Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

9 June 2015

I want a record player. I want to drop needle on to vinyl. I want to pull out the sleeve and read the lyrics. I want playing music to be a simple thing.

I am old enough to have grown up in a house with a record player, been a convert to cassettes and then CDs. Then I uploaded my CDs and bought anything new from iTunes. Lately I added in an online streaming service too. I think I am supposed to find myself floating in a digital music heaven, surrounded by every band you can imagine. It’s the culmination of years of technological advances. So why does it feel so annoying?

The first round of grimness is music-streaming services. Yes you can curate playlists and have access with a few taps of your fingers to an album you love but that’s not what really happens. It’s more likely that you’ll search for an artist who is not even listed or look for a version of a track that also appears to be absent. Instead you are faced with a sea of radio pop and while I know that Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran are fine musicians there are limits to how many times you can have them in your house. There is something crushingly narrowing about the whole process.

So instead you decide to buy a few things you like from iTunes. Now the next part is my responsibility but seems to be a not unique outcome. Bank-card details need to be updated, numerous rounds of verification are required, the computer does not recognise your new device and when it finally lets you purchase for some reason nothing shows up on the phone. This was my Sunday.

But having just come back from Japan and having spent a lot of time in nice, hip bars and coffee shops I know that there is another way. Buy a record player. There are no apps required, you choose what you hear and you settle and listen. Drinking coffee as the barista switches the vinyl has a romance and joy that no MP3 file or streamed pop track can ever deliver.

Now you could call this the ranting of a technologically challenged fool but I am not alone. Sales of vinyl continue to flourish and among a demographic that is young and tech-aware. Just as the coffee shop revolution or the food truck movement were about experience and provenance and being connected, so too is the small but important shift back to vinyl and CDs. It’s about the tactile, the real.

And just as the burger chains and coffee giants got wrong-footed, so too will the music industry if it cannot make listening to music the easiest, most enjoyable moment in your day.

Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor.

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