At this juncture in history, we all know that CDs, cassettes and MP3 are more or less moribund – vinyl and streaming make up the auditory elite. The ongoing debate between vinyl and streaming falls into two camps: those who advocate the ritualistic and sensory satisfaction of playing vinyl, versus the supporters of the effortless simplicity and convenience of streaming.
The resurgence in popularity of the vinyl record shows no signs of slowing. Sales of vinyl have not been this high since the early nineties and, according to the RIAA, vinyl record sales increased by almost 30% in 2020. One in five albums purchased last year were purchased on vinyl. Year on year, the plastic black disk continues to defy logic. It’s somewhat of a surprise to many, given it’s almost awkward appearance and space-saving inefficiency; however, love it or hate it, vinyl is here to stay.
The aesthetic allure of the vinyl record is irrefutable to many a music lover. Firstly, there’s the “it’s a large piece of art” argument. The sleeve’s artwork can be enjoyed in all its ocular glory – something that cannot be replicated by the modern-day screen, no matter the quality and clarity of said screen. Then comes the jovial sentiments, described by many, as they lift the record from the sleeve; waves of gleeful nostalgia crashing over the anticipatory listener. The placing of the record on the player, and the initial scratching as the needle fumbles the plastic, only adds to intensify that nostalgic crescendo for the LP aficionado. Finally, the music. LP lovers will question, “how can one metal needle, touching a single piece plastic, sound so good?”
One of the backbone arguments the vinyl fan often retorts, is the quality of audio output. Vinyl-heads vehemently argue in favour of the auditory superiority of the vinyl record; however, that’s another rabbit hole and a discussion for another day. For a detailed inspection of audio comparisons, check out this link https://www.soundguys.com/vinyl-better-than-streaming-20654/ .
Importantly, there is the novelty of being part of an exclusive club when one operates exclusively in vinyl. Sadly, a certain snobbery often afflicts the avid vinyl audiophile. One can imagine the inclusion of vinyl sales at fashion clothing outlets is viewed with disdain by the disc junkie. With that said, the vinyl industry has produced many benefits, including employment opportunities in the production and selling of the commodity, more money for the performing artist, and the enrichment of many music maniac’s lives.
Streaming – unlike vinyl – is the modern way, and as history has exposed, modern is usually transient and ultimately replaced. However, at this point in time, how can music be made any more accessible? A chip implant in the skull that pumps out music as quick as a thought? Perhaps? Digressions aside, with streaming you pay your subscription – or not in the case of YouTube – and the world of music is at your fingertips, which is a pretty sweet deal for the music enthusiast. Perhaps streaming will be the music medium that sticks?
There’s nothing fancy about streaming, it’s just simple. And it’s this simplicity that will never be usurped by nostalgic audio mediums of yesteryear. You certainly don’t feel important for buying into a streaming service but you know that for a very meagre subscription cost, you have access to millions upon millions of songs. A month’s subscription to Spotify is about the cost of half a vinyl LP, which is quite a trade-off. When one considers that the purpose of music is the experience of sound, using only vinyl seems odd.
Most vinyl junkies have a streaming subscription, whereas most streamers don’t purchase vinyl (at least not in the long-term). Streaming ultimately prevails as the essential audio medium, triumphing with its convenience and immediacy. However, the charm of the LP will likely remain – for the time being – due to its nostalgic appeal. The argument boils down to the bang for buck and convenience vs the prestige and appreciation. The fact of the matter is vinyl junkies probably have more of a view on streamers than streamers do of vinyl lovers – in fact, most streamers probably couldn’t care less about vinyl.