Why I buy vinyl records

I collected many things in my youth, including video games, baseball cards, comic books, and action figures, but that all-consuming urge to own things has dissipated over the years. It’s something that comes along with maturation, I think, as financial stability becomes more valuable than amassing material items. Although I no longer have the desire to simply accumulate stuff, something deep within me misses the experience. It’s not the items. It’s definitely not the money spent. It’s the hunt.

Until very recently, man needed to stalk or trap prey to enjoy a hearty meal. Technological advances in the last couple of centuries have enabled millions of people to eat without lifting a club, tossing a spear, or firing an arrow. Still, our semi-monkey brains retain the desire to scour environments and return home with the spoils of the hunt. Buying vinyl scratches that itch without an animal bleeding out by my hands.

Although vinyl has seen a recent popularity surge, and perhaps reached its zenith, the discs are printed in relatively low quantities in comparison to CDs, and aren’t as readily accessible as streaming music services, such as Slacker Radio or Spotify. As a result, tracking down, say, The Dirtbombs’ Ultraglide In Black, a soul-rock cover record from one of my favorite indie bands, ain’t no easy task. Not impossible, just not easy. And that’s a major part of the enjoyment, besides the large and beautiful artwork, liner notes, lyrics, and vinyl-specific sound.

There’s an emotion that lies at the intersection of excitement, happiness, and dread that envelops the body upon stepping into a record store. On one hand, there’s the very real possibility that there are multiple scores laid out before you in alphabetical order. On the other hand, there’s the very real chance that you’ll exit the record shop holding a big, fat “L.”

Buying vinyl via an online source doesn’t replicate the brick-and-mortar experience, because you own the records as soon as you complete the checkout process; you simply await the wax’s arrival a few days (or weeks) later. In fact, Amazon immediately blesses you with digital versions of those albums, so you can listen to the music before the vinyl is at your doorstep. It’s a hollow victory, really, as there’s no pleasure in easily obtained booty.

Of course, I realize this is coming from a man who has several physical record stores within walking distance of each other, including Generation Records, In Living Stereo, and Village Music World. It is, dare I say it, a privileged perspective. But in a world in which clothing is just a few mouse clicks away, celebrities exist within a 140-character radius, and food is delivered to your doorstep, the challenge of collecting vinyl is laced with cheap thrills that stimulate an ancient area of my brain. 

Though I wonder what will serve as the next big hunt once all my desired wax is procured.

Image courtesy of shin_gallon.