During the height of the Serato craze, I was working at Turntable Lab Los Angeles. I worked with a bunch of other vinyl heads of course, and one of the phrases that kept floating around when we found a great song was “It’s worth getting on vinyl.”
There was so much crappy blog house on the internet that the phrase was used to describe a track that was noteworthy, even if only available on mp3.
“Oh man, did you hear that new Soulwax remix?”
“Yeah man, that shit is tight. I’d pick that up on vinyl. Do you think they’ll press it? “
Aside from just the sheer investment cost (a lot of singles were running at least $10 to $15 at that time), buying something on vinyl meant an experience and connection to the music.
You took it home, broke the seal of the shrink rap by running the sleeve opening along the slide of your pants, placed the record on your Technics and dropped the needle.
You listened and the music was now yours.
Magnetic Recommends: Random Access Memories- Is It Good Or Is It Great?
In 2013, it seems like almost everything is digital. My inbox is flooded with great music every day. I listen to as much as I can, but there is very little experience associated with it. Unzipping a download file is does not compare to opening up new wax.
I don’t recall much about the times where I first heard favorite tracks of this day. For the most part, they are previewed, downloaded and put into folders classified by genre. Then I’ll transfer the new tracks to my phone so I can take a better listen.
If I go to my record collection, I can visualize where, when, and why I purchased singles and albums - even the ones that are now in my “sell at Amoeba” stack. I remember things like weather that day, who might of put me onto that track, and even where I might have had lunch later where I discussed my finds with a friend. Most importantly I remember my first listen.
And if I purchased it, I was going to go home and listen. That’s was the best part of the experience.
This brings us to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, a runaway success. But the public’s initial reaction was fairly negative from the old school heads. Once the Spotify stream went live, Twitter went wild.
“Can I un-preorder Random Access Memories?”
“Glad I pre-ordered Random Access Memories! It’s gonna make a great gift . . . for my Dad.”
Diplo even chimed in and gave a track-by-track rant.
Recently, the UK Guardian wondered if the initial backlash to Random Access Memories could have been avoided if instead of streaming the album, they should have first released it on vinyl. They write:
If you're wedded to a format that sets you back approximately £20 an album, it stands to reason that you'll work harder to justify the purchase. Two weeks of online chatter from people gradually realising that there was actually room in their lives for Wall-E's post-Studio 54 comedown opus would have created far more anticipation than the few hundred people who impulsively tweeted their first impressions on hearing what came out of their laptop speakers”
With vinyl, you have to be patient. You can either wait for it in the mail or for the record store to open (never mind what it takes for many to even get to a record store these days).
Before even buying a record, you’ve already invested in the music. If you have a turntable, you purchased it for the sole purchase of listening to music. It can’t browse the Internet, send text messages, or call your friends. It only plays records.
It takes some effort- removing the dust cover, cueing the needle, flipping the record. You’re not just invested- you’re committed.
So you listen. You may get distracted when the album ends, and if your turntable is set on automatic, you may listen again. You may hear the second side restart and unintentionally walk over to the turntable and flip it back to side one. Suddenly, you’ve listened twice.
The music sets in, and with a couple of repeats, it sticks with you. You appreciate the layers and details that you would miss on your laptop. You feel it.
The next day, you’re humming “Instant Crush” at work and you can’t wait to listen to it again when you get home. It bleeds into “Lose Yourself To Dance.” Just thinking about the Giorgio Moroder track gives you the chills.
Random Access Memories may or may not sound better on vinyl. It really comes down to personal preference- there’s no point in arguing against that.
What is more refined is the experience, the ritual. Both are pretty much nonexistent when it comes to listening to mp3s.
Commit to your music, you will appreciate it more.