This Saturday around the world it is Record Store Day, a day which celebrates those last remaining bastions of 20th century music – the independent record shops. I applaud the spirit of this – as I do with anything that helps independent shops against the rise of monotonous chain stores, which make our town centres all exactly the same. And as a way to discover new music it is great – by flicking through music physically you can maybe stumble across something you hadn’t intended to find but end up loving, and by chatting to other music lovers you can get their recommendations. Of course, no record store will ever have the variety of music that that the Internet has (i.e. basically all of it) and there are innumerable blogs and Twitter accounts which you can use to discover amazing music from the comfort of your own home, instantly and for free. But the stores themselves are, I think, important and worthy of being applauded.
My problem is with the other aspect that Record Store Day celebrates – the apparent all-consuming amazingness of vinyl over all other forms of music. Every year to go with RSD there is a whole slew of vinyl releases for, y’know, ‘true’ fans of music, the beard-strokers who really want to settle down and ‘appreciate’ music.
I hate these people. The good thing is there are hardly any of them. Because who really actually goes and buys vinyl these days? The answer is basically divided into two tribes: a) middle aged music journalists who then proceed to write about said vinyl and make it seem like it’s the only way to listen to music; b) insufferable hipsters who probably have little intention of listening to said vinyl (because who even owns a record player in the 21st century) and instead pop down to Urban Outfitters to pick up frames to display vinyl on their wall to make you think they’re deep and interesting just coz they own a copy of Dark Side of the Moon. Vinyl may once have just been the only way to listen to music, but frankly these days if you’re buying an LP and you’re under 30 you’re just doing it to show off.
‘Oh but the sound quality is so much better’ they protest – literally don’t care; MP3s sound perfectly good to me. Also who has the money these days to spend upwards of £20 on music you can get much more easily straight to your home and then wherever you are for £7.99? Such a price (alongside the similarly prohibitive price of a record player) is just another way that vinyl makes itself exclusive. Similarly the fact that you can only listen to it sitting at home, presumably all gathered round nodding and really letting the music into your soul maaaaan reduces people’s ability to hear such music. And the music that gets released every year on Record Store Day shows how much they’re playing to a certain market. You can, for example, pick up releases from Creedence Clearwater, the Doors, Fleetwood Mac and Mastodon this year, all hip young bands that all the kids are really into these days.
Frankly, if vinyl died out altogether I would not remotely care, technology moves on and we need to leave obsolete mediums in the dust – no one cries at the loss of minidisks do they? These days the vinyl evangelists are mostly a self-consciously snobbish club of music bores who will drone on and on about their dying medium, and frankly I’m happy to let them. While they search desperately for rare B-Sides of The Cure, I’ll just happily sample all of the music in the world provided for me online, and listen to it wherever and whenever I want thank you very much.
If you must buy vinyl this year kids, make it the special edition of One Direction’s Midnight Memories and troll all those boring music snobs while they weep into their crackly old machines.
Nick Cordingly is the Deputy Editor of MUSIC at PTL. He was recently dragged kicking and screaming out of the Cambridge bubble and is now in the enviable position of trying to find a use for a history degree when all he wants to do is listen to pop music and tweet. Nick also has a tumblr called ‘Sounds & Thoughts’ which he should update more regularly.
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