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When I was growing up music was very much consumed via a CD and a CD player. The cars had CD players, we had CD players in our bedrooms and I was even lucky enough to have a portable player. This has now of course been replaced with USB connections, AUX chords, Bluetooth and streaming. Realistically CDs just aren't that necessary in the modern climate when we have so much available to us on our portable devices.
With that in mind, why the hell are vinyl records outselling CDs? I mean let's look at it logically; vinyls are huge, brittle, worse in sound quality, expensive to buy and can only be played on huge record players that you can't take anywhere. Add in there all the skips, scratches and imperfections that come with a vinyl record and it seems that in a world where CDs are pointless vinyls are living with the dodos.
So what is it that attracts us so much to vinyl?
As I've touched upon, it certainly isn't practicality. In fact you could almost say the fact that vinyls aren't very practical is what makes them so appealing. CDs have a clear sound quality that matches the best that our ears can hear, but what they never will have is character. It's always been an interesting debate because just about everyone seems to agree but no one can quite explain it. Records are romantic; the fuzzy analogue buzz that adds an extra layer of texture to your track; the act of laying the record on the deck and placing the needle; watching the record spin and the gentle and soothing crackles leave the speaker. Something intangible about records makes them so much more appealing than CDs. Their imperfections almost give them a human quality and their analogue nature a relatability that digital perfection could never match. Listening to a record is an experience; life slows for a brief moment as we take the time to read the sleeves, place the needle and wait for the excitement of our call to action when the music ceases and the record needs flipping.
Aside from a personal experience perspective there's also the market. As I said before, CDs are pointless and practicality states records are too. However, because of their adulation and popularity, as well as the lauding of all things retro, the market still exists. Over the past few years I've built a habit of buying physical copies of albums I particularly enjoy as almost a keepsake or memento. In instances like this people would much prefer to buy vinyl than CD. The analogue experience adds a new inflection to the music and moving back to that intangible thing, records are just nicer to have. Of course we can't talk markets without talking money. We've seen recently the resurgence of Pokémon trading cards. As people attempt to relive their youth the cards have become more popular, as a result they've become more expensive and the cycle continues. Now these cards are selling for thousands and have become a collectors item for all those that can afford them. Records are following a similar route. Although they may be fairly expensive to buy, vinyls hold their value, at a minimum usually. If you take a look online at some of the first edition prints of classic albums they too can easily fetch thousands. For this reason buying, selling and collecting vinyls has become its own hobby. You can now easily go to car boot sales and buy job lot collections of vinyls for dirt cheap before scouring through to see if you've found yourself a hidden treasure. I can see the appeal, even if you don't end up making a huge profit it's a fun gamble to make and worst case scenario you end up with a huge collection of loads of really cool vinyls.
So in reality, it's no surprise that records are outselling CDs. Vinyl is imperfect and impractical and ultimately that's why we love it. I'd say other than live music Vinyl is the best way to experience any record. The analogue warmth, although intangible, is recognised by all and it adds a whole new depth to songs. Plus for me the act of choosing a record, setting it up before sitting back and listening is a great form of home therapy and relaxes you like nothing else. For people who have never used or listened to vinyl it is basically impossible to explain, but the closest I would come is to the bond an owner forms with their horrifically broken, unreliable and smelly old car. In the end you find comfort in the imperfections and stepping into a new car, although practically a much better choice, just wouldn't feel quite as satisfying. It may drive perfectly but what's the fun in that!
As an end note to this article I'd like to give a shout out to @vinylfancollector. Our many chats about records inspired me to write this piece so for some great Vinyl content check out their Instagram page and online shop!
Buy print editions of Mindful Melody Issue 12 below!