To spin or to stream? Record stores vs online tunes

Finlay Holden and Grace Lazzaro debate the merits of streaming and record stores

multiple writers
2nd December 2019
Image: (Wikimedia Commons- Evan-Amos)

Streaming - Finlay Holden

The main way in which habits of listening to music have changed over the years is our ease of access to them, and it seems this has reached a pinnacle in the modern-day music streaming service. 

With every generation of technology, the size of dedicated physical media required to generate sound has been further minimalised, and since the rise of the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, the need for physical media has been removed entirely.

Although the charm of a record store is undeniable, it’s convenience certainly isn’t. A trip into the closest city to a physical store is needed, followed by time spent pushing past locals to try to find the one album you are looking for. Vinyl is not a discovery format, in that as a consumer it makes much more sense to search for new music on a platform where there is no monetary risk to you whatsoever rather than spending your hard-earned cash on an album based on a recommendation from some dodgy Geordie and some questionable sleeve artwork.

A lot of record buyers own turntables that they never actually use - the purchase of a record is purely for a sense of ownership, and for the luxury item that is essentially a piece of art in itself. Even if you own a record, why would you go to the effort of spinning it when you can just click a play button online instead?

Some people argue that vinyl produces a better sound quality than can be created digitally; this is simply not true. Modern vinyl records are produced from digital masters, so the warm analog sound that vinyl fanatics claim to hear is simply a placebo, and you’re not going to be getting quality complaints streaming music on a Bluetooth speaker.

Streamings undeniable success in the digital world reflects the burning desire to listen to music in any place, and at any time. Clearly, these services deliver on those wishes - record stores cannot.

Record Stores - Grace Lazzaro

You walk into that one record store, run your hands over the covers, taking note of the worn ones that you know someone once played over and over. You smile when you see some of your favourites, pass a knowing nod to the person next to you looking at the same album. You skim the rows, shuffle through the stacks, flip through the baskets. And then there it is, that one vinyl you’ve been searching everywhere for, finally within your grasp. You pick it up and excitement courses through your veins. The anticipation of hearing the beauty of the crackles and music quality from that one little disk is almost overwhelming. You get home and immediately pop in on your turntable. You hear the scratch of the record, the jump of the stylus, that catch of a breath, that one skipped lyric from that time someone accidentally dropped that vinyl and scratched the surface. 

Now, if you’ve never experienced one of those things because you’re stuck in the digital age, I feel like I must extend a sincere apology to your lack of musical experience because what I’ve just described above is probably one of the best feelings ever, at least from a music standpoint (aside from seeing your favourite band live, of course). You honestly don’t realise how much of a song you’ve truly missed until you listen to it on vinyl- there’s the catch of the singer’s breath, the strum of the bass, that chillingly beautiful minor chord struck on the guitar that all get lost when a song is digitized. In my opinion, it’s the closest thing to actually hearing a band live.

So I strongly urge you to put down your phone, take out your headphones, and head to the nearest record story. Where is that, you ask? Well, my newly enlightened friend, just head on down to Beyond Records- where you can also enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee with your record browsing- and start your musical adventure right now. 

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