Photo taken at Music Saves in Cleveland.
It’s safe to assume anybody who has been entrenched in any kind of specific music subculture (from pop-punk to hardcore to death metal to sheer painful abrasive noise and beyond), has a significant collection of vinyl records—or painfully covets all those people who actually do. Yeah, yeah, we can discuss the merits of compact disc digital audio versus needle-in-the-groove playback until the day comes when we’re directly interfacing our fetid noggins with our fave sounds like we’re a veritable Johnny Mnemonic society. But despite the lip service that is sometimes given toward the beloved format, this writer appreciates the size, the characteristics and the literature (graphics, credits etc) that accompanies a vinyl record. And you should, too. Because you can’t put your arms around an MP3 or FLAC file.
Now that we have completely convinced every one of you reading to make the decision to participate into this obsessive, wallet-raping way of life, let’s get started. Here are some things that vinyl buyers do that always succeed to raise the ire of collectors, fellow enthusiasts and store owners. Be advised: When Eddie Vedder sang “Spin The Black Circle” all those years ago, he didn’t mean swivel your head non-stop after somebody gave you a black eye for being an asshat in a record store.
SHUT UP. THERE IS NO “VINYL RESURGENCE.” STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.
Even when the compact disc was invented in the ’80s, records still existed. They were still being pressed and sold. Lifers can wax for hours about the important role of vinyl records have played in the planet’s punk and hardcore scenes. Vinyl is only an outmoded form if you never gave a shit about music in the first place (read: lame parents/relatives and smug bastard local news anchors fronting hipness).
SHUT UP ABOUT THE PRICES.
There are so many variables about the final price of a record. We live in a world where a compact disc can be made for less than a buck and marked up significantly on its way to the endcaps of Target. Records require several stages of manufacturing, as well as the album cover component, hence more expense. Then there’s also the problem of how many people need paid (the label sells it to the distributor who sells it to a store who sells it to you) before you get to take it home. (If the record is an import, add another person with a foreign passport who needs paid to the list of accounts payable.) Here’s the rule of thumb: Pay what you’re comfortable with. Records are tangible investments that may (or may not) collect value in the ensuing years. Follow your obsession on your terms or risk getting raked over the coals later on eBay. Don’t tar the store owner with a mercenary brush: If he really wanted to clean up, he’d be selling stupid-looking iPhone cases and you could suck his Mercedes exhaust on the street on his way to make bank.
BUY A DECENT STEREO WITH A GREAT TURNTABLE AND STYLUS, ALREADY.
We’ve all seen those cute old-timey turntables with the built-in speakers that offer a myriad of other capabilities (CD player, radio, digital dock, tax advice, personal massages etc). Too bad most of them have tone arms (the device with the needle on the end that plays the record) which are heavy enough to plow right through the groove walls of that pricey version of Fall Out Boy's Save Rock And Roll you just bought. These kinds of units look dumb, sound bad and will destroy your investment with repeated playing. Buy a real stereo: Go check out what online portals like Insound and Needle Doctor have to offer. If you don’t, you’re better off lighting up stacks of $20s while doing karaoke versions of your fave Wonder Years tracks. Seriously, go quality or go home.
IF YOU ARE INSPECTING A RECORD, PUT IT BACK THE WAY YOU FOUND IT.
Don’t dog-ear the corners, put the record outside the protective sleeve entirely or leave the open end of said sleeve pointed toward the open end of the cover. If the next person picks it up and the record slides out and hits the floor because you were too preoccupied with some bullshit Vine clip to leave it the way you found it, you should get the face punch.
DON’T CRACK THE SHRINKWRAP UNTIL YOU ARE HOME. THEN GET RID OF IT.
Look, the record is in plastic—it’s fine. Don’t open it up in the store and then decided you don’t want it. Because you’re probably one of those jerks who say “$15? I’m not paying that for an open record.” And another thing: Take the shrinkwrap off when you get it home. When you break the uniform seal, it continues to shrink and could very well warp your record and the jacket. It’s not going to “protect” the album cover, like your Aunt Hilda said it would years before her Barry Manilow records were rendered unplayable.
COLORED VINYL DOESN’T MEAN IT SOUNDS BETTER. SHUT UP.
Everybody has their own theories about records pressed outside the realm of the traditional black vinyl. (When this writer had his own micro-indie label, he pressed a record on white vinyl, and it sounded like someone was crinkling cellophane high in the song’s mix.) Judging from the myriad of records pressed in various colors, there are no strict, hard-and-fast rules on this one. Collectors love that stuff though, like those dudes who bought 37 copies of the same Hot Water Music LP so they could get all the variants in color. Which is also fine. But you gotta ask yourself if you collect records (read: objects) or music (read: different collections of songs). (Go to hell, PrickAGrew. We know you have at least six vinyl copies of the Blood Brothers’ Burn Piano Island, Burn, including the double-disc silk-screened picture disc version. You’re the asshat. —ed.)
FILE, NOT STACK
Magazines don’t look bad stacked that way, but don’t ever store your records flat on top of each other: They will warp. You know what’s more annoying than a record that skips? Playing a warped one where the bottom of the tone arm cartridge bangs on top of the groove walls. It sounds like a gorilla trying to keep time during your favorite songs, but all it does is thump randomly like your average BrokenCYDE fan clapping at their gigs.
KNOW YOUR PLURAL-FORMS.