Sure, anyone can collect basic black round vinyl records. But if you really want to get your vinyl freak on, there’s a subcultural of weirdos who are looking for items that are beyond weird. Reader Bobby points us to this helpful article at Magenta.
Patton Oswalt once did a bit about how much we take for granted the fact that we all live in the future. We walk around obliviously with devices in our pockets—smartphones about the size of an ’80s mixtape—that contain every song we’ve ever heard, or will ever hear. Which makes, to a certain sort of person, the renaissance of vinyl so inexplicable. When you can already stream all the music ever for the cost of a $9.99 Spotify subscription, why would anyone spend $30 on a single record impressed in wax?
Of course, the fact that most of us have such ephemeral relationships with music these days is why vinyl has come back. Embracing vinyl in the 21st century isn’t just about being hip; it’s about reclaiming a physical relationship with our music, one that has largely been lost in today’s streaming age. For vinyl collectors, buying an album elevates it, marks its importance. Moreover, vinyl’s physicality invites us to have a more active relationship with our music. It’s not something that can be engaged with passively: You can’t listen to it while you jog, or ride the subway. To play a record, you must set out to listen to it, not just hear it—take it out of its sleeve, drop the needle, sit down in front of your stereo, and flip it halfway through.
Which makes vinyl more important than just an obsolete medium. To those who collect them, vinyl records are artifacts, physical mementos of our most profound musical relationships. That’s why, more and more, we vinyl collectors expect records to be as unique as the music they contain. Luckily, vinyl designers have been up to the task, showing extraordinary ingenuity when it comes to making records as distinctive as the waveforms they contain. Here’s a quick primer on the genres of the world of designer vinyl.
“Designer vinyl.” I like that. Keep reading.