Bring Your Own Vinyl To The Red Door On Saturday

An unusual event, created especially for lovers of vinyl records, is happening this Saturday, July 22nd at The Red Door Pub in Meaford, hosted by Tom Thwaits of Bored of Education.  He calls it BYOV – Bring Your Own Vinyl.  The idea is for vinyl enthusiasts to bring along a record or two along with some interesting anecdotes and see what kind of music and stories unfold during the evening.

The resurgence of vinyl is a fascinating development in this age of the Internet.  It’s just one of the many ways in which everything about the music business is being redesigned, but it’s particularly interesting because it’s a throwback to an earlier time.  In the past decade, more and more music lovers have returned to the once almost extinct medium, insisting that it is superior to digital music reproduction.

In 2016 sales of vinyl hit a 25 year high around the world while sales of CDs are declining.  Sony in Japan, which shut down its in-house pressing plant in 1989, is building a new one to keep up with demand.   In Europe, the only two vinyl pressing plants, in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, with a combined capacity of more than 100,000 records a day, are backlogged for months.

Tomi Swick, who played at the Meaford Summer Concert Series a few weeks ago, released his new record, Yukon Motel last October.  He wanted to release it on vinyl but he’s still waiting in line at the pressing plant.  HMV at the Heritage Mall in Owen Sound closed down a few months ago but when Sunrise Records moved in to take its place it included a greatly expanded vinyl section with both re-issues and new releases.  Randy’s Records in downtown Owen Sound is a treasure chest of vinyl assortments, carrying new and used records all carefully organized like they used to be at Sam The Record Man.

It’s not a nostalgia movement driven by baby boomers.  According to MusicWatch, as referenced by CNBC, 56 percent of vinyl record purchasers are men, and almost half of purchasers are under 25 years old. The industry research company also found that 58 percent of vinyl buyers only purchase used records, versus 32 percent who only buy new ones.  Interestingly, another poll found that 41 per cent of people who buy vinyl have a turntable but don’t use it, with 7 per cent of vinyl buyers not even owning a turntable.  So to some extent it’s more about collectables than about music.

Many analysts equate the rise of on-line streaming with the rise in vinyl sales.  On-line streaming services have taken off in the past few years and breathed fresh life into the recording industry.  It has largely replaced radio as the main promotional medium for music, primarily because of the consumer’s ability to create personalized playlists.  But like radio, the music on streaming services is ephemeral.  If you want to own your own copy, you have to download it or buy it on a physical medium.

There is something very attractive about the vinyl album as opposed to a CD.  It’s big enough that the cover art has a real impact; some fans find a way to display the album covers while listening to the record.  Some are drawn to the process of watching the disc rotate while the music emerges from it.

Many music fans insist that vinyl just sounds better, despite the science that says otherwise.  The “warm” sound of vinyl is actually the sound of the machinery, some analysts say, vibrations of the record player being picked up by the needle.  The digital data encoded on a CD is an exact replication of the original recording without the extraneous noise inevitably introduced by the physical reproduction of a record player.

But the real answer may be less measurable, and it may have to do with perceptions that go beyond human hearing range.  Any digital reproduction is fragmented into tiny samples.  While a greater number of samples per second will come closer to the original vibrations, only the physical grooves of a record are an exact match for the original soundwaves.  If you look closely at the bumps in the grooves, those bumps are the sound waves.  The instrument or voice creates vibrations, the microphone replicates those vibrations and turns them into voltage variations which vibrate the speaker cone in an exact replica.  The analog medium never leaves the realm of those vibrations while the digital medium converts it to data and then back again to analog in order for the speakers to respond.  Even if our ears hear the original sound in a digital reproduction, our physical response to the artificiality of the process may affect the pleasure we feel in the experience.

The other predominate factor is that MP3s are compressed in order to get more data on to the storage medium and in the process 90% of the original sound is lost, leaving only the portion of the sound spectrum that science says the human ear responds best to, eliminating the overtones that add a real physical pleasure to the sound of music.  Most streaming is in the MP3 format so, compared to that, it’s no wonder that the direct reproduction of vinyl sounds superior.

The real wonder is that in this age when music on demand is available either free or at very little cost, young people are going into stores and paying $30 for a vinyl album.  That’s got to tell you something about the nature of music listening.  Quality still counts more than convenience.

The celebration of this phenomenon that Tom Thwaits has arranged for Saturday evening at The Red Door will include some prizes along with the chance to hear tales of vinyl appreciation and the music itself.  It starts at 8 pm.  Bring along your favourite records to share or just come to listen.

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One Response to Bring Your Own Vinyl To The Red Door On Saturday

  1. Gillian says:

    Fascinating. I know a young woman (a guitarist) who has been buying vinyl for years. Also this post helps me understand something. I never owned a Queen album, but I bought a “best of” CD years ago to introduce my daughter to them. Initially it didn’t sound right to me and I kept apologizing! After several listens, though, I adjusted and before long it did sound right. Hm.

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