The importance of maintaining physical media in an increasingly digitized world
(Sophia Hoiseth/The Lariat)
Remember when records were the primary source of listening to music? Yeah, me neither.
I only vaguely remember when CDs were popular, and even that blew over quite shortly. In today’s era, physical media’s importance is greatly declining due to the large streaming and downloading giants that currently (and probably from now on, always will) dominate the industry.
These digital applications are predominantly utilized because they’re easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and well, because everyone is doing it. And afterall, you can’t really drag around a Crosley turntable like you can an iPhone.
Clearly, there are valid reasons for streaming music as opposed to buying a physical copy of an album you really like. However, this poses a dire threat to the fate of tangible media.
When only a small population regularly purchases physical copies, how will this form of media ever sustain a healthy life? It seems implausible that the original method of listening will make a comeback.
While this may remain true for cassette tapes and discs, there is another singular form of media that’s making quite a successful resurgence.
Fortunately, the vinyl record is prevailing once again, proving itself a crucial and sustainable force in music. According to Forbes, record sales in 2018 jumped an astounding 12% from the previous year. And with an increasing amount of artists that choose to release their works on vinyl, this number is predicted to increase.
There are even exclusive events intended to promote the sale of vinyl. Record Store Day is a nationally recognized event that occurs twice a year at independent stores all across the country. This event has grown so popular that some artists even release extremely limited editions of their works, just for the occasion.
I’ve personally been collecting records for around four years now, and even after having nearly a hundred of them, buying a new one always makes me as giddy as a child on Christmas. I anticipate opening the shrink wrap to reveal a beautifully laminated sleeve with my favorite album art in 12 x 12 format.
Or when the vinyl is gatefold, nothing is more captivating than opening it to reveal mysterious artwork that few people see. The lyric sheet, the back cover, all only accessible by buying a vinyl record.
But it’s not just a bunch of sentimental crap. The existence of physical media is absolutely crucial in preserving our societal legacy.
The first record was invented in 1930 and remained an essential listening tool for decades to come. And now, some people don’t even know what a record is.
However, with the way that vinyl production and consumption is progressing, its existence is optimistic. Although online services are far more popular, the increasing popularity of vinyl provides just a touch of reality in a disillusioned, digitized world.
It’s undeniable that online listening services will now dominate the field, but it’s important to maintain the tools that fostered the culture of creativity and art to begin with.