Right now, my esteemed colleague Dave Segal is on the phone negotiating the long-delayed transport of his record collection from Orange County. Segal has been here for just over a month; these should have been here just days after he arrived. "These are extremely valuable to me," he's telling the person on the other end of the phone. "I'm not going to let this go." It sounds pretty grim.
Last week, I was in NYC. I walked by Other Music, Victory Records, various little vinyl boutiques, and while, on some abstract level, I wanted to support all these businesses, I didn't come home with a single record. At my kind host's stylish but small railroad apartment, we listened to music on a nice set of speakers plugged into mp3 players and laptops. They had maybe two boxes of records. I can't remember whether or not they had a turntable set up (I don't think so).
At home, I have the same brand of shelving as every other vinyl owning young person, the one made out of 16 squares perfectly sized for 12"s (your model may have 25 squares if you're fancy). It's half full of vinyl, half full of books and other media. I have a few crates worth of records on additional shelving or in actual crates on the floor, but I'm lately convinced that I'm never going to fill the rest of this shelf up with vinyl, let alone have to someday spring for the 25 square model.
I find no joy in this conclusion. I would love to live in a house lined with shelves of records. I would prefer my living room to look like these. I just don't think it's going to happen.
Vinyl is relatively big and heavy. Airlines are charging for extra baggage, and even when they weren't, traveling with vinyl (say, enough to DJ with) is grueling compared to traveling with mp3s or even CDs. Shipping is apparently a drag as well. Apartment space for record shelving is limited.
Music is expensive. We're diving headlong into what looks to my admittedly not economically expert eyes like a serious recession/depression, and records just aren't a necessity as much as food and shelter (Segal will likely debate this point with me). Rising fuel prices only aggravate the flying/shipping issues as well. As much as I want to support these small business and be a parton of artists, I just can't give any more than I can afford. Before this job, that meant buying records as carefully as possible, downloading what I couldn't afford to buy, and supporting artists at shows and by buying other merch. Now, it frequently means building my collection through promotional copies. Both means meant more CDs and mp3s than vinyl making their way into my collection. Morgan Geist might complain that I'm not listening to his records on the proper hi-fi setup in the ideal format, but audiophile gear is a luxury that most music fans probably can't afford. Hell, even Sasha Frere-Jones is selling his record collection.
These are gloomy, doomy times—every time someone in New York asked me how work was going, I would reply that it's great, the music business is tanking, print journalism is tanking, so print music journalism is the most exciting place you could hope to be. In seriousness, it's an awesome job, I feel fortunate every day to have it, but I'm not sure it'll ever launch me comfortably into the middle class. I think I may never own a home; maybe I won't be able to hold on to all the music I love for posterity either. Maybe formats—or other, larger paradigms—will shift and force people of my class situation to leave certain things behind. I think record collections, as opposed to mp3 collections, will only become increasingly a thing of class privilege rather than of ardent music fandom (I suppose it was always this way; perhaps music fans of less means have just moved from dubbed cassettes to mp3s).
Sacrilege, maybe, but as much as I love the look and feel of vinyl, records are only of marginally more value to me than the equivalent mp3s. Or: If I have to, I can let record collecting go. At least it'll be easier to move when rising rent finally prices me out my current place.