Confessions of an Analog Music Fan on Record Store Day

Celebrating the annual holiday made for music geeks

Part of the Vitality Arts Special Report

The author’s CD and record shelves also provide safety for cats.

I consider myself a fairly digital person. I edit a website. I use a lot of social media. I often write about technology.

But on the eve of the 10th anniversary of national Record Store Day (Saturday, April 22), I admit that when it comes to music, I am still a fully analog fan.

Record Store Day: Come Saturday Morning

Let’s back up a moment, though, because I know that many people are not familiar with this “holiday.”

Record Store Day falls annually on a designated Saturday in April (last year, it was April 16) and marks the day that music lovers are encouraged to visit their favorite brick-and-mortar independent record store and, ideally, buy a record — or more than one. Typically, stores will have special items, including titles that are only being released at record stores (take that, Amazon!) plus other fun activities — in-store performances and meet-and-greets with artists, for example. (Here’s where you can learn more about the origins of Record Store Day and find stores participating near you.)

I love the look of a wall of CDs and record albums on my shelves. It’s like a whimsical mosaic comprised of tiny little pieces of art.

Record Store Day is made for the analog fan — those of us who like to feel the vinyl or CD in our fingers and make a ritual of putting it on the player or turntable when we first bring it home.

Analog Music: Where Is the Love?

Although my husband and I have tried to bolster our vinyl collection in recent years, it is tiny compared to our CD collection, which is well over 1,000  discs now. (That does not count the couple hundred duplicate CDs we threw out when we combined our collections after we were married.)

And actually, we usually buy vinyl duplicates of our favorite CDs now. Even though that might look oddly redundant to a lot of people, the old-school records really do sound different — warmer, more present — on a turntable.

The Digitizing Debate: Don’t Stop the Music

People ask all the time why we haven’t just digitized all of our CDs on hard drive already. After all, these days, CDs feel about as hip as the 8-track tapes my parents had when I was a kid. Vinyl, many of you will be happy to know, is worth a whole lot more and these days, used and new vinyl records take up most of the shelf space in the hippest record stores because that’s where the money is. Don’t know which records to throw away? Read this. (Sorry, I could not resist that joke.)

I just can’t seem to do it.

I love the look of a wall of CDs and albums on shelves. It’s like a whimsical mosaic comprised of tiny little pieces of art. The whole is truly the sum of its parts — something I have to tell myself every time I move to a new home and have to pack them in more than a dozen boxes that are almost too heavy to carry.

In the case of all this music, there’s just something about the memories I’ve attached to the physical objects.

Rites of Passage: The Indigo Girls’ and Mine

Even though I haven’t listened to it in years, I would never part with my first CD — a classical piano selection of Mozart sonatas — or my second CD that I wore out in college (but still kept), The Indigo Girls’ Rites of Passage. I even kept a few cassettes from the pre-CD years — mixtapes made by friends, recordings of my own band and a Neil Diamond greatest hits collection that my next-door-neighbor friend gave me after she accidentally ordered it for 1 cent from the Columbia House club. I’ve even found a few old Frank Sinatra 78s that I can play with a table-top crank-operated Victrola I bought from an antique shop a few years ago.

Yes, my love for analog music spans decades and media types.

Of course, it is not just about the physicality of the music for me, though. As all good audiophiles and record geeks know, you can judge a lot about a person by reading the spines of her CDs and scanning her album covers.

I wonder if my own kids’ musical snobbery will be stunted if all of their friends just use Amazon Echo’s Alexa to fulfill their music listening needs. How will they subtly discover that they share (or hate) each other’s musical tastes?

We won’t have to learn the answer anytime soon, because I’m planning on bringing home a whole new haul of very heavy bags of old-school music this weekend.

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By Shayla Thiel Stern
Shayla is the former Director of Editorial and Content for Next Avenue at Twin Cities PBS.@shayla_stern

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