Ever since the introduction of streaming music, it’s now easier than ever to listen to your favorite songs on the go. But as a result, the old-school ways to listen have been collecting dust on the shelf.
Among the cobwebs are CDs and vinyl records – two of the most notable apparatuses that make listening to music a form of art.
Around 1930, vinyl hit the ground running when the first LP, long-playing, became commercially available. With only 10 minutes of playing time per side, records began as transcription discs from radio broadcasts.
In the 1960s and `70s, records saw their peak amongst musicians’ releases of LP and EP, extended play, albums.
Among vinyl record fans was, and still is, Matthew Klein, owner of Sound House Records in Troy, New York.
“I grew up with vinyl. I went through collecting vinyl, then cassettes, then CDs, then digital, and now I’m back to vinyl. So I’ve come full circle,” Klein said.
While Klein has dabbled in all that the art of consuming music has to offer, sometimes you’re lucky to even find someone in the newer generations that collects CDs.
CDs were made available to the public in 1982 and quickly passed vinyl LP sales by 1988. This eventually led them to becoming the most popular audio format by 2002.
Yet, despite the popularity of both mediums, streaming and downloading music services were the culprits surrounding the demise of CDs and vinyl records. Which left many wondering if this would ultimately be their extinction.
BACK IN STYLE
Luckily, in recent years, many Gen Zers have grown so used to – and maybe even bored with – streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music, that they are now looking to more vintage ways of jamming out to their favorite tunes.
Some young hipsters are turning to their relatives’ old collections or are inspired to create one of their own.
Joe Mason, a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh studying broadcast journalism, started collecting vinyl with his girlfriend, and from there their collection has blossomed into upwards of 170 different records.
“It was just something that my girlfriend and I did to bond more because our music tastes are so different,” Mason said.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
While vinyl collections like Mason’s seem to be more trendy than CD collections right now, CDs are still in the game and for a cheaper price.
Mason said his collection with his girlfriend is primarily made up of used records because, as a college student, money can be tight.
CDs are often much cheaper than brand new, unopened records. Although, if you are someone who looks for something deeper than just the music recorded on the disc, you may want to inform yourself of the distinct differences between the two.
Both require more than just the press of a shuffle button on a smartphone. A record player is at least needed to start, but when some collectors decide this is something they want to invest in, they may hook up a sound system to the player that booms melodies from external speakers. Even though the sound won’t be as rich, there are modernized record players that have built in speakers.
On the other hand, CDs can be put into disc readers in some cars or a portable CD player that allows headphones to be plugged into it or even into a computer.
Aside from the audio content, visual art components are usually more evident on records than CDs. Which may be because records are physically bigger, therefore offering more space to work with.
“You have this big cardboard sleeve and its packaging and it’s usually filled with incredible artwork or even interesting artwork,” Klein said. “Or maybe in the case of The Beatles’s White album or Kanye West’s new album, no artwork.”
Vinyl sleeves may also contain lyrics to songs or photos of the artist. The record itself can be its own work of art, like a special edition pressing of a certain color or design.
CDs may portray the album’s vision in the form of a small booklet with written lyrics and other notes from the musician. They also come in a plastic case, which adds a protective layer and a glossy touch.
CDs are easier to preserve so long as you put it back in its case and be wary of scratches. Vinyl requires more care and attention if you want to keep your collection from warping and the sound from deteriorating over time. This comes in the form of using a vinyl-safe brush to wipe dust off and keeping records upright in their original packaging.
STREAMING JUST ISN’T THE SAME
Specific care and attention is required when you place the needle on the record’s groove or lock a CD into its place in a portable player, like a missing puzzle piece. It’s this care that makes using these timeless devices more special and intimate than just streaming music.
“With vinyl and even a CD you’re sitting down and you’re dedicating yourself to a musical experience. Whether it’s one side for 20 minutes or a CD for an hour plus, you’re engaging with that experience rather than using music as a background or something you’re controlling in a much bigger way,” Klein said.
Klein, who has collected vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital music, is back to vinyl. He has about 1,300 records in his personal collection. At his store he is surrounded by more than 10,000 records. Yet, each one he spins brings a different experience to the table or turntable rather.
“Each record has an individual personality. Over time it has crackles, it has little dirt spots and it kind of takes on a life of its own,” Klein said.
ANOTHER WORLD OF CONSUMING MUSIC
Although very different, CDs and vinyl both provide a gateway for dedicated music-lovers to explore unique avenues of listening to music.
“It connects the present day (to) the past in a way that other ways of communication, others ways of streaming things can’t. It gives you a tangible (object) that you can connect with,” Mason said.