This was a predictable development: People (music snobs, mainly, I’m guessing) are starting to buy vinyl albums again, despite the ubiquity of low- to no-cost MP3s. Some of these folks may have the kind of hi-fi setups necessary to take advantage of the higher audio fidelity of vinyl, but I think a fixation on sound quality is secondary. The appeal is likely in the thrill of physical ownership, of having a cultural object that gets personalized, acquires a patina, through one’s personal pattern of usage. It becomes something that can’t be duplicated, and digitization has made all such unduplicatables rarer and therefore more valuable to us.
There is also a totemistic appeal to albums. I can remember sitting in people’s dorm rooms listening to records, staring at the covers, held in thrall by the object itself. And the ritual of picking a record to play from a shelf of by flipping through records in a box simply conjures an entirely different feeling than selecting it from what’s essentially a spreadsheet. The article notes “Whether it’s inspecting a needle for dust or flipping the record over at the end of a side, LPs demand attention. And for a small but growing group, those demands aren’t a nuisance.” These may be the sort of voluntary limits we impose on our cultural consumption to make it more managable, to keep the avalanche of digital culture from burying us.
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