After a normal day at school, 80s kids would head straight to the vinyl store to ogle the fresh releases and rarities as if they were manna from heaven. Carefully holding the record in their hands, they would delicately remove its packaging and gawk at the album cover.
Handling vinyl seemed to be an art form in itself, but hearing it spin on a turntable was a whole different experience. For a time, this unique music ritual became so obsolete that it looked like it was a privilege our parents and grandparents could only tell us about.
But vinyl is back—record collections are in, and digital downloads are out. It seems that in terms of music technology, the past is the future. It isn’t news that digital downloads and CDs killed vinyl in the 90s and 2000s, so what is it that has made vinyl so popular again? Is it society’s fascination with everything vintage? Is it the ‘feeling’ of listening to vinyl? Or does vinyl simply sound better? We speak with Janna Estrada, the general manager of the Satchmi Record Store, to find out.
According to Janna, the main reason people have gone back to vinyl is that people want to slow down and relax when listening to music.
She explains, “I think it’s mostly because people are much more keen to go back to basics you know. Like I mean everyone has been on the go lately, everyone wants everything ASAP, or everyone wants everything in their pockets, so it’s really nice to just sit back and relax from all the fast paced stuff around you.“
She believes that vinyl is a more complete experience, where you get to “sit back and enjoy the record in its truest form.
“It’s a whole practice of appreciating the album art in its entirety, taking out the record from the sleeve, placing it in the turntable, and then dropping the needle to the record. It’s a different thing from just turning on your iPod and clicking play on a song you want to listen to,” she explains.
As a result, people are gravitating towards an organic and complete music experience.
It also doesn’t hurt that artists are pushing for the printing of more vinyl records. Artists like Jack White and The Arctic Monkeys, who’ve contributed the highest number of vinyl sales since 1996, are pushing for the production and promotion of vinyl.
A pricey hobby
For the longest time, the general idea was that only a select group of people would actually listen to vinyl: audiophiles, baby boomers, or the rich. While vinyl could be viewed as a richer musical experience, there is an intimidating price barrier that needs to be overcome.
A starter turntable (the device that plays vinyl) would usually cost around P6,000 to P8,000, and that doesn’t include speakers, which can cost at least another P5000. Then there is the vinyl record itself, which costs around P500 to P1500. You could say that converting to vinyl is a rich man’s game.
But Janna counters that while getting into vinyl requires a substantial amount of money, it is an investment worth making.
“You know it’s worth it since you’re spending for something you’ll have for the long run. You’ll have a tangible thing you’ll value and enjoy, and not just an mp3 file stored in your computer. I mean, wouldn’t it be so much more fun sharing an actual record rather than an mp3 file?” she explains.
The hipster misconception
The obsession with everything ‘vintage’ drives a lot of people to look towards vinyl as a preferred music listening method, and also, the going opinion is that it is the hipster crowd that is fuelling the vinyl resurgence.
But that is not the case, according to Janna. The resurgence stems from a desire to physically possess their music and the genuine belief that vinyl really does sound better than its digital counterpart. Whether or not they like The Smiths is complete happenstance.
Janna says, “That’s way wrong, [the idea] that only hipsters listen to it (vinyl). It’s a huge misconception.” While they do buy vinyl, hipsters are hardly the most numerous. It just so happens that hipsters tend to be more vocal about it than most people.
In other words, people don’t have to be a flannel-wearing Bon Iver enthusiast to appreciate the medium.
The vinyl hunt
They say that part of the thrill of vinyl collecting is the hunt. There is nothing like the feeling of going through piles and piles of records to find one particular title to make you feel like you’ve hit a goldmine. From commercially-promoted shops to hole-in-the-wall treasures, more and more stores are popping up like mushrooms after a heavy rain.
Satchmi is perhaps making the most waves in Manila’s record-junkie scene recently. Conveniently based in the new Megamall Fashion Hall, it is a lifestyle store that offers more than just records. Not only do they have ‘listening rooms’ and coffee, but they also sell journals, books, and their own turntables!
For those who don’t mind getting down and dirty in their vinyl expedition, there is the Vinyl Dump Thrift Store, which is now located in Cubao Expo. What started out as a humble swap meet between collectors and traders has since turned into a vinyl lover’s paradise.
For collectors who prefer to buy online, Happy Dads is a personal business of a passionate vinyl lover and has a wide array of choices that are more on the rare side. Another personal business that also caters to those who are into hard-to-find records is Tom’s Vinyl Shack, which is an exclusive Facebook group that is turning into a close-knit community in itself.
Other establishments have been gaining popularity through word-of-mouth, such as The Grey Market, Yesteryears Music Gallery and Vinyl Store, and Golden Days Records and Collectibles. Additionally, Heima, a home and lifestyle shop known for their quirky furniture, also has a variety of indie and classic records.
Vinyl, here and now
The times have been good to Manila’s vinyl community, as it’s been flourishing now more than ever. Janna thinks that the vinyl lifestyle has always been present, but it’s only recently that people have begun to take notice of its magic.
“Vinyl has never really left the [music] industry; it was really just pushed to the back of everyone’s minds, and now it’s starting to come back to everyone’s immediate consciousness,” says Janna.