6 Super Side-Effects Of Record Collecting
What happened when Townsend Music Head Of Digital Barney dusted off his record player after a decade of streaming music and jumped head-first back into the world of vinyl? Spoiler alert: life got better.
The lockdown of 2020 forced some significant changes upon all our lifestyles. Like many of us, I found that my bedroom was no longer just a place I slept; it suddenly also became my place of work. Away from the something-everyone-can-enjoy music policy of an office Sonos, the streaming playlists I'd adopted a decade earlier grew tired and tedious.
In an effort to mix my music listening up, I reached for the top of the cupboard and dusted off my record player. I then did something I hadn't done in years: I bought myself a record (Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman soundtrack, if you're asking). Then another one... and then another. Two years later, I'm living a full-blown vinyl renaissance and have been astonished by some of the super side-effects this small change has had on my life.
1) You Appreciate The Music More
It's a hard-worn cliché because it's true: I appreciate music more on physical formats than I do streaming it. Since 2010, my music habits had consisted of cursory listening to the hot new releases and revisits to old favourites (all of which I had originally fallen in love with on CD or LP). And, of course, endless, non-stop mix playlists of drum n bass, hip-hop, electronica and rock.
I still enjoy my playlists out and about, at the gym, in the car, and when entertaining guests. But with streaming, it's just too easy to skip tracks that aren't immediately gratifying, let alone commit to a full album.
"Not every record reveals its hidden depths on the first listen."
While I wouldn't want to underplay the fact that record collecting can be an expensive hobby, it seems to me that one's responsibility to get the most out of a record is tied to the investment of owning it. Not every record reveals its hidden depths on the first listen. To truly appreciate an album, devoting your attention to it while it is physically spinning on your stereo cannot be beaten.
2) New Places Are A Lot More Interesting
Stopping in Stevenage? Passing through Peterborough? Held over in Harrogate? Well, now you have a new reason to explore the nooks and crannies of our green and pleasant land. Before my vinyl renaissance, visiting a new TK Maxx and admiring the splendid decor of unchartered Wetherspoons toilets were the highlights of my city centre sojourns. Nowadays, every stop-over in even the tiniest town is a treasure trove of 'chazzas', antique stores and - of course - record shops.
It's generally the case that the smaller and more off-the-beaten-path the town, the more weird and wonderful the record stores are. If you're ever in Clitheroe or Great Harwood, don't forget to give our sister shop Townsend Records a visit!
3) You Make New Friends
By collecting records, you level up listening to music from a passive experience to an active hobby. I'm now on first-name terms with my local record shopkeeps and enjoy catching up every week or two; there are only so many times you can rifle through the New In section in your local record shop without exchanging pleasantries with the folk behind the counter.
That's not to mention the faces I see time and again at record fairs and the small label owners whose output I've immersed myself in through record collecting. Events like Record Store Day bring together the record-buying public into the premises of these local businesses every year. This isn't just about buying a product - it's about joining a community of like-minded music lovers.
4) Your Walls Look Cool
"With great power comes great responsibility" goes the ancient adage. I'd like to add "with great records come great art prints" to the lexicon of record collectors. After embarking on a vinyl renaissance, any would-be collector soon finds themselves the proud owner of a pile of attractive 12 x 12 prints begging to be mounted on their walls. On Townsend Music, our Artist Stores often include signed prints during an album campaign's pre-order period, which have included releases from Johnny Marr, Bloc Party, Shaun Ryder, Everything Everything and many more.
"With great records come great art prints" - Ancient Proverb
Affordable, dedicated vinyl-print frames are available in high street stores from Wilkos to Tiger. My favourites are the 12 x 12 inch Winston Black and White Frames from The Range - top quality at a surprisingly low price, pop-pickers!
5) People Know What To Buy You
What do you get for the man who has everything? It's a perenially difficult question for friends and family to answer. What do you get for the man who doesn't have every record? Easy. More records! And then there are record gadgets, record cleaning fluids, record memorabilia or record-related books.
No longer is the charge "sorry, but you're so hard to buy for" levelled at me with a worried face before Christmas dinner. Over the last couple of years, it's been hugs and smiles as I've received a fetching set of vinyl record beer mats and even a lurid yellow vinyl button-up shirt. I'm still summoning up the gall to wear it in public.
6) You Sit Down Less
OK. Hear me out on this. In the age of working from home, there is increasing evidence that, unless you are a wheelchair user, sitting down too much can be a risk to your health. Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to try to sit down less and the NHS advice is to "set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes".
"Break up long periods of sitting time with activity for just 1 to 2 minutes" - The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines report
In my former life, during prolonged bouts of graphic and video editing, it wasn't unusual for me to sit down for up to four hours at a time. Listening to music on vinyl has entirely put a stop to that issue. I stretch my legs and move around in intervals that are healthy and beneficial to my well-being every time I have to go and flip the disc or change the record.