Record Geek Heaven: Why Vinyl is Saving Music

My enabler

I’ve spent the better part of two weeks without a stereo. It’s been hell. Granted, I have the little computer speakers and a beyond-fully-loaded iTunes, but those can’t hold a candle to my RSM-90 studio monitors, brand new turntable and quickly growing vinyl collection.

Yes, I’m a vinyl nerd. I’m one of those guys. But if you were to visit Love Garden Sounds, one of 1 ½ surviving local record stores in Lawrence (there used to be 5 on Mass Street alone), you would understand my predicament. I’ve lived in Lawrence for ten years, and started buying vinyl as a cheaper alternative to CDs. Back when I first moved here, I would pay $5-$7 per record, max. Now, because LG’s selection has always been so consistently freaking amazing, I’m forever hooked—and this whole vinyl resurgence shit has shot vinyl prices through the roof.

Who do I have to blame for this? Well…me, I guess. And people like me. But that would be counterproductive in so many ways. I would instead like to point out the positives of this resurgence. There are two big ones.

1) People are starting to care about music again.
Over the years, the physical size of the albums we listen to has shrunk. It seems that with the diminishment of LP to 8-track, or CD to digital file, came the diminishment of the mystery and wonder of music in our hearts. (A 12”x12” Kiss album cover is going to look a hell of a lot more badass than a 4”x4” Kiss CD cover, for example.) Not only that, but the constant lowering of prices—to the point where, nowadays, you can get almost anything free on the internet—also tends to lower people’s interest, or trust in the quality of the work. Though it is a product of the anticipated digital backlash, the restoration of vinyl into musical culture—and the not only willingness, but excitement of people to seek it out and pay so much money for it— is the most telling sign that experiencing genuinely good music still matters to people.

2) People are getting excited about record stores again.
I grew up in record stores. My parents hated me whenever we would go on trips, because as soon as I saw a record store, I had to go, no matter what else was going on at that time. Granted, I didn’t always get my way, but I usually did. They were super cool parents. My brother was always especially annoyed. But, I digress. Has anyone other than me noticed that since the digital music boom, record stores have been dropping like diseased cattle? In the past ten years, all of my favorite record stores have closed except two. It’s been like a decade-long house fire. The worst hurt was when Streetside Records, a place that was kind of like my Kwik-E-Mart in high school, reluctantly went under. It is now a Buffalo Wild Wings. Too bad they were on the beginning cusp of the digital age, because most didn’t make it out of that black hole. Love Garden was special, since they had ALWAYS worked to keep an amazing stock of vinyl and thus garnered a super dedicated following. The few small stores around the country that survived are probably pretty much the same way. And now, especially after the last National Record Store Day saw a 150% increase in album sales (and a 300% increase in vinyl sales), they may be able to last a few more years, or a decade, or whatever. The future doesn’t seem as bleak anymore.

As I write that last sentence, I can’t help but re-feel the Earth-shattering blow of last night’s “GOP Hurricane”. It was my least favorite day of my life as a Democrat. But, in reading what I have just rambled on about for 500+ words, one could most likely deduce that I’m not much of a political guy. I vote and everything, but I don’t let myself get too concerned with that stuff; and honestly, I don’t have to try very hard, because I like to focus on creating and discussing things that are meaningful to me and the people I care about. That’s what my heart and soul gets tied up in—that’s what drives me. I think that more or less explains why music is so important to me, and why buying vinyl has helped to awaken a childlike love for rock and roll in me that has never died, but has most certainly grown tired from time to time. So, seriously, for real, just do these things: Buy it. Own it. Look at it. Listen to it. Look at it while you are listening to it. Read the liner notes. Read the liner notes again. Listen to your favorite song over and over and over until you know every word, every melody, and can relate something personal to it. Look at the names of the people who played on the record–you don’t have to know them, just look–maybe you’ll recognize one. Hold it in your hands, take it apart, and put it back together again. Make it your own physical experience!*

*This goes for anything, by the way; not just music or records.

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