I don’t have a turntable, but I do have a few vinyl records in my packed bedroom. I only listened to bits of them on turntables when I first bought them. Sometimes it makes me impatient seeing the records just lying there in my room. All the songs are meticulously carved on the disc, but they are sealed in silence. I like to run my fingers around the circular lines to imagine how they would sound, even though I could easily search them up on the internet.
The most a standard vinyl record can store is approximately 44 minutes of music (22 minutes per side), which adds up to several tracks or even an artist’s entire album. But with the existence of platforms such as Spotify Premium, for example, who would ever worry about music “storage?”
About half a year ago I received an invitation from John, a DJ, to a vinyl-only night. Instead of simply plugging in a USB that contains the full tracklist for the night, John and his friends were going to perform using only vinyl that they had collected. It was a rare scene, at least from my perspective.
Even though I couldn’t make it to the event, I then started to pay attention to vinyl-only DJ sets and videos. The way DJs carefully took out each record from its cover, scrupulously placed the record onto the turntable and patiently matched the beat was a work of art and ceremony itself.
Maybe that’s the reason why vinyl has preserved its niche market among the prevalence of digital convenience. While digital music platforms allow me to listen to whatever I want simply by searching the names of the songs or artists, sometimes I lose appreciation and take music for granted. With vinyl records, people can actually see the music, feel its texture and respect it even more.
What I like about vinyl stores is that I need to be prepared to handle the disappointment of failing to find the record I want, but at the same time, I never know what I will discover by sheer chance. The burst of joy after flipping through arrays of vinyl and all of a sudden spotting a favorite album or a non-mainstream artist can light up my day. It is indeed the sudden surge of appreciation toward this unexpected luckiness that makes me feel somewhat accomplished. The randomness and uncertainty are a part of the exploration, and some of the highlights of buying vinyl records. Each record, therefore, contains a tangible memory.
When I walked out of the vinyl store last time, I saw the staff pushing a cart with boxes of vinyl piled up together. People always say music is invisible and intangible, but when it is in front of you, you can sense the weight of its existence. Vinyl was never truly overtaken by the digital world.