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Why vinyl is cool and why you should skip that skip button

This week I posted an article from a Dutch newspaper on my personal Facebook about vinyl records and how we perceive it. The article itself was behind a paywall so not everybody could read it and in my short description I basically said that vinyl sucks because it’s an outdated system. Vinyl freaks just read that sentence while other people also read the sentence about the whole ritual or did actually read the article. There was quite some interesting discussion going on (also Bob Katz dived in) and while also watching the Netflix series about Spotify (the playlist) I gave it some more thoughts and decided to finally write my vision on this. For people attending lectures by me, this might sound familiar, but I’m about to finally write it down to spread the word.

Let me explain a few things first, I love vinyl. I always did since the beginning of the 80ties when I started buying my first vinyl records which actually already started in the 70ties. Vinyl was the only medium to get music on and my parents, but mostly my 2 older sisters, were buying and listening to vinyl records from their bedroom. That was mainly mid till the end of the 70ties disco/soul and the really early rap music (rap o clap o and Rappers Delight which are both from 1979). For some reason I already liked 12 inches more then 7 inch singles. The sound quality of those singles was always less, but back then I had no idea. Now I do, (real fast and simple explanation, inner groove distortion). I preferred 12 inches and really loved full length albums. I still remember listening to albums from Bohannon, Rose Royce and Earth, Wind and Fire. Those albums were a whole, a story, a journey. But also, the ritual of thinking about listening to an album, finding and getting it out the closet, looking at the sleeve, smelling the sleeve, looking at the coffee stains, taking out the record, putting it on the turntable after looking for the A side first, cleaning it, check the needle for dust, slowly dropping the needle and listening to that pop when it finds the groove and then the journey really started.  You really paid attention, you really listened to, and felled the whole album from start till the run out groove. Exactly the way the artist wants you to listen to their album. Listening to a vinyl record is a journey, a ritual, a mindful experience.

Now I hear those young people think; yeah yeah.. old bloke, boring, we have spotify and other streaming services now and that’s so much faster and easy and we have all music at the click of a button. Move on daddy, it’s 2023! True.. streaming services are cool but while watching the Netflix series about Spotify and using it (paying client since day one) I discovered some things which made things clearer to me and by writing this, hopefully you might look (and feel) differently after reading this. That’s my goal, so carry on reading this if you dare!

There is something about having all that music instantly at the click of a button.. I don’t seem to enjoy the music as much as I do when putting on a vinyl record (or CD). This has nothing to do with the sound quality (I think vinyl records don’t sound that good, I will write about that some day and get more technical) or the music itself. For some reason I always feel like skipping a track and already thinking about the next track while playing one track. I think the reason is that we have all that music instantly and we don’t really experience the music, we just listen without feeling it. It’s turned into background information.

You might have also noticed that singles are now shorter compared to what they used to be. As a mastering-engineer I see that for instance popular hip-hop tracks are now just over 2 minutes long. The reason is streaming services. People tend to skip a track if it doesn’t grab their attention instantly. The artist skips intro’s and ‘gets to the point’ right away. If a track is skipped within 30 seconds, it’s not counted as a stream. Also when a track is short and you like it and play it again, it’s an extra stream=money. A simple calculation: Let’s say you only have 6 minutes of time before getting back to school and listen to your favourite track on repeat on your phone speaker; the track is 2,10 minutes or 3,10 minutes long. Do the math yourself.

This is how it works, we all live in a speed up world; fast connections, fast ways to travel, fast-food, same-day package delivery etc. We forgot to really take the time, faster faster more more and fast please. This includes music-consumption... think about this for a second.. ‘music-consumption’. Is that really what we want to do with music? I think that music (and all other art-forms) is here to give us a good feeling, to make us forget the problems around us, to get emotional about, to forget time and to have a good time. This should not be fast, next, skip, next next. Take the time, experience, drop that random play-button in your playlist, actually skip that freaking playlist! Go to your favourite artist and listen to their album from start till finish in the correct order, exactly how the artist wants you to listen to their album. Grab that feeling and emotion that the artist wants you to experience.

Old people will always tell you that old music is better then that ‘new crappy music’, that’s a thing that happens for generations now and will continue in the future. It always makes me giggle a bit when I see ‘my generation’ doing that without even realizing it. As a mastering-engineer I hear so much brilliant music, that’s why I love my job. But.. a lot of times that music is part of an album, not just some fast single. Those albums are put into the right order by feeling what works best, then the pauses and transitions are made by feeling it so that it brings as much emotion as possible. It’s a story. Sometimes making a pause longer or shorter by just 50ms makes the album feel different and it could be perfect or loose it’s strength. Music is emotion, timing is essential. I really LOVE sequencing an album by making those transitions, sometimes clients get emotional when they feel the album as a whole for the first time after this essential step. Actually, it still happens quite often that I get emotional when listening to such an album after I’m done. Now think of those random playlists again for a second, now where’s that perfect timing and the right track-order?

To sum things up and to bring things back to vinyl records and albums in general. Vinyl is cool because of the whole ritual, but more importantly, you listen to the album the way it was meant to be by the artist, without skipping tracks or pressing random play buttons. I dare you to really listen to an album of your favourite artist, be it on vinyl, CD or streaming service. Really take the time, feel it, experience it, enjoy it, forget about the time, listen mindful, get emotional.

One more suggestion if you are using a streaming service; put your phone or computer away. Skip that bloody skip button!

NOTE: this article was written by a real person, me, no AI was involved in writing this.