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In Defense of Physical Media

Before, collecting vinyls used to be a hobby mainly for hipsters to enjoy but according to Statista, 41.7 million LPs were sold in 2021, surpassing both CD sales and even digital sales. Vinyl has been growing exponentially in popularity for the past 16 years, and today I’m advocating for that continued growth.

Vinyls are works of art — not just in the sense that they play music, but in the sense that they’re all unique. No two records will play exactly the same. Vinyl and, by extension, all physical media is temperamental and unforgiving. It breaks, it gets dusty, it gets fingerprints, it warps in the sun (I’m not kidding — I left my vinyl copy of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge out for weeks on my player by the window and it started turning into a bowl). This leads to changes in sound, even from listen to listen, whereas the Spotify file will sound exactly the same, every time.

More than that, there are so many visual options with vinyls. Different colors in pressings, etched disks, picture disks, even shaped disks… The presentation of the music can be just as impressive as the music itself. It tells part of the story of a concept album like The Black Parade. It can also drive up the value of a record as a limited edition pressing.

But I’m not just talking about vinyl records. Cassettes are also seeing somewhat of a comeback — an increasing number of artists have been releasing albums on these 80’s throwbacks. The compact nature of cassettes make them accessible even on the go. You can keep them in your car, take one on a jog, or wherever!—all the same points that make vinyl fun are applicable to cassette.

But why the sudden obsession with physical media? For me, it ties into a further return to analogue living. From film cameras to typewriters to record players, we’re turning the clock back and turning away from being completely digitized. The grain on a film photo is like the crackle of a vinyl record is like the uneven ink of a typewriter. It’s a nostalgic experience; for some of us that nostalgia is for a time we don’t even know. But undoubtedly it’s a time where we were enamored with life. We are romanticizing the past to boost us into a better future. So I’m all for this new-old technology, and hope you will be too.

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