I remember the first time I lay a needle upon vinyl. The record player was from the 1970’s, given to me by a distant relative. I got my first two vinyls from a good friend in high-school. The records were old and beaten up like a junky car. You can tell that they had been listened to for quite a long time. The records were both big-band records including the likes of Bing Crosby and Tommy Dorsey. My interest in that type of movie actually arose from my affinity for the video game Fallout 3. This video game including many hits of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s in the soundtrack. My interest in records also stems from my love of old-school hip-hop.
Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Kool Herc, and more were instrumental in the growth of vinyl culture and trends. These rappers and DJs started running underground sound-system shows that would display the local talent of both DJs and early rappers alike. Through this spawned ‘turntablism’ which is also called the art of the turntable. A whole style of music developed out of using records in new and interesting ways. As a 21st century DJ, I really have to pay tribute to the greats. They brought the vinyl through time to end up where we are now.
In the 21st century DJs like DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist carry on the legacy of this foundation of vinyl and hip-hop culture. In the above video DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist pay tribute to the great Afrika Bambaataa who was undoubtedly instrumental in the bolstering of vinyl and hip-hop culture. This show was a hit and has been remembered since. The Pillage Roadshow was kind enough to share this video with the public on their Youtube channel.
Vinyl has been trending in economic markets and in media over the last couple of years. There are a plethora of ways to listen to music these days like CD’s, streaming services, digital downloads so people have a wide range of choice when it comes to listening. Initially, I assumed that it was due to it being a nostalgic medium for music listeners who grew up in the era of vinyl.
Related: Why are younger generations choosing vinyl in some cases over these sometimes lossless quality digital files?
In my case, I didn’t initially find vinyl in my parents or grandparents basements. I found several markets and shops dedicated to selling vinyl records. They were openly being advertised and many of the records were new productions.
Leonie Cooper of NME magazine recognizes the technical audio superiority of digital files saying, “Add this to a new wave of unreliable record players that don’t cost much more than the actual vinyl, on which records sound, well s**t, and you’ve hardly got the makings of a real vinyl revolution”. So according to Cooper it obviously isn’t because of the ‘superb’ sound quality of vinyl. She goes on to point out that many people don’t even play the records they buy, they just put them up on the wall in a frame!
“But the conventional wisdom [of nostalgia] is too simplistic, as it so often is”, says David Sax of the L.A Times, “Across the board, consumers who weren’t even around when these technologies first lost their prominence are driving their resurgence” (Sax, 2017). Sax is referring to the fact that many people who grew up in the era of vinyl have moved on and recognized the superiority of other mechanisms for listening.
As a music producer, it is hard for me to not pay attention to the nuanced aspects of the quality of music. I like to base my judgement for the medium of listening on the scientific data. That being said I do appreciate listening to vinyl at times over listening to a high-quality lossless audio file on a proper sound system. Many people prefer the ‘pops’ & ‘crackles’ of a needle on a vinyl record.
This was the case when I visited an old record shop in Acworth, GA. There are certain types of people that prefer that vintage old school sound and at times I am one of those people. For me, it is a different experience in a ritualistic way. Double-clicking a link on my computer to play a song is a much different experience to pulling a record out of a sleeve, pressing it on a turntable, and laying the needle down.
Vinyl will stick around as long as record players stay around. I think we should think about those who still produce record players because those companies are the ones that are truly driving the culture of vinyl collecting.
Vinyl begot digital and digital will beget another format that supersedes it. There will always be a technological development that threatens the extinction of its predecessor and I am a practitioner of the idea that one should utilize the newest technology in interesting ways to create a new style.