Thursday, April 19, 2012

Farewell to Vinyl

Last year, I moved my collection of 12" records out of what I finally had to admit was Brandie's room and down to the garage. Last month, Brandie moved out, so I could move them back in, but I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. My turntable is on the fritz (or actually, it's the amplifier that it goes through that's fucked up, and often gives me a static-y signal when I digitize my albums). I have a few more albums I'd like to digitize, but I'm not sure I want to go through that process, when a 30-second Google search ("album title" + "Mediafire" or "Blogspot") can put the album on my hard drive with much less trouble.

I've stopped buying vinyl altogether. When everyone was swearing that CD's had much clearer sound than vinyl, I couldn't hear it. Now that everyone's swearing that vinyl sounds warmer and fuller than digital, I still can't hear it.

I used to love going to used record shops to buy vinyl. Just a decade ago, this was my favorite way to spend the afternoon. But record stores have changed. Most of the fun of going was in what a bargain it was. Old records went for like $3.00. At that price, you could buy something just because you were curious. Maybe the cover looked cool, or the song titles caught your eye. But that's not the record store experience anymore. Now, everything is directed toward collectors and DJ's. People know what albums are worth. Every goddamn record is 15 or 20 bucks. And if you're buying new stuff, you're shelling out close to $20 for a 180 gram slab of vinyl. And what's the first thing I'm going to do with that album after I buy it? Digitize it into lossy mp3's and listen to it through shitty earbuds on my iPod. Why go to that trouble when I can get it from eMusic, or download it?

I do think records are cool, with their colorful, gatefold covers. They just feel substantial. You can hold them in your hand and caress them. You can roll a joint on them. I get vinyl fetishism, but it's not what I'm about. I've never considered myself a record collector per se. I just want to hear the music. And really, it's never been easier to buy music. And if something's not available on eMusic, iTunes or Amazon? Like I said, it will take me 30 seconds to find a copy on Mediafire, and the artist will get paid exactly what they would have been paid if I'd bought a used copy.

(I've come to think of paying for music as the equivalent of tipping. I do it whenever possible. This is not so much altruism as enlightened self-interest: musicians deserve to be paid, yes, but its also necessary to sustain the market. This is part of a more general belief. When I go to the movies, I buy something at the snack bar, even if I don't particularly want anything, because I know that's how the theater stays in business. If I go to an open mic, I buy something to support the room. And if it's at all possible, I buy music. OK, I'm not perfect when it comes to this, but I try. Sometimes I even buy albums or songs off of eMusic that I already own on vinyl, because it's just easier!)

Will I get rid of my records? Nah. For one thing, I'd get nothing for them, because they're in shitty condition. I've never been a very good steward of vinyl, and the cats have mistaken my shelves of records for a scratching post. Seriously, record collecting and cat ownership don't mix. And I like the records. But I'm through buying them. Record store day is this weekend. I won't be there.


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