When we look at the physical medium vs. the digital medium, we only think of it as how one is more convienent than the other. One is “better” than the other. We don’t spend much time thinking about which one is better for you. Writing about how a product, how “things” can be good for you might seem a bit materialistic. We live in a materialistic world. What we own, and what we decide to own, and how we decide to own it plays a direct role in our happiness. This is neither good nor bad. It just is. I’m sure if we spend enough time on this, you can convince me that loving the secular is a fundamental problem. So we won’t spend much time on it.
The physical medium of records is better than the digital medium of digital music because buying records forces you to handle the physical medium. You have to get up, clean the record, put the record on the turn table, push play. Collecting vinyl pushes the exchange even further. You have to go somewhere, actually leave your house, and dig through crates. You can’t “dig” through a digital dust bin. We can compare buying records to trying to find music bit-torrents. If we do that, there is a clear winner, isn’t it? You can go to a Record fair and walk around and go from vendor to vendor or you can search a database for some music to steal. If you down load music, I’m pretty sure you’re not reading this anyway, so let’s not spend much time on you either.
There is an inherent need among human beings to be social. We have to, in some capacity, hang around each other. That’s probably why I teach. I talk to people all day long, giving me that social time that I need to be alive. Buying records has a social connection. You are around people who like the same thing you do and you talk to people about it. It’s fun. Yes, vinyl collectors aren’t a very social people. They don’t really know how to function. They sort of walk in strange circles and hang their heads down, looking for deals and rare items. What I like to see is when these asocial beings pop their head up and say, “that’s a great album” and give you some affirmation of your purchasing choice. And, of course, the thousands and thousands of records.
It’s an interaction that you can’t get by downloading music. I’m convinced that people who can’t hold their music don’t really value it. For example, I’ve listened to Mos Def’s “Black on Both Sides” over a thousand times. It’s a hip hop gem. I have it on my computer, on my phone, on my iPad. I can hear it any time I want. However, Sunday at the Record Fair, digging through a vendor’s crate, I found it on vinyl. I don’t think you understand. You can’t find this on vinyl. You can’t. Record stores don’t carry it because record companies don’t press it. You can’t get it used because anyone who has it would never be fool enough to sell it. I have no idea how this guy found it. I was in shock.
“How did you get this?” I asked. I was pretty much shaking.
“I got five copies of it, man,” he said. “I sold all four when they came in. You’re holding the last one. I bet no one else has it in here.”
Dozens of vendors and thousands of records and I would bet money right now that I was the only person holding a pressed double album version of Mos Def’s first and best album. For twenty-five bucks, I got the hardest-to-find album of my collection.
Weird, right? Why would I buy a record that I already have? Why would I do that? An old saying comes to mind. “Those who know don’t ask. Those that ask don’t know.” Peep the pictures from the Record Fair at the Fillmore that went down on Sunday. It was a really great time.