By Rae Ferner-Rose, Second Year Liberal Arts
I’m sitting on the floor, crossed-legged, laughing with my parents, going through a huge stack of vinyl. Each record is caked in dust; many are so scratched they won’t play properly anymore. Despite their condition each prompts some anecdote or joke. My dad swears my mum forced him to exile a lot of his collection when they met – he assures me we’d all be millionaires if he had be able to keep those gems.
Like many other young people, I recently attained my own record player and as I slowly build my own collection I have begun to wonder what is such an attractive prospect to our generation about this arguably archaic way of listening to music.
In an increasingly digitalised world in which you can open Spotify in a second and stream to whatever your heart desires it may seem strange that anyone would instead decide to invest so much time, effort and money on a record collection that allows access only to a fraction of the music that a streaming platform might be able to offer.
I feel the return to vinyl is representative of a wider desire to engage with the physical, to long form storytelling and building intimacy with musicians, all aspects of our engagement with music that has been lost in the growing popularity of both streaming platforms and platforms like TikTok that have reduced music to hollow 7 second soundbites.
Some of the appeal of vinyl records undoubtably lies in their physicality. Putting a Vinyl on - the process itself takes time; choosing what to listen to, taking the record out of its cover, carefully placing it on a turntable – taking time and thought, in a way it’s mindful, and it seems that young people increasingly cling to small thoughtful acts when so much of what we do consists of mindless scrolling where we are increasingly disembodied from the real world.
Skipping through a playlist, or even during a song, has become a staple of modern music consumption. Although I myself love to spend hours curating playlists for every possible moment or feeling I do also feel that one can fall into the trap of their music tastes becoming increasingly inward looking. Rather than embracing new perspectives we reproduce our own narratives over and over again in our curation of the same artists and songs in slightly different configurations.
The intimacy that is created in the process of listening to vinyl between musician and listener also significant. The investment we make in vinyl is not only monetary but emotional in a way that can’t be replicated in a subscription to a streaming platform. Every purchase must be thought out carefully, especially by those on a student budget, with a new vinyl costing anywhere upwards of 30 pounds. Because of all the reasons I have laid out, more and more of us are willing to invest, because we feel we are investing in an artist and by extension a physical experience and a physical object that we can treasure.
In putting a vinyl on, one in some ways commits to the experience of trusting the artist to tell them a story, you become immersed in a world, the artist takes you by the hand throughout signalling to you all the glorious landmarks along the way.
It’s so rare with the increasing popularity of short form media platforms like Tik Tok that we take proper time to absorb storytelling in longer forms, especially as a lot of pop music is made with the thought of being reduced to a 7 second snippet in the forefront of the artist’s mind. Although this is not true for everyone, notably artists like Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, who have capitalised on the craze for vinyl records have been much more mindful in creating records that have a strong narrative progression and that work well in longer forms.
Now it seems more than ever we cling to the past, to physical memorabilia in particular, as a sign of a ‘simpler’ way of living, as a way of reminding us of a touchable world, a collectable and more importantly - keepable - world. Looking through a keyhole into my parents 20s, spending hours in record shops and arguing about who would get up to flip the record, made me realise just how important that world is.
Featured Image: Mick Haupt | Unsplash
Have you explored the world of vinyl?