Someone asked me recently what I look for when I buy records. This is a great question. Being a relatively new vinyl addict, I’ve put a fair bit of thought into how to build a thoughtful, well rounded record collection.
I like to think of listening to music on vinyl as something of a return to simpler times. A way to be engaged with the music that you love in a more tangible and connected way. An excuse to put down your phone and be unplugged from the digital world.
When searching for a new record, the first thing I’m looking for is a sentimental connection. Does this record or this band mean something to me? And if that’s the case, can it be found in an original or vintage pressing? And of course, can I reasonably afford that? It doesn’t necessarily have to be vintage, but I think those pressings that you can trace back to their origins add depth and meaning to the record itself, not to mention character to your collection.
After that, if I’m thumbing through the stacks at a record store, it’s the one that catches my eye. Usually something I’ve been looking for or, even better, something I haven’t. You simply can not replicate the “I absolutely have to take this home and play it” moment with a digital download. Add to that the suspense of driving home with your new record, that you can’t play until you get there, sitting on the front seat… Please. I have a very distinct memory of buying Are You Experienced? my very first Jimi Hendrix CD at the mall and having to wait until I got home to play it. Simpler times. Before the culture of instant gratification took over the world.
Does vinyl color matter? Yeah, it does. It shouldn’t. But it does. I’m a sucker for colored vinyl. Straight up. If there’s a choice of a pressing in translucent red or black vinyl, I’ll pick the red every time. Even if it’s more money. Or orange. Because that’s even cooler. Not sorry.
Last on the list I would add album artwork. I wouldn’t buy a record just because of the picture on the cover, but it is an added bonus to buying a record you love. Whether it’s opening a double LP jacket for the first time and finding intricate artwork and detailed liner notes, or (my personal favorite) vinyl engraving on the B or D side, you would have a hard time convincing me that an iTunes download provides the same experience.
If I’m going to go through the trouble and expense of buying vinyl, and building a collection I can be proud of, I am considering all of those factors put together to provide a more immersive experience from shelf to turntable. Which, frankly, is exactly the point.