Why you should consider buying music on vinyl, CD and music files

Yes, it's 2018 and YouTube, Spotify and Pandora are pretty great, but hear me out.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read

Rent or own, it's your choice!

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The fact is, no one has to buy recorded music any more. Most of it is available when and where you want it on YouTube for free. You could also pay for a Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, or whatever subscription. It's basically a rental, which is really convenient, but also has its downsides.

Based on my very unscientific polling on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the folks who buy and collect music are more likely to spend time listening without multitasking. That makes sense to me -- they loved the music enough to buy an LP, CD or download, so their interest was more than casual. They have a deeper connection with music.

Another reason to buy music on LP, CD, or Bandcamp is to support, financially, the bands you love. Many of the collectors who talked to me are adamant in their beliefs that subscription services are cheating artists. 

Rock icon Peter Frampton, for example, isn't exactly cleaning up with streaming services. He tweeted this in August of this year: "For 55 million streams of, 'Baby I Love Your Way', I got $1,700. I went to Washington with ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers] last year to talk to law makers about this. Their jaws dropped and they asked me to repeat that for them." A lot of musicians and composers feel cheated by the subscription companies.

Another collector reinforced that point. "As a musician, it's a huge difference between what we make from the sale of a CD, or even a download, let alone vinyl, versus a subscription, which is streaming. The difference is an order of magnitude. If you want to support an artist, buy the physical media, or buy an actual download, preferably from their website or Bandcamp."

In 2018 bands still record music, but its prime function is to promote the band for live shows, which are generally more lucrative. If they're not famous, they probably have little or no expectation of making much income from recorded music. So they record less and less. The band's legacy isn't what it could be.

Another friend tweeted, "I still own the first CDs I bought back in 1992. With streaming, your favorite recording might be deleted overnight. CDs allow you to decide exactly how to build up your library. With streaming you must wait for the service to make a deal with a label, which might never happen."

Someone else said, "...it really comes down to a sense of physical permanency, a footprint of my musical history. That being said my listening now encompasses digital download and streaming as well as CD/vinyl."

When you stop paying for your music subscription, you have nothing. Buying a worthwhile music collection has intrinsic, lasting value. Many of my LPs and CDs are worth many times more than I paid for them. Think about it, a $10-a-month subscription adds up to a $120 a year, in five years that's $600! You could have bought a lot of music with $600.

No doubt subscriptions make sense for a lot of people, but if you really love music enough to see it as something you want to have a long term relationship with, consider buying it. You also get the added benefit of supporting the bands you love by buying a piece of their recorded legacy.