Vinyl is making a comeback. What happened to it in the first place? Where have all the record stores gone? Why are they still closed? Well, that’s easy: the illegal download market (Napster), the digital marketplace (iTunes, Amazon, etc.), pressure from record labels, the rise in the cost of vinyl, and the fall of the economy. The list of foes goes on, but the major culprit is ourselves. We the patrons of music are causing the vinyl record market to fail.
Many of us diehard music lovers remain faithful, and occasionally flip through a crate of someone else’s secondhand LPs, or once a year make the great trek to the nearest or biggest vinyl retailer on Record Store Day to stock up on our favorite albums. But many of us don’t. It’s our human nature to be more interested in the hottest new technology. Maybe we’re just curious, exploring the various new formats recordings are available in. But has anyone discovered a method that more accurately captures a live recording? Do tell, if you have. So what makes vinyl the best format for music recording? What follows are 5 reasons why vinyl trumps other forms of recordings.
Number One: Craftsmanship. First would be the way it is manufactured. Vinyl is made from ethylene (found in crude oil) and chlorine (found in regular salt). Basically, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic plastic resin. Once thermally hardened, it will not become soft again unless you melt (and ruin your record). This malleable product requires attention while manufactured – it requires the skill of a craftsman (the lathe cutter), to ensure the specific details of each album are accurately cut into the vinyl. The lathe cutter is responsible for creating the direct correlation between the groove in the material and the sound perceived. That requires some serious time and energy and you can hear it. Is it impractical weight wise? Yes, but so well built it will last your lifetime.
Number Two: Essence. When you remove computers from the process, you essentially eliminate the middleman, and thereby lessen the chances for mistakes. Not to mention the infinite waveform of a vinyl record – there is nothing removed or chopped like digital recording does. Ever think about how a vinyl record visually represents a sound wave? This form contains the essence of the sound, which is something unlike any other medium and certainly quite unlike digital recordings. Imagine looking at a painting. Something masterful, like the Mona Lisa or Scream. Then imagine someone showed you a picture of that painting, a really nice photo of it. Then someone showed you a scan of that picture. After that someone sent you a black and white copy of the scan of the photo of the real painting. Would you even recognize or appreciate it for the work of art that the original was? This is similar to how the essence of a recording can be lost in the digital process.
Number Three: Vibe. Our parents and veteran musicians laugh at how music sounds now. It is not even close to what they grew up hearing, and kids often don’t appreciate the difference between digital and vinyl recordings simply because they haven’t been exposed to it. Vinyl is the way music should be listened to because it captures vibe. It has vibe in and of itself.
Number Four: Fidelity. CDs are all right, but they’re not as high fidelity as vinyl. A truly well produced vinyl is unstoppable. The only thing that possibly could trump vinyl is tape, which is even more costly and difficult to maintain. Vinyl, on the other hand, will last forever if well cared for. Is it impractical weight wise? Yes, but so well built it will last your lifetime. It becomes a collectable item, a keepsake or souvenir. Many mega stars see the value in this and are fighting to bring vinyl back. Examples include The Boss, Jack White, Skrillex, and Daft Punk.
Number Five: The Experience. Sure, vinyl is a bit more expensive, but consider what you’re getting for the price. All those things that make vinyl worth collecting make vinyl fun amount to an experience. More space to show images, lyrics, Easter eggs like hidden tracks, running the record at different speeds or backwards all involve the listener at a hands on level, making the object something you love.
You can always reproduce the sound and degrade it later, but it must start with the highest quality. If you are a music fan why wouldn’t you want the artist’s best work, the best sound? The record industry may or may not be going for it. Vinyl sales jumped 33% last year, but only 10% of all albums sold are vinyl. However, there are plenty of record stores selling new vinyl, so check it out. Take a Generation Z member with you. Invest in the experience. Besides… you get the free download with your vinyl purchase anyway.