February 17, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Zoe Smith
“Do you want it?”
I didn’t even see my mom’s shadow appear behind me. We were in my favorite place in the world: Barnes and Noble.
Within less than 10 minutes spent in the store, I had already picked the book I would spend the next two days reading religiously. I wandered through the sections waiting for everyone else to finish selecting their books. My wandering led me to a section in the back of the store, in the center of which sat a rectangular table with stacks of vinyl on it. My curiosity peaked; I knew what vinyl was, but I had never given it a second thought. Why would I need vinyl when the radio was always playing hit after hit?
I flipped casually through stacks of albums, both new and old. My hands stopped when I came across an album I was very familiar with: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The picture disk was staring back at me, and the famous photo of Jackson in a shining white suit stood in stark contrast against the standard black color of the vinyl.
Did I want this? Jackson’s music was a common sound that echoed through my house, whether my parents were blasting it on our home stereo or sitting around watching the “Smooth Criminal” music video. I nodded my head and the two of us walked the vinyl toward the checkout.
Eventually, Christmas morning rolls around, and I stumble down the carpeted stairs to my living room. I can see every present underneath the Christmas tree in the same size square shape, hidden beneath the eccentric wrapping paper my mother always uses. I opened the biggest one first, an Audio Technica record player. Next was a pile of some of my favorite classic rock albums, Eagles’ “Greatest Hits,” Aerosmith’s self-titled, and Queen’s “A Night At The Opera.”
Now, years later, I have grown into a melomaniac—a person with a deep passion for listening to music. From Prince to Fleetwood Mac to Taylor Swift, I have spent years growing my collection. Every Christmas, every birthday, and any holiday where a present is given, I always receive the next LP (long-playing) vinyl record.
When I started my collection, I had absolutely no clue what went into record collecting. I thought it was really simple: Store my vinyl on a shelf, make sure I don’t get dust on them, and enjoy the albums. But there was a lot more to it than that. I believe any person that loves music can collect records, but there are a few things each new collector should know about. There are three main rules to follow to keep your record collection lasting for decades.
The first rule is using vinyl sleeves. There are two types of sleeves: the outer sleeve, which you use to cover the record sleeve itself, and the inner sleeve, which you place, with the disk inside it, in the outer sleeve. The outer sleeve will prevent dust and anything from staining or ruining the cover, and the inner sleeve keeps the disc free from cracks, scratches, dust, or splits.
The second part is cleaning each record before use. The inevitable gathering of dust can lead to eventual harmful skips or scratches if not regularly cleaned. There are many ways to clean the disc, but the best way is to use a microfiber cloth damp with water. Lightly wipe the record in a circular motion before each use and it will come out sounding better each time.
Lastly is to invest in a good record player. As beautiful as a Crosley record player is, the aesthetic is the only good thing about it. The cheap material will only end up scratching your records and over some time you will notice the differences. It is best to invest in a more expensive turntable that will last decades and won’t cause any damage to the vinyl. Audio Technica makes great turntables that are still on the cheaper side.
As vinyl records withstand the test of time, outliving CDs and surviving the age of streaming on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, people have asked me what the appeal of listening to an album on vinyl is.
To be honest, there is not one single reason. Everyone collects for different purposes. Some enjoy the vintage nostalgia, enthralled by the sound of music in one of its older forms. Some chose to do it because of how vinyl’s worth can increase with time, making it quite a valuable hobby.
But, for me, it is the best way to experience music. I am not a person that listens to just a single song by an artist; but rather, if I discover a song that I become fond of, I make it my mission to listen through the entire album. I believe that albums are like a book, with each song a different chapter that acts as an insight into the story the artist is telling. Whenever I am listening to music, I am listening to one album at a time, and I continue that whenever I turn on my turntable.
When I hear music, I hear a story. I hear the life and story of the artist who is singing. I know without a doubt that my record collection reflects the story of my life, probably better than I could put into words myself.