Vinyl Records: The New Old Device of This Generation

As we’re all posting our most streamed artists and songs – sorry Apple Music streamers – we look back to our year of music. While you’ve looking at the past year, I’ve been looking a little further back in time, not the music itself, but the medium. Nowadays a lot of us just listen with streaming services or videos on YouTube; rarely does anyone ever pay for music anymore and of course no one illegally downloads music for free *wink* *wink*, but have you ever listened to music on vinyl records?

My parents have always wanted to own a turntable since we immigrated to Canada from the Philippines but spending their hard earned money towards such a luxury was never a priority. They wanted to listen to the music they grew up with in this new, unfamiliar home. Considering mine and my brother’s interest in music from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, it’s very evident that they found an alternative. Their desire to own one never went away though. Once my mom discovered that Urban Outfitters was selling vinyl records she would talk about how much she misses listening to records every time we passed by an Urban Outfitters. Every now and then she would try to persuade my dad that buying a turntable was a good investment. He never opposed but he was convinced that the quality of the new turntables and record players is not as great as the classics. And he still didn’t bother researching for any turntables that were on par with his standards; we are a family of procrastinators after all. Two weeks ago my mom went inside an Urban Outfitters and bought Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album. You know the one.

The only problem was we still didn’t own a turntable to actually play it on. I saw this as my mother’s brilliant strategy to motivate my dad to finally make the investment. It was actually great timing because he bought it on Black Friday. It took them fourteen years but there was finally music playing from vinyl records in our home. And so it began…

The very next day, my parents drove all the way to Toronto, dropped me off at New College’s D.G. Ivey Library and went vinyl hunting. They visited as many music stores as they could in Toronto and bought as many of their favourite albums from the past as they could – new or used, it didn’t matter. You thought Netflix & Chill was romantic? Try spending a whole day searching for your favourite albums in old music stores and reminiscing on the songs and memories you enjoyed together. I don’t know about you, but I prefer that. They got their oldies music such as Tears for Fears, The Beach Boys, and The Carpenters and a bunch of Christmas albums but I found it sweet that they still had their children’s interest in mind. Although I grew up listening to music from the past and genuinely enjoy it, they still considered my interest in artists such as Bruno Mars and Michael Buble so that I can experience it the same way they did at my age.

And my experience with it was quite interesting. With the magic of today’s technology we were always able to listen to these same songs on any of our devices, but there was something bizarre about the turntable that changed the tone of the house. I don’t know if I’m over exaggerating but whenever the turntable was being used, it gravitated the rest of the family to where it was. Maybe because it was a new, or rather old piece of tech that was in our house. We acted the same way when we got a new a T.V. There was one night however that struck me as odd for our household. I walked into the family room and my parents were sitting on the couch together. My mom’s head was resting my dad’s shoulder and they were both just sitting and listening to the music coming from the turntable. That was pretty much it. Why is that odd? They were sitting in silence and they weren’t even on their phones. Every so often one of them would close their eyes, but they wouldn’t be sleeping. I sat down and joined the listening party and browsed my various social medias, but eventually I complied and just took the music in. For once, I was only using one device with one purpose. I can’t remember the last time any of us listened to music without doing some work or having a conversation on top of it. Ok boomer me if you want, but in these busy times how often do we ever just listen to music for the sake of appreciating the music and the artist behind it?

There was another night my mom put on some livelier music and just started dancing in the family room. My brother and I joined her when we heard the music coming from the family room. Although I’m not a dancer I loved seeing my mom so happy and stress free and I wanted to be part of that.  We even have the vinyl playing during family meals; we used to have Alexa play music for us or not have music playing at all. Who would’ve thought that this one little machine and these big black disks would change the dynamic of our family.

The generation gap was definitely evident when it came to using the turntable. My parents are Gen X, my brother is a millennial, and I am a Gen Z. I was under the impression that the “children” were prohibited from even touching the records and the turntable because we might break it. My brother and I also didn’t want to be responsible for damaging our parents’ new toy. We thought differently. They actually invited both of us over individually and walked us through how to operate it, but they still urged us to be very careful (the way they would have told little 5 year olds).

This piece of equipment also means something different to my parents compared to what it means to my brother and I. We think it’s a cool old timey piece of tech that’s cool to have and post on our Instagram stories (which I’ve already done), but to my parents it’s much more than that. They see this as an opportunity to live in the past and remember how nice and simple life was when they were younger. They cherish the nostalgia the way we do with Disney+. Whenever life gets stressful and chaotic for them, all they have to do is put on some old music through an old medium and relax on the couch – the way they would have when they were my age.

I did learn a few things from this experience. The first is that the sound quality is much better on vinyl than it is from any phone or Bluetooth speaker. That might be why they prefer it to Alexa. The term “single” with regards to an artist’s new song actually refers to the smaller records that only have one song on it. I also learned that there is a difference between a turntable and a record player. A turntable is what the disk is placed on and needs to be attached to a sound system. A record player is basically a turntable that comes with the speakers. Call me clueless but I really had no idea about any of this.

Something that my parents learned while vinyl hunting is that millennials and Gen Z’s still listen to music on vinyl records. Apparently the music stores were full of Millenials. I noticed that trends and objects from the past are making a comeback. But why? It’s not like they’re more efficient or are as high tech as the latest phone. Maybe us youngins just want to experience music the way our parents and grandparents did or maybe it’s just another thing that people think is vintage and cool. Regardless of whether it’s a trend or if they actually appreciate the music, my parents were surprised how full the music stores were with young people.

All in all, I think the turntable and the records have its benefits, but that definitely won’t stop me from streaming songs from my phone or listening to music on YouTube. It’s just a little more practical for me because it’s portable and easier to control when I want to change a song or artist – it’s not like there’s a shuffle or replay option. However, listening to vinyl records has taught me to be patient. If there were a song that I want to listen to on the record I would have to stand up and physically move the needle to that specific song. Out of sheer laziness I learned to just wait for the song to play and enjoy the rest of the album that the artist worked really hard on. There are definitely times when I’m in the mood for some LP (long playing) records, such as right now. As I write this in the family room, I have Michael Bublé serenading me. If you have the money and would like a cool vibe in your home or dorm room, or just want to enjoy some good quality music with your family and friends, I recommend investing in a turntable or a record player. No regrets.