Why Do We Still Collect Physical Music?

Music has been with us since forever – and it has changed organically through the decades. According to early archeological records, our ancestors used rocks and sticks to produce basic musical instruments. The oldest musical instrument we discovered was ‘Divje Babe’, a flute discovered in a Slovenian cave.

So, music has been with us since the beginning of time. Our ancestors were producing it in their caves and fast forward a few centuries, here you are with your earphones plugged in, grooving to a new tune you have discovered.

Music has always been our constant – but you know what else is a constant? The need to collect music in tangible forms. Yes, we are referring to the same record collection boom that happened about two generations ago. Back when vinyl was in vogue and audiophiles flocked to record shops to replenish their music collection every few months.

Then, in the late sixties came the cassette tapes. Portable and compact, cassette tapes were an inexpensive way to listen to Rock and Roll. The cassettes tapes had their share of glory before they were replaced by gleaming futuristic-looking CDs.

The vinyl records, cassettes, and CDs all came before MP3’s and finally the ‘streaming era’. On a cursory glance, it may seem as if music streaming services and cloud have done us all a huge favour by making everything so easy. All you need to do is pop open SoundCloud or Spotify, look up your track, press play and there you go.

Look at it closely and you’d know what has really changed is the way we consume and collect music – and no, not everyone is okay with it. While it’s convenient to stream your playlist nowadays, most music lovers miss having their albums on a physical medium. And that’s, in part, explains why CDs are still alive and why we have seen a large-scale vinyl resurgence over the last few years.

So, what makes us gravitate to tangible mediums and personal music collections? And why are we still collecting music in physical form – even if it is considered a little ‘old school’?

Here’s why:

1. Permanence 

There is more to our love for physical mediums like vinyl records and CDs than just nostalgia.  The internet is teeming with threads by disgruntled music lovers who woke up one morning to find out that their favourite song or remix had been flagged or taken down by a streaming service. The pain of losing a song forever is something most music lovers want to avoid at all costs.

Another problem users often face on cloud music sharing platforms like SoundCloud is availability. This is particularly the case if you want to explore classic music or older soundbites. Most old albums and some recent releases are not readily available on these streaming platforms.

Having a hard medium to store your music gives music lovers a sense of permanence and freedom. Having a collection of their own means that they no longer have to rely on the ever-changing content policies to access their tune. They have it close by, neatly labelled and shelved. They can play it any time.

Another plus point: music storage mediums like vinyl records and CDs may look fragile but they can last a long time, especially if you handle them with care. Keeping your discs in plastic storage cases  can protect them from dust and damage. According to experts, if you follow CD storage tips, CDs and vinyl records can last for up to 100 years.

2. The Artwork

while some may be content streaming their favourite soundbite occasionally, most music lovers are passionate about the entire experience of purchasing CDs and vinyl. They’re interested in ‘the whole package’. For such collectors, the extra-musical experience matters as much as the musical experience.

It’s not just about the sound, it’s about the freebies and surprises they get with their CDs and labels. Physical music mediums, especially CDs come with original artwork (looks super neat on shelves!), band photos, lyrics, and even credits.

3. The ‘Price’ Factor

The price factor is super-relevant, especially with compact discs.  While vinyl costs more, CDs are a lot cheaper. That is why some music collectors find it more affordable to maintain CD collections as opposed to vinyl.

Okay, so CDs are cheaper than vinyl. That makes sense. But how do they fare in comparison with subscriptions and music streaming services? CDs often contain entire albums, so you don’t miss out on a single track, and in most cases, they’re cheaper than streaming too.

Take, for example, Michael Jacksons 1982 groundbreaking release “Thriller”. It is considered one of the best-selling albums of all time. You can either get a full copy of the entire album from Apple iTunes Store for £6.99 or you can get a used copy of the full album on a CD for less than a quid.

CDs are also more profitable for artists since they are easy to manufacture, cheap, and more profitable. So, if you want to truly pay homage to an artist whose music makes your day, CDs are the way to go.

4. Tangibility and Ownership 

There is just something about having a neatly labelled, well-indexed, alphabetized record or CD shelf. Just like book lovers, who dream of having personal libraries, music lovers swoon at the thought of having their own physical collection. This is not something new either. People have been collecting tangible items for a very long time. From rocks, to postage stamps, old coins, CDs, records and the list goes on.

The question is, does owning music encoded on a disc offer the same experience as streaming online? Apparently, it doesn’t. According to a study conducted to explore the psychological meaning of personal record collections, most people in the UK consider record-shopping a personal experience.

The study also found that most music lovers are proud of their collections. Each disc or label represents something intimate and deeply personal. It could be a wonderful memory from the past, dedication, or just their personal jam. For most collectors, their collections reflect not just their taste in music but their lived experience, memories, and even personality.

Then there is also the sentimental value attached to certain labels and CDs. This is true, especially for vinyl records. People used to gift each other labels, share them, and exchange them all the time. Records and CDs can be really special and most music lovers have heart-warming stories about how they got their first vinyl.

5. Sound Quality

Throughout the history of music, there has been a big debate within the ranks of audiophiles about the choice of medium and overall sound quality. Those who favour the analog format claim that vinyl records sound warmer, richer, and more original compared to digital mediums. There are also CD enthusiasts who believe that CDs yield better sound output than digital downloads because they are much less compressed in comparison.

Collection Essentials Have a huge music collection? We can help you keep your collection neat and safe. Whether you have vinyl records or CDs, you can explore Neo collection for storage essentials like CD storage boxes  and plastic storage cases to vinyl storage units  and record wraps. We also have a range of accessories, markers, and dividers that will help you label and organise your vinyl and discs.

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