What’s the appeal of vinyl in 2023?
Vinyl, there is nothing like it, seeing a record spinning on a deck, or the anticipation felt when you hear the crackle of a needle hitting vinyl. There’s just something about it, something addictive, a quality which prompts me not only to buy, but to collect vinyl. And it appears I’m not alone with Taylor Swift’s most recent release Midnights being the first album released since the 1980’s where vinyl outsold CDs, vinyl is becoming the physical medium of choice. This is an odd phenomenon in the age of streaming, which is perhaps indicative of the intimacy that streaming can lack. When streaming music, it’s easy to skip a song, listen to the same song on repeat, or put songs on shuffle. Music becomes an accessible experience, anyone can listen to music however they like, with a few caveats. Streaming requires a subscription, the internet, and the artist’s willingness to post their music, conditions that may not necessarily allow for the same permanence as physical mediums. Streaming may be the king of convenience but lacks a connection to the artists.
Listening to albums on vinyl as an experience takes time and care to select a record to listen to, and then with no skips or shuffle, the album is experienced in full, front to back. Presenting a unique connection to the music; you can see it play, you have to flip the record to listen to the last half of an album, choose the album, and own it.
There’s a sense of rarity and exclusivity attached to these pressings
One particular target of the collector is limited edition pressings of vinyl, often for album anniversaries, these particular types of vinyl have a special connection to their listeners. Limited edition pressings appeal to fans by celebrating the release of albums that oftentimes have had a significant impact on their listener.
One example of this within my own collection is a silver repress of Fall Out Boy’s debut album Take This To Your Grave, an album which I have a strong connection with. As the debut album of my favourite band, the attachment to the album in question is one of thankfulness and nostalgia, for an early sound which shaped my personal tastes, as well as being formative in my development. Needless to say, then this album has certainly earnt its place within my collection, commemorating the importance of the work.
Such repressings also come with an innate appeal to collectors, with different repressings having different monetary values. Coming in a variety of colours, with realtor exclusives and limited availability, the limited edition pressing becomes a coveted item. There’s a sense of rarity and exclusivity attached to these pressings, they become a deviation from the standard, and they are the high points of collections. On top of this, there is an even more coveted collector’s item, box sets of discographies complete with beautiful artwork, available at a high price point for the wealthiest of fans.
Vinyl collecting then offers connection in a unique way
Devotion to collecting comes with a particular price, this is perhaps a byproduct of the age of streaming, when physical media is not the only way of enjoying your favourite artists, vinyl then becomes more curated what is purchased is special. Artists have to earn their way into fans and hearts and collections. The vinyl collector now has to survey whether or not an album has enough value to them to take up space on their shelves and make a dent in their wallet or whether they are just playlist worthy.
It is not just the connection to the artist that is apparent in vinyl collecting but there can also be a sentimental connection that occurs within the collection. My own collection is bolstered by my Mum’s old vinyl from her youth, the music that made her; Prince, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack are all strongholds in her collection. What she listened to demonstrates her values and personality in such a way that has a physical sense of permanence. Sentimental attachment to albums appears to transcend time, this is perhaps one of the greatest ways that music can help us foster bonds with one another.
Vinyl collecting then offers connection in a unique way, in a deliberate way, the listener actively engages with music for a personalised experience, with no algorithms or data, just your music.