be an “ancient” way of listening to music, but it’s a tremendously rich way to do so.

Listening to a vinyl record is huge for community building.

At my house, we use vinyl to set a vibe we want depending on if we are studying, hosting a small number of friends, or just chilling after a day of work.

It accomplishes at being a scaled down version of a concert because it is a chosen experience, it has a design unlike the shuffle button, and is always better with other people in the room to listen with.

So, when thinking about music you love, buying the vinyl is a great option.

It’s also more profitable for the artists than streaming payouts from Spotify.

But, it also gives you a physical token reminding you why you like a band so much.

Plus, you can’t get an audio wave signed on Spotify, but you can always get the vinyl signed!