Eric Grubbs

I asked a friend of mine, who has access to practically any CD he wants because of his job at a music magazine, why he is so into collecting vinyl. His answer surprised me.

Basically, he likes to collect vinyl because he finds a lot of worth in owning vinyl. To him, having a copy of a rare Hot Water Music 7-inch on orange vinyl means a lot. A CD is just a CD that anybody can get in his eyes.

While I understand that, what matters more to me is what's embedded onto the format (physical or digital). I prefer to listen to music that is CD-quality and I cannot stand pops and crackles. Add in the upkeep that comes with keeping vinyl in good condition, I just don't have that kind of desire.

What's also surprised me is how people treat vinyl like it's some sort of trophy. As in, something you display and look at, but don't touch. Music is way too important for me to just put on display.


Pre-MP3, the vinyl vs. CD decision on the part of the consumer was a choice of two physical formats, one past its prime and already, as listed above, consisting of mostly collectors,DJs,etc and the second being more convient and "better" (the CD's main selling point)....With the MP3 removing the need for any physical version of a recording, the choice now, for those still buying a physical product, doesn't become about what is convient or new or cheaper, it becomes about the aesthetic...so the LP sees a boost because something like album art is now back in play and its neglect under the rule of the CD only amplifies its impact when the choice of LP vs CD is present. Any physical purchase will eventually become a fetish and though there's never been any shortage of cottage industry limited/hand made releases, the recent return of the cassette (cassette only labels) and the continuation of creative packaging ideas and collector-worthy releases reinforces this point; the choice for the buyer who wishes to participate in a the tactile listening experience is now all about ritual and art, size, display, and mechanics. As digital sales grow to say 75% and higher the small slice of the pie left for physical product will consist more and more of unique and expressive objects. The physical market (like the destined to be short-lived row of major label vinyl reissues that have been seen at Best Buy) and the record store will morph into a boutique industry for music heads and it that sense, nothing really will have changed....
that last part might be more wishful thinking than anything substantial.....

Aphex Tim

personally, i see the cd as just another step in relentless march of technology, and something will be around shortly that will make it obsolete...vinyl from the early 20th century (or whenever they started making it) can still be played on equipment easily available...when's the last time you used a 3.5" cd-rom, nevermind a 5" floppy? i see cds traveling the same path.

so i see vinyl as a way to obtain a physical artifact that has a much greater resistance to obsolescence. i would say that most of my new music purchases are vinyl if there's a choice, and have been for the last few years.

Michael Azerrad

You're hilarious, Tim!

Aphex Tim

er, pls let me in on my joke? was it an unintended variant of The Aristocrats?

Michael Azerrad

That thing about something coming along shortly to make the CD obsolete — totally ignoring the MP3. Comedic gold!

Aphex Tim

yeah, mp3s are pretty useless to me...i mean, they are useful to fuel a music server for my household needs, but i would never pay for one. why bother when torrents or blogs can find you most anything you'd ever look for. if i like the music that much after previewing via digital format, i'll buy a physical copy.

it seemed to me your main point was cd vs lp, i guess i got that wrong. glad you got a few chuckles out of it.

Zobeid Zuma

One problem with CDs today is that so many of them (nearly everything in pop & rock) are being ruined sonically by the "loudness war". The waveform is compressed to hell and often badly clipped too. Some people are looking to vinyl as a way of finding music that wasn't ruined in the mastering phase -- with mixed results, because sometimes the sonically crushed CD master is just spooled into a record cutter, and it comes out sounding even worse on vinyl. But sometimes, when the LP is mastered independently from the CD, it comes out sounding much better.

The CD is a fantastic, wonderful format. It's definitely capable of more than the LP when it's used right, but it's much abused these days. Plus, most people are taking the CD and just ripping it right into iTunes -- so the CD has been demoted to a mere conduit for getting MP3/AAC tracks into their computer, and that's something which can be done more quickly and efficiently with a good internet connection. The LP by comparison requires a commitment of time, effort and attention (not to mention physical storage space). People often become highly devoted to anything they've invested time, effort and attention to.

BTW, the comment about "the incessant baying of stump-ignorant teabaggers" is particularly unhelpful. What good does this name-calling do? I could just as easily complain about "the incessant baying of stump-ignorant progressives" and it would have just as much meaning. (I'd love to take a pie chart of the US federal budget and shove it in the faces of some progressives and ask, "How can you reconcile your philosophy with this?" Of course they don't want to see it, because any sensible answer would require scaling back entitlement programs, which is against their religion. And of course, it would also require scaling back defense spending, which is against the GOP's religion, which is why nothing ever changes and we continue down the road to destruction.)

Michael Azerrad

Zobeid, like so many conservatives, you took the line in question out of context and used the resulting deception to falsely advance your own agenda. No, the incessant baying of stump-ignorant teabaggers is very real and very pervasive — just watch the news sometime. Even Glenn Beck is asking them to scale back the craziness. So no, the sentence would not have the same meaning if I substituted "progressives." In fact, it would be nonsensical if I did that because you don't see any progressives on the National Mall waving signs that would be funny if they weren't so frightening. The point of that sentence was that many people feel disgusted by the advance of the selfish, ignorant and hateful aspects of the teabagger movement and, frustrated by their inability to do anything about it, turn to insignificant ways of sublimating their dissatisfaction.
And if you're going to complain about the size of the federal budget, it was the right wing, not the progressives, who turned a record surplus into a record deficit over the course of the Bush Administration, waging a deceitful, disastrous and cripplingly expensive war of choice, granting huge tax cuts for the rich, and doing nothing to fund any of it. The truth is, progressives loudly protested the war and the tax cuts. So once again, you are making up facts to advance your faulty agenda.

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