You may be thinking what kind of question is that?! Of course MP3s are better than Vinyls! They’re so much more accessible, they’re cheaper, they’re much more portable, there is barely any noticeable difference in sound quality (I mean with the equipment that the majority of people use to listen to music regularly)… The answer is obvious isn’t it?
Personally I don’t think it is…
My first instinct when I initially heard this question was to state that MP3s were better. I mean personally the last music I bought was in MP3 format and why was that? I started to analyse what my thought process would have been, I guess I could have easily bought vinyl. Well firstly I wanted a specific album and my first thought was to go on the Apple iTune Store. I found the album pretty quickly and I had a little listen. Everything sounded good and I wanted to hear more so I pressed the ‘Buy Now’ button. How easy was that?! Within two minutes I had the whole album on my device and could now listen to it on the way to work. Perfect!
A few months down the line and I have to admit I haven’t listened to that album for a while now. I can’t put my finger on exactly why but I think the process went something like this. I bought it, I listened to it, I found my favourite tunes from it, listened to those and only those repetitively, I had my time and experience with it and then my attention drifted onto something else. In the end the album was easy come, easy go.
I have to say I love the convenience of this. You want something and two minutes later you have it on your lap. But as a wise man once said “Good things come to those who wait” and I believe a few subtle but important steps are missing in this process of buying an MP3 when compared to that of buying and listening to a Vinyl. These are only little differences but they change the whole fundamental outlook on how we consume music these days.
Lets take a look at the Vinyl’s point of view. First you hear a song and you decide in your heart of hearts that you MUST hear that song again. The song has formed an instant connection with something deep inside and you cannot fathom quite what it is but all you know is that your MUST possess this song and listen to it. Now the first problem with Vinyl, where the hell do you get it from these days? Vinyl sales are on the rise worldwide supposedly so surely they can’t be too hard to find? Lets say for argument sake there is a Vinyl shop in town (and they don’t know what the internet is so NO ONLINE SHOPPING!), therefore you actually have to get off your ass and make an effort and physically go somewhere. Then imagine that the world is feeling particularly cruel this day and you find out when you reach the seemingly elusive shop that they have sold out of the required Vinyl! What?!? How can this be?! So you are reduced to ordering it… but then what?
And you wait… and you wait… and all this time all you can think about is this blasted song that you heard once and did the chorus go like this ‘lalala’ or like this ‘lalalala’ and you have panic attacks that you won’t even be able to recognise the song when you do hear it or even worse, the order will never come in and you will never hear this song again in your life and everything will be ruined forever and every and ever… DRAMATIC PAUSE! However all the time this is happening a bond is forming deep within, a bond within your very naked soul that will stay lodged immovable for a very long time if not eternity. Why?! Because human nature craves what it cannot have! (For confirmation you just have to ask any man who is after any woman.)
Now imagine the ecstasy when the Vinyl does finally arrive! Its no longer just a song you have to hear, its like reuniting with a long lost lover who you thought you may never see again! This is where another important step comes in that is missing with MP3s. The ritual of listening to the Vinyl. You don’t just press play, you indulge yourself in the whole process. Curiously exploring the artwork of the cover, the detail and intricacies that you can feel and smell which you do not come close to with a jpeg. Taking the jet black Vinyl out of its crisp new sleeve slowly, carefully adjusting your grip as to not touch or ruin any part of the record. Placing the Vinyl onto the record player and watching it start to spin and then that slightly amplified bump and scratch as the needle touches down (always!) ungracefully onto the rotating surface.
All this just to hear one song which you could have heard in two minutes from the internet. Ok this example is a little extreme but hopefully you get the point I am trying to make.
So whats my conclusion? I guess it depends. Personally to listen to an album I am interested in I will mostly opt for MP3s these days. It’s cheaper, quicker and so much more convenient. However for a band or artist that I love I would want something tangible in my hands to see and touch and experience as well as to listen to the music. I know music should just be about the music but its always about so much more…