4 reasons to collect vinyl records
As a new record collector, it’s a question I get asked a lot by friends and family. Why spend all this money, dedicate so much space in your home, and devote hours and hours to choosing, flipping and of course caring for your vinyl records? And these are valid questions. With seemingly infinite hours of music to stream online, from any genre, anywhere around the world, why choose to collect music in a physical format?
As a scientist, I try to be as logical and rational as I can be, so I’ve come up with a few reasons that I think drive so many people to collect vinyl records.
I started by asking why people collect anything at all. It’s been suggested that about a third of people in the UK collect something, whether this is memorabilia and merchandise from a favorite sports team, or rare stamps, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, that’s a large proportion of people. I’m sure, even if you don’t collect records, there is something that you do collect! Maybe it’s shares in the stock market (we wish!), maybe it’s Instagram followers, maybe it’s pens from every hotel you visit.
People are collectors by nature.
There are many different theories as to why this is the case. Some psychologists believe it is because of an unhappy childhood, teaching people to seek comfort in accumulating belongings. Some suggest it’s trying to fill a void in people who feel like something is missing in their lives. While these explanations are undoubtedly founded in some circumstances, to me, they are pretty sad explanations, and I don’t really feel like they apply to me. I’m sure there are many of you who feel the same way.
As a geneticist, my personal favorite explanation is an evolutionary one. A collection of things, whether it be weapons, tools, trophies or food, signals to a mate your ability to accumulate resources, displaying competence and ingenuity, traits that would give your offspring an advantage (or as we say in the biz, increase their fitness). We still do it today as an evolutionary hangover, because in reality, we are simply whatever our genes tell us to be.
So now I’ve established why it is that people collect. But why records? Why not something more convenient, practical, or rare and valuable? Now we get to the really interesting bit, my favorite bit.
I’ve come up with 4 reasons to collect vinyl records. So if you don’t already collect them, hopefully this will encourage you.
1. Listening to Vinyl Records is an Activity
Listening to music has become a pretty passive experience. With the advent of Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple Music, you can select a single song and have hours of music curated for your listening pleasure. This is an amazing feature and I use it regularly when driving, at work, or doing activities like cooking. It’s also great for discovering new music that you might not have come across yet. Listening to records on the other hand, is a different thing altogether. You can’t randomly shuffle through music, quickly change from artist to artist or song to song, when you’re listening to records. They have to be carefully selected to suit the mood and occasion, the songs have to be listened to in order, and they have to flipped and changed every few songs. This means listening to vinyl records becomes an activity, filled with ritual and emotion. The sound of the needle drop is a sound filled with anticipation of the experience that’s to come.
It’s all about The Hunt
I think one thing all collectors have in common, no matter what the collection, is a desire to obtain the rare and unobtainable. It might be limited editions and variants, or first pressings of albums that are important to us, or it might just be the satisfaction of owning something very rare and valuable. But hunting down those coveted White Wales is quite a thrill.
It’s extremely uncommon to find valuable and rare records just sitting around in a record store unnoticed for you to happen upon, but when it does occur, your excitement peaks and you know you can’t miss out on the opportunity!
The internet of course has made this activity a lot easier, which, you could argue, has taken out some of the excitement. I think it’s a good thing, in that it brings it to the masses. In days gone by, you may have had to fly around the world to find those little gems, but now you are not limited by your geographical location or ability to travel. You can dig in every crate in the world, and go through people’s personal collections, all from the comfort of your own smartphone. Which of course also means more time spent on the prowl.
Another great thing the internet has brought us is Discogs. In the past, it might have been difficult to know whether what you were looking at had any real value. Nowadays everyone can be an expert on which records are a bargain find, and which are overpriced. So there should be no excuses for walking away from a test pressing of Aphex Twin’s Caustic Window on sale for $20 in your local record store. Although, seeing as that album sold for over $46k in 2014, there is also no excuse for a record store owner to have it priced at $20…so…it goes both ways I guess.
Something to hold
There is something special about having a piece of music from your favorite band or musician that you can hold in your hand. It’s like holding a little piece of that feeling they create. This feeling can be shared with friends, it can be displayed and shown off, it can be traded (for more vinyl, obviously) and it can be passed on to future generations. You can’t do that with your Apple Music collection!
Cassette tapes and CDs can satisfy all of these things too, but they come with many downsides I find too annoying to bare. The main reason for me is because records don’t have annoying plastic cases that can break, and crack, and the little teeth that hold the CD in place snap off, and lyric books that get trashed when you try to put them back in the case and, and…oh man I hate CD cases so much!
But the number one reason vinyl records are better than cassettes and CDs (and MP3s) is that only records can be hugged (or so the saying goes)!
Just don’t hold your records like this, please! Remember: no touching.
Vinyl Records sound best
At the end of the day, it’s really all about that sound. Vinyl just sounds better. It has a warmth to it that you can’t get from digital music. And when the apocalypse comes and the internet falls, we will still have our beloved records to listen to.