It seems that not a week goes by and some journalist / blogger / music connoisseur puts up an article about how great vinyl is. For example in the last week we’ve read these two pieces: All My Friends Are Vinyl Heads and The Romantic Allure of Vinyl Puts its Digital Descendants to Shame.
Now, we’re not disagreeing that physical formats have something over MP3s and we’re not dissing vinyl as a form – far from it. Nobody has ever asked us if they can look at what’s on our iTunes, but many friends and relatives have asked to have a rummage through our extensive CD collection.
Yes you read that right. A CD collection.
Yet as we’ve read many of these articles, with their authors fetishizing about their romance with vinyl, the thing that strikes us, even offends us somewhat, is that somehow many of the pieces seem to convey the idea either explicitly or implicitly that it’s not possible to be a ‘proper fan’ of music unless you buy the black plastic stuff. That somehow only by purchasing vinyl can people parade themselves amongst their peers as being truly dedicated to a band or artist.
Whilst we’d agree that there’s a difference between the casual music fan who listens to the radio, streams songs on Spotify and watches videos on You Tube, occasionally making the choice to buy the odd album over another luxury item such as new clothes, going out and the like, the idea that to buy vinyl as some sort of badge of affection for music is a load of guff. Even the arguments that it sounds better aren’t necessarily true. This good article (Does Vinyl Sound Better) by Mark Richardson on Pitchfork explains how ‘good’ sound is subjective. “Some people want "accuracy" and some people want a lot of bass; some people only care that it's loud enough. Plus, we're very good at fooling ourselves when it comes to making distinctions between sounds,” Mark explains.
All of the reasons people give about why vinyl is so brilliant seem to centre around the romance of it. But romance isn’t the same as love. Romance is to do with the physical – the smell, the feel the sensation of purchase and having something tangible to show the outside world, just like chocolates, flowers and Valentine’s cards. But love is intangible – you can’t see it. Just like music in its purest form. You can love music passionately but you don’t have to have a piece of vinyl to prove it.
So if like us you haven’t got a tasteful vinyl collection and don’t feel the need to partake in the ceremony of its purchase and play, don’t worry. Romance is seductive, but it’s not true love. You can still be a hardcore music fan if you’re prioritising your spending on MP3’s, CD’s, gig tickets and very little on vinyl. You’re still showing love.