Music is a major part of our lives, and the numbers don’t lie. Spotify claims 40 million paying users and of the 40 most viewed videos on YouTube, only two are not music related. From flutes made of mammoth ivory 40,000 years ago, to recording operas on 78 rpm discs, to the release of the iPod in 2001, mankind has always had a close relationship with music.
College is a place where music lovers can thrive. You can attend gigs, join musical societies and meet people with varied tastes & musical upbringings.
The importance and popularity of music amongst college students is a given; what is surprising, however, is the means through which they consume it. While streaming services such as Spotify still remain at the top of the list, vinyl record sales have surged in recent years. Last year they were up by 32%, and amounted to $416 million. Not bad for an outdated medium.
Why is it so? Records are old, fragile objects. They require special equipment to be listened to, and their sound is not as ‘clean’ as their digital counterparts. So why do students love them? Simply put: the experience. Yes, you could just tap on a track on your phone and get a perfectly clinical sound, but that’s not what it’s all about.
For music purists, listening to music is more than listening to a track. It’s a process. Imagine taking the time to flick through a record collection, carefully selecting the perfect album. Then, taking it out of the large cardboard sleeve, adorned by full-sized artwork, and placing it on the turn-table. The result of this unique ritual being authentic music, with its characteristic crackles, pops and imperfections; an experience that brings you closer to the music than Spotify ever could.
Shops stocking vinyl records, both new and second-hand, are gradually becoming more commonplace in the city. They are even making their way onto campus, with a stall set up outside the Boole library last week hosting a pop-up record sale. Navigating through the crowd that had congregated around the stand proved difficult, but it was a good sign. As a music lover it filled me with joy to see so many people gathered to share physical pieces of music.
While there was a number of people purchasing LPs (Long Playing albums) that day, there is probably a vast majority of students that have not yet caught the record bug. If you are one of those people, why not experiment and start today?
You may ask yourself: Are there any things I need to know before starting my own collection? There are, and here are some tips and suggestions to get you started.
- Buying Records:
To build up your collection, the best way to start is to see what your family may have accumulated throughout the years. A great way to start at a relatively low cost. With the recent demand for records, prices have sky-rocketed. New (and not so new) records are being sold on average for €20/30. Therefore, check out second-hand stores and eBay. You must however always, ALWAYS, check the disc before you buy it. Nothing hurts more than spending a fortune on a scratched record.
The most important thing to do when buying records is to buy what you want. Whatever style you dig, go for it; this collection is for you, after all.
- Storage and care:
Always store your records upright, like you would books on a shelf. It’s also best to keep them away from sources of heat and to handle them with the greatest care. Try not to touch the groove (the black part). It might be awkward and daunting at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
- Playing records:
Try to invest in a good turntable. Ask your local electronics/record store about which setup would best suit your needs, as it will depend on your listening style (DJ, casual listener, Totally-Replacing-Spotify-er). Before putting a record on, make sure to remove the dust on it with a dry, soft cloth. Don’t press on the record while doing so. If you play a dusty record, the needle may push the dust into the groove and, after a while, the sound quality will be affected.
Some newbie collector’s essentials:
Even though I suggested you follow your heart and buy what you want, I do have a few recommendations to make. These albums would make a solid foundation for any new collections.
Crime of the Century – Supertramp (1974)
While I hesitated when picking some albums on this list (“which Bowie to choose?”), the number one album was an obvious choice. A flawless masterpiece that gets better each time you listen to it. A must-have for any budding record collectors. I am genuinely too mind blown to even tell you why you should listen to it. Just do it.
Hunky Dory – David Bowie (1971)
One of Bowie’s earlier works. With familiar hits such as Changes and Life On Mars? placed in a coherent and poignant track list, it is truly one of Bowie’s greatest albums. A gathering of love, alienation and homage to Bowie’s heroes (Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Nietzsche). To be listened straight through when you feel left out and a little bit down.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)
A classic and a peculiar listening experience. A legal high with straightforward tracks (such as Brain Damage) interwoven with trippy experimental tunes (On The Run, The Great Gig in the Sky). Can a record collection really be a record collection without a copy of Dark Side?
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)
A fascinating album from the talented hit-making genius that is Elton John. You will swoon over the hits you already know and love (Candle in the wind, Bennie and the Jets), as well as the upbeat (Jamaican Jerk-Off), the melancholic (I’ve seen that movie too), and of course, the title song, a nostalgic ode to a simpler and less agitated lifestyle.
L’Histoire de Melody Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg (1971)
In a 70’s rock scene dominated by Britain, France managed to produce a record that has influenced the genre throughout the world ever since its release. An edgy romance between a middle-aged man and an underage girl, a skilful and daring orchestration and 28 minutes of sheer talent. Can (and must) be enjoyed regardless of your level of French.
Some follow-up records:
– The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider’s from Mars – David Bowie
– Let’s Dance – David Bowie
– Infidels – Bob Dylan
– Abbey Road – The Beatles
– The Immortal Otis Redding – Otis Redding*
– Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division*
– The Age of Consent – Bronski Beat
– The Wall – Pink Floyd
– The Origin of Symmetry – Muse
– Shangri-La – Jake Bugg