Vinyl Records Vs Digital: No Vinyl? Are You Missing Out on Art?

So, what does Vinyl have over Digital?
I’ve read many articles on the superior quality of Vinyl over Digital and whether this is true or not – that’s not why I buy vinyl.

In terms of an Artistic medium, I think it’s a heavyweight. But is a vinyl record more of an art form than a digital copy?

Perhaps instinctively the answer most reasonable people would give to this is NO. Music is music, and what difference does the format make. Well I would argue that the digital music revolution has meant we’ve all lost a piece of Art from our lives.

Wikipedia and the Irish Art Encyclopedia have defined Art as: “Art is created when an artist creates a beautiful object, or produces a stimulating experience that is considered by his audience to have artistic merit.” From this definition I would say vinyl has 4 times the potential for Artistic influence than digital.

Digital: Music.
Vinyl Record & Sleeve: Music, Drawing/Painting, Conceptual art(written), Literature.

That’s got to be a good thing. Firstly I would like to explain why I added Conceptual art. Wikipedia has a section on “Conceptual art – Language and/as art”. I found this definition interesting;

“It is sometimes (as in the work of Robert Barry, Yoko Ono, and Lawrence Weiner) reduced to a set of written instructions describing a work, but stopping short of actually making it-emphasising that the idea is more important than the artifact.”

Surely then the sleeve with it’s written ideas and visually imagery goes far beyond that!

Gerry Raferty recently died, and buying a couple of his albums and reading the lyrics and looking at the truly Artistic covers conjured up a far better image of the man and his music than buying the same songs from an online Tunes store ever could have.

So does this all imply album sleeves are a work of Art regardless of whether you listen to the vinyl inside? I think the answer to this is yes and there are sites dedicated to the love of LP covers.

In terms of value, which although holds little weight in terms of Artistic merit. This is the holy grail for many collectors. A mint sleeve means multiplying the value potentially by 10’s if not 100’s.

I’m not anti-digital, I have an MP3 player, and I think it’s great. I have music on mp3 that I don’t have on Vinyl, and I don’t feel like it’s caused an artistic black hole in my soul. But I do feel we’re all missing something with a purely digital music collection. My appreciation for vinyl records is relatively recent, I grew up in the 80s when the tape was king (in many respects a digital style media). I started collecting vinyl and have since built up a collection of pieces that I consider to add something on top of the digital version I already had.

I had more Lennon on digital originally, but now the reverse is true. The simple reason for me is that I get more out of taking, for example, The John Lennon Collection vinyl out from it’s sleeve and inner picture sleeve and seeing the photos of John and imagining, for want of a better verb. The pictures force me to do that, the simple act of glancing at the sleeve as I take the record out forces me to do that. Like having a painting put in front of you, that has been picked out by the Artist to help you visualise the songs every time you select a new album on your MP3 player. Granted, if you’re jogging on the beach that wouldn’t be to helpful, there’s a time and a place. That’s really my point, when you really want to fully engage yourself in the musicians artistic experience, dust of that record player, read the sleeves, look at the cover and put a vinyl record on.

I studied Art at School and College and now own VinylVenue, an online record shop, which in no way makes me really qualified to comment on the subject. However, from everything I’ve read the definition of Art is even today still strongly disputed and subject to the observer, so I feel my opinion is as valid as the next Laymans!

I’d like this article to start a discussion, whether it’s on a digital site or the more traditional analog experience… down the pub.


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