In the Vinyl Stretch: are records losing their sense of purpose?

By Kelty Jones / Columnist 

In the music world, a world in which most teenagers have some experience, there is a definite coexistence. Self-described Spotify girls live and breathe alongside those devoted to their record players, and many merchandise collections of musical artists sport as many ways to buy their music as they do sweatpants and posters. 

Because industries typically evolve to replace old products with newer and ‘better’ technology, it can seem unusual that older methods of listening to music haven’t totally gone by the wayside.

Sure, no one I know is asking for a phonograph for their birthday, but if you’ve recently found yourself perusing the cassette tapes on the Taylor Swift website, then you’re not alone.  A trend that has outshone the other options in the past few years, however, is listening to vinyl records. Records gained popularity throughout the 1960s and 1970s, though they had been invented decades earlier, and were known for their high quality audio. Even with radio and streaming having established themselves as commonplace, records have steadily taken the market by storm once again in recent years.

Photo Courtesy of Margaret Moore, Sophomore

However, now, in a time when it is no longer considered groundbreaking to have related songs readily available in a row to play on demand, the question stands: what, exactly, do listeners really want out of the experience? Maybe to you, the point of returning to vinyl is to relive the simplicity of a more free-spirited era as you quietly reject the long stream of musical content available on your phone. Maybe you’re proud of forcing yourself to listen to an album in its original order, the experience of which you believe to be a lost art. Perhaps, even, you long for the nostalgia of classic folk or rock anthems. But the records of yore, also known as the records of the 1900s, are not the same as the ones that can be found today.

Having increased immensely in song capacity and color variety, 21st century records have been essentially minimized to wall decor for many. If you are silently defending your vinyl collection right now, I concede, yes: In the rare event of a wifi outage, I’m sure you’ll be glad you stuck with it. But you should also consider the other options for listening to music that have quite literally gotten lost in the shuffle play. The oft-ignored CD is my personal favorite to recommend. 

I’ve always enjoyed racing down department store aisles to track down a newly-released album, reading said album’s liner notes, and enjoying the scavenger hunt that is remembering which CDs are actually in the correct jewel case. Answer: probably none, but isn’t it fun to be surprised? Discs are collectible and car friendly, and they can become a part of your personality if you truly love them. However, they’re far enough off the beaten path that you can rest knowing you’re not blindly selling out to the hottest new music technology for the sake of staying relevant.

In all honesty, the convenience and accessibility of music looks different for everyone. So the next time you are dying to listen to the one perfect song to match the moment, maybe you go forth and find an aesthetically pleasing, cleverly named playlist to listen to to your heart’s content. And maybe that’s okay. Enjoy the music you like, from the decades you like, as much as you’d like. Just please reconsider spending upwards of $30 on a vinyl record just to try and be original.

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