Social Listening & Vinyl Media

23 08 2010

These days people who listen to vinyl records (and subsequently, hunt them down) are often placed into two categories of people: “Old people”, who enjoy the nostalgic pops and creaks associated with vinyl media – and the memories associated with them; and “hipsters”, those who listen to appear ironically cool. I guess I’d fall into the second general category as I was born in the late 80’s (after the invention of CD), but I think there’s more to vinyl than looking ‘hip’. Vinyl was one of the later eras of social music. When a record originally came out, people had listening parties. It was a big deal – and an event – to go to a friend’s and listen to a new album. Outside of money limitation, there was a great deal of space needed (you needed enough, level, space to hold a record player). Nowadays, music can be found everywhere – on mp3 players and phones. In fact the last ‘audio format’ to be introduced was slotSD – you may have seen a display here or there (I’ve seen em’ in Best Buy) where you can by a microSD card which is loaded with a whole album.

The transition from social listening to individual listening took full effect when the Walkman brand dropped onto the planet, presumably from outer space. It actually has an Egg-Chicken relationship, did the need for individual media players arise from the separative and ‘want’ culture of the 80’s or did these products create that culture? Now *everyone* has some sort of personal media device. (Even my parents…) I still enjoy listening to vinyl on occasion though.

This phenomenon was most evident to me in my senior year of college. I would often come home (late) and just need to relax before getting to a last minute paper or even to go to bed. I had to clean my head of the cobwebs of the day for sleep to even be an option. It was in this need that vinyls came to be near and dear to me. I’d come home, grab a drink, put a record on, turn off the lights, and just relax. This was enjoyable enough, but I was often joined by my roommate, or as readers of this blog may know: paulinmke. We’d talk about our days, stories of friends and memories which related to the mood and music at hand. There were only a few things that broke up this setting – getting up to grab another drink, smoke a cigarette, or flip over/change the record. While we didn’t have listening parties, per say, I cherish those moments where I felt I was taking in the world around me, maybe for the first time.

And yes, I’m well aware this can be something repeated using an iPod or Zune; but there’s still a lack of physical contact with the music you hear. You can’t feel the grain of a song or appreciate having to not bother with making a playlist. You can put a record on and zone out for about twenty minutes before the clipping of the needle starts in.

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