Vinyl or MP3?

Two of our editors go head-to-head on music formats

MP3

Erin Sylvester

The main issue with our vinyl-loving times is accessibility.

Although vinyl inarguably has a better sound quality than CDs, tapes or digital music, these other media, particularly digital tracks, are much more accessible to the average person.

To even begin listening to a vinyl record you must have a record player, a significant investment.

Record players are also difficult to fix once broken because the parts aren’t always easily replaceable.

For young people and students that are used to communally listening to music, perhaps at a party, the danger of bouncing the needle off the record isn’t a pressing concern. Damaging a record and buying a replacement can set you back much more than even needing to re-download a song from iTunes.

It’s also frighteningly easy to damage both record and machine. My sister once fell asleep listening to a record and left the player on, scratching a groove in the vinyl and damaging the point of the needle.

Kingston is lucky because there are a few places downtown that sell records, but they’re not nearly as readily available as digital downloads. They’re also not as portable.

Digital downloads allow the consumer to be flexible in buying music. They don’t have to commit to an entire album if they only like one or two songs. Consumers can also create entire curated libraries of music they enjoy, and one that they don’t have to worry about getting damaged as easily as a record would. Files can be lost, but with advances in cloud technology, as long as we have an internet connection we’ll have access to our music.

The digital format also allows users to create playlists to suit their personal taste and mood. If you put on an album it seems nearly blasphemous to pull the needle off before it’s done — unless you’re a DJ, of course.

Not only is the consumer awarded more flexibility with digital music, the artists are too. Musicians can upload music online and get noticed without having to sign any record deals with music producers. Many artists don’t have the means to put out a hardcopy album on their own, but most are able to record themselves and upload it online.

The innovative possibilities of digital music also allowed Beyoncé to release her surprise digital album last year, including music videos for all of her songs. This multimedia content would be more difficult to facilitate with vinyl records and allows artists different ways to share their talents. As much as I think about Beyoncé dancing when I hear her songs, it’s quite another thing to be able to see her dancing to them, and an experience I wouldn’t trade for an easily breakable record that can only be played on a clunky machine.

If we’re worried about the authenticity of a musical experience, perhaps we should foster digital technology, and the more direct relationships between artist and listener that it can create.

Vinyl

By Alex Pickering

Production Manager

Over the last decade and a half, advances in technology have allowed for the rapid expansion of the music industry. A number of different services have had their heyday during this period, with notable ones being Napster, iTunes and the up-and-coming Spotify. These services all share the common goal of making music as accessible as possible. But it doesn’t matter how these files are being emanated, one thing still remains — analog recordings are being pushed out of the picture.

Maybe it’s problematic that excitement surrounding modern music stems from the virality of the accompanying video. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just a natural progression, and us vinyl-loving luddites need to get with the times.

Regardless of your stance, the fact of the matter is that record stores are closing en masse. Afternoons spent diving through crates at your local record store are vulnerable to the digital shift. Should we simply stand by the wayside and let the wave of digital revolution take over? Personally, I think that vinyl records are something worth fighting for, and so do other vinyl advocates. Jack White, front man of the now-defunct band The White Stripes has spoken on the topic.

“I want to be part of the resurgence of things that are tangible, beautiful and soulful, rather than just give in to the digital age. But when I talk to people about this they just say, ‘Yeah, I know what you mean,’ and stare at their mobiles,” he said.

Nothing could be more tangible, beautiful and soulful than the first few scratches of the needle spinning on your favourite record. Nothing can compare to the feeling of inheriting your parents’ dusty old records from the 80s, and nothing can top the experience of finally tracking down that coveted album tucked away behind The Boy with the Arab Strap.

To put it simply, vinyl is a medium that allows you to fully appreciate and dissect an album in its entirety. It gives you the opportunity to slip away from the busy technical world and reflect on the artist’s message — something that often gets lost in an age of short-sighted distractions. With the focus that modern music places on releasing hit singles, it’s refreshing to sit back and absorb the entire narrative of an album.

There is a stigma around those who collect or listen to vinyl as being overly nostalgic, or dare I say “hipsters”. However, there are quantifiable reasons defending vinyl’s inherent benefits that oftentimes get overlooked. Vinyl has the largest capacity for high quality audio and remains the rawest platform that a band can put forth their music on.

Ultimately, the conflict between vinyl and mp3 lands on convenience. If people aren’t willing to take 40 minutes out of their day to listen to a complete album rotate then the fundamental idea behind vinyl is lost. It’s unfortunate that the lethargy shown towards vinyl has become another symptom of a throw-away culture. On the other hand, those of us who love and appreciate vinyl will carry on its legacy, because hey, Record Store Day will be here in three months.

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