Music and (Gasp!) Records

I want to talk about records.  I don’t mean those emails that need to be saved because they are “important records”, nor those receipts you keep in an old shoebox for your taxes.  I’m talking about those funny vinyl disks you might run into in an antique store.  You know, you place them on a spinnie-thing, place a needle in a groove and music comes out! 

Yeah, I know, old people and random memories.

Anyway, I was watching a Youtube video and some people were talking about the future of music and they brought up this important part of the past.

There once was a time when you would go to a person’s house and the first thing you would do is look through their record collection.

When those vinyl disks might cost a significant part of your super limited disposable income, you only bought music that was important to you.  What a person chose to spend those precious pennies on said a huge amount about them. Even if they had a largish collection, it said a lot. 

After looking through the record collection, you might pick out something that you loved but didn’t have.  Your friend would place it on the turn table and you would sit and listen.  There would be little talking, except about the music.  You would listen.  OK, you might sit there with that important record cover in your hand as you listened.  There was cool art, there were pictures of the band or artist.  There was info about the producer.  Some even had detailed equipment lists.  Many had the lyrics, which was very important when you couldn’t just search for them on the Internet.

In ways, CDs ruined that a little.  The booklets with CDs could be cool and as time went on gave even more info than record covers, but the cool art was a thing of the past.  As was holding that cover and studying it as you listened.  And looking though a CD collection wasn’t as much much fun as leafing through a record collection.

In the beginning you paid a premium for CDs, so they were rare, but eventually time caught up and CDs in the 90s cost a little less than records in the 70s, which, if you looked at inflation, was a lot less.

Music became cheaper.

Music was worth less.

And then there was the advent of the mp3 and sharing. 

Music became free and so it became totally worthless.

At first streaming seemed to be better, but there are problems there as well.

The big one, back when there were physical records that you had to buy in a record store, they did everything in their power to make you passionate about the music so you would go in and spend some money. Now they want you to subscribe and pay your fees, but not listen.  The thing is, if you listen to music, they have to pay out royalties, though very little.  But the more you listen, the more royalties they pay.

So they do everything in their power to make you pay the fees but not listen.

Also, despite how much you think you are choosing the music you stream, the streaming companies chose the music that makes them money (often because they have deals to pay less money per listen). So you are hearing what they want you to hear, not what you want to hear.

Of course, “back in the day” people liked what they heard on the radio and that was scripted for them.  On the other hand, radio music was a lot less scripted back in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even early 90s.  But as time went on, more and more radio stations were either bought out by a handful of large companies or bought playlists from them.  By the mid-1990s, there were very few independent radio stations and 99% of what you heard was put on the list by accountants, not people who knew anything about music. 

Don’t get me wrong, the music industry was always an industry and ultimately about money.  The difference is that there was a changing point where the decisions on how to make money went from people with music backgrounds to people who only looked at the numbers, not listened to the music.

At this time, it is possible to hear a wider variety of music than ever before.  There is more available, with past catalogues a click away.  Because of the revolution in recording technology, it is now easy to create high quality recordings, so there is much more in the way of “independent” music, some of it wonderful.  There is a huge amount available.  In ways it is the best of times.

However…

All too often today’s music is made on a grid, with all vocals and such perfectly on pitch, all notes perfectly on the beat, etc.  “Perfect”, but…  Do you like old music better?  Most do…

All too often today, people are listening to the “perfect” music on their phone or other “sound systems” that are not sound systems at all.  In other words, in 1960, or 1970, or 1980 or 1990 if people using cheap systems would hear music, any music, at a much, much higher quality than 99% of the people hear it today.  Hint, listening to music from speakers gives you a full, immersive, physical experience.  Earbuds let you “hear” the music, but not experience it as music. Hint two – music is compressed to take less bandwidth, Compressed = lower quality.

And all too often young people have little passion about music.  They might talk about it, but it isn’t the center of people’s lives how it was.  Why?  (I think I said earlier 😉 )

Back to the start of this post, it has been shown that having a physical object connects people to the music much more.  Old vinyl records never went away and are making a comeback with some alternative crowds, but is that the way to go? A format created more than 70 years ago (long play records) or more than 100 years ago (disks)?

I have heard that some people are thinking of other large format systems that have some of the pluses of vinyl, but are modern.  And if they can be connected to people’s TVs (the cheapest of which is much, much better than what 99.999% of people watched 20 years ago) or surround sound system to give that physical impact.

And there are other ideas floating around how to make music a central part of people’s lives once again, and hopefully, this time, with the music creators being the ones most rewarded, not the distributors.

Anyway, Just some random rumbles from this old guy that misses the old way we used to experience music. 

*

(Pop songs are becoming short and shorter and they are becoming more and more simple. If you are an artist, it is almost impossible to release a pop song unless it sounds like something that has been proven to sell. This is all because it makes more money – since all songs are the same price, the shorter the song, the more can be sold for a given time slot, the more money is made. The investors are only interested in short term profits, so zero risk – it has to be 100% guaranteed to make money. But these are subjects for a different post ;)) (Oh, as I said, there is a huge amount of music being put out today, and some of it is excellent, just not making top lists (which are now based on plays, and plays controlled by the streaming providers, not sales are requests…))

46 thoughts on “Music and (Gasp!) Records

  1. dotsandflags

    Totally agree that physical copies on vinyl is the best way to connect to the music. I stream A LOT of music nowadays just because it’s so convenient, but I miss going to the music store for sure. This post reminded me that I need to go get a new turntable soon!

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  2. lblooom

    I love record players. The other week, I went into a barnes and noble and found that they were selling records and record players! After getting one and listening to music in this way, I feel more appreciation for it.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I still have all of my old records, but I haven’t had a working record player in ages. I do need to pick one up… I have seen a return of records. It is a cool development.

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  3. Antoinette Truglio Martin

    I always pondered the cover art. And the lyrics. Listening to records was truly a favorite past time. Music now floats in the air while getting something else done.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      There was something special about album covers… And then having a good stereo to play the record on. It did make listening an experience and not just something happening in the background.

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  4. Scribble and Scran

    Got my vinyl squared away for the day I reunite with a record player. Will be one of those magical treat moments. Some of it is trash. The pop music at the time, others the film scores of those movies that I loved. My kids are so lucky, with music on tap and at the same time I don’t think they will have that collection to look back on like I have. Not so lucky.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I will eventually have to get a new turntable. I replaced most of my records with CDs or digital music, but there are a few..

      In ways it is the best of times, with everything so accessible, but it is also the worst of times where things are more disposable and there is less of a sense of identity with the music. Browsing a record shop was almost as much fun as browsing a bookstore…

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I went to school at Ohio State, and on one edge was High Street, that, though mostly known for its bars, also had some of the best used record stores in the country, I think ranked second behind a street in Cambridge, MA near Harvard.

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  5. Forestwood

    There are a few record stores popping up in this country now. An owner told me that all musicians want to record on vinyl now because the quality is better. I am not sure but it is becoming popular. AT least the art will come back with it?
    I wasn’t aware of the pressure to make shorter songs and the way the subs work. I don’t altogether like the sound of that process either.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I have seen a return of records, though I haven’t seen any record stores yet (I’m out in the country, so…) It isn’t as much about quality as the feel – a record feels warmer and more organic. On the other hand, if you are comparing music streamed to your phone and played through earbuds to a record played through a nice sound system with great speakers, yeah, a giant quality difference! And there is the art.
      There is a lot of longer styles of music being made today, there are even modern “prog” bands, but pop, which is what is heard most often, is dominated by very short songs that are over auto-tuned and set to a grid. All of my nephews and nieces listen to 70s music.

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      1. Forestwood

        Even my daughter knows most of the songs that I know all the lyrics to. It surprises her but it shouldn’t as they originated in the 70’s – 90’s even if they are re-mixes.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          It is funny. I now know music from the 30s and 40s (though most of the jazz I listen to doesn’t have lyrics), but I had to go back and find it and study it. I know a lot of young people who love music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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            1. trentpmcd Post author

              I think so, but then, it’s “my” music. OK, there was a period in the late 80s into the early 90s that I hated, even at the time, but for the most part there was a lot of great music. I still listen to a lot of prog. And it’s opposite, new wave.

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  6. Badfinger (Max)

    Great post! I had to make sure I didn’t write this! The album as we knew it is a lost art… now it’s about the single… almost like it was in the Pre Beatles age.

    I was 8 in 1975 and I found the Beatles and never left them. From there I went to The Who, Kinks, and Stones. My friends and I lived and breathed music… now it’s more disposable like everything else. I loved my albums and my friends and I would listen and stare at the artwork.

    My 22 year old only buys vinyl now after he saw my collection. He gets it but it will never be as important to him as it was to us for good or bad.

    Thanks for the great post!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      There was a sense of ownership and identity that seems to be missing. I know that vinyl is making comeback, which is cool, but I wish there was a new, large scale format that was a bit more modern.

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      1. Badfinger (Max)

        That would make me happy as well. What is sad about what you said is in the seventies they were listening to music with better quality.
        CDs leave me cold because of the warmth is gone from the sound…that may just be me. I would welcome a new format.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          Records are making a comeback, but I don’t see it being big. Digital has the potential of being warmer if they allow it to be, but an analog solution would be better for that…

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  7. Lisa- Southern Patches

    Oh my goodness this post has brought back such memories. My husband still has a huge collection of LP’s, And you are so right about the songs getting shorter and shorter, what’s up with that? I remember listening to my brothers and sisters albums when I was little and heaven forbid if I ever scratched one. Great post!!! thank you.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Don’t you dare scratch that record! lol. There were many downsides to vinyl, dust and scratches being at the top of the list. I was the youngest, so was immersed in older brother and sisters’ collections. I still have quite a bit of old vinyl, but most of my physical collection is CDs. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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  8. christiansmusicmusings

    Nice and thoughtful post, which I saw thanks to Lisa from “Tao Talk.” I agree looking at a collection of vinyl records is an entirely different experience than looking at a CD collection or browsing a digital music library.

    I discovered my love for music as a 7 or 8-year-old thanks to the vinyl collection of my six-year-older sister. She introduced me to gems like Carole King’s “Tapestry”, CSNY’s “Deja Vu” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” She also had greatest hits samplers by Santana, Simon & Garfunkel and America – all music I dig to this day.

    I also very well remember when CDs came out in the early ’80s – and how expensive they were initially. And how excitement there was about the sound quality of Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms”, one of the first CDs in DDD all-digital format. Like many music listeners, eventually, I made the transition to CDs. I was also taping music on music cassette like a madman from vinyl, CD and FM radio.

    Eventually, I discovered iTunes. At first, I bought select songs. At some point, I started streaming. As regrettable as it is how little music artists make from streams, one thing I will say is that my streaming music providers’ algorithms have become much better at predicting what I like. I used to make fun of them. Nowadays, thanks to their listening suggestions, I find myself discovering a good deal of new music and being reminded of songs/artists I had forgotten about.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      You cut your teeth on some great music. “Wish You Were Here” is still one of my very favorite albums.
      I don’t use the streaming service very often. I don’t have much against them and know a lot of people who love them. I have a giant collection in my iTunes, mostly from CDs I ripped (over 25,000 “songs”, but more than half is classical) and I listen to Sirius XM in my car. I get most of my new music from Sirius and friends/family.
      There is so much good music being created today and it has never been easier to access it, I just think it is a shame that young people are being bombarded by what is often drivel. I think it might be changing, but until then, I still have my old music ;)
      Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Deborah

    Oh, how I love this post! Music has been prominent in my mind and heart recently; somehow, I’d forgotten how important it is to me. I love it all the more when it is raw and real; I tend to favor live show recordings, because music is about communion for me. As the feelings are scrubbed away, so, too–for me–is the joy-filled connection that only music can foster.

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  10. memadtwo

    I tried Pandora for a few days. Why do I want to hear more of what I just heard? I also rarely listen to music on the radio anymore.
    One thing you didn’t note was that not only did you and your friends listen to music together, you played music together. Everyone had a band or at least a couple guitars and friends who loved to sing. You were always trying to figure out the chords to some song, the harmonies. That is completely gone. (K)

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  11. KL Caley

    I love when you here a song and it takes you right back to a moment in time. I was a sit-listening-to-top-of-the-pops-with-your-finger-ready-over-the-record-button (hoping the dj will shut up and not end up on your carefully crafted tape) era. Until I found my love for rock music 🎶 . Great post. KL ❤️

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I do remember trying trying to get those type of tapes, but didn’t do it as often as a lot of people I knew. Yep, know what you mean by some songs turning the clock back while they are playing. Magical :) Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed!

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  12. Robin

    I guess I’m old, too, because I not only remember record collections and the type of memories you are sharing, but we still have our record collection. I am also reminded of the investment we made in the records we bought. One Christmas I took out a loan from a credit union — a whopping $50 which was a lot to us in those days! — so that I could buy several albums for my husband for Christmas to flesh out our newly budding record collection.

    We have family members who listen to music via their phones and it always sounds so harsh and tinny to me. It makes me shudder to listen. Speakers, good speakers, are the way to go.

    Thanks for the memories you’re bringing up, Trent, even if they do remind me that I’m getting old and sounding like it (“back in my day…!”). lol!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      “Back in my day…” Sorry about making you feel old ;) lol. In my house records were even a bigger gift than books. The first one I remember was my parents giving my at-the-time 8-year-old older brother Tommy for Christmas. He is still a huge Who fan and Tommy is still in my top 5 favorites.
      I will admit that most of my listening is on small Bose computer speakers. Some of the best computer speakers I’ve seen, but not really great.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks, Colleen. i do still have all of my vinyl packed away someplace, but I replaced most of it with first CDs and then mp3s (bought, not downloaded ;) ) long ago. There are a few that have never been released on CD that I would love to play again… Yep, I still love the old music!

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  13. Stine Writing and Miniatures

    You bring up so many good points! I remember my albums and the ones that were so special were the ones that opened like a book and had lyrics and pictures! It is sort of “sinful” but a while back I saw this really cool craft of turning vinyl records into bowls. I used to have so many but with all the technology, every time I moved I took less and less. I didn’t even have a “record player” once tapes came out!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I do still have my vinyl collection packed away someplace but haven’t had a turntable in decades. A few times I almost picked up a USB one, but… I think something huge was lost when the large form covers went away – it was such a big part of the experience. I have seen a few different “art forms” from old records but I’ll keep mine whole for now.

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      1. Stine Writing and Miniatures

        I told my husband that some day I want to stop at a tag sale and find some record that I don’t have any interest in and try to make a bowl. I don’t have any use for it though so it’s not really high on my list. I can still picture album covers but I can’t necessarily “see” who the artists were. I know I had Grease and The Great Muppet Caper!

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  14. Pingback: Music and (Gasp!) Records — Trent’s World (the Blog) – Tao Talk

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