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Vinyl, CD listeners feel connected through physical media

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Texture courtesy of Adobe Stock.

For WXYC graduate student DJ Luke Cimarusti, vinyl has a story to tell. When they buy a vintage record, they don't know how many people have owned it or how many stores it has been in.

"As I'm listening to it and I hear the crackles and the scratches, there's a sense of 'I'm not the first person to connect with this music,'" they said.

Today, listening to music is as easy as clicking a few buttons on a phone screen, but some listeners prefer the physical copies for a sense of nostalgia and intention — 2022 marked the 17th consecutive year of increased vinyl sales in the U.S., according to Luminate's U.S. Year-End Music Report.

The co-owner of All Day Records, Ethan Clauset, said the public's fascination with these forms of music has always been present.

All Day Records is located in Carrboro and opened a storefront in 2010. They primarily sell vinyl, along with CDs, tapes, stereo gear, books, magazines and occasionally some musical instruments. 

Clauset said that a tangible copy of music carries more weight in a person’s life than digital music, both physically and conceptually.

Vinyl holds memories, Clauset said. When someone listens to vinyl, they create associations with the physical cover art, the feel of the paper sleeves or the weight of the vinyl, he said.

President of UNC's Albums and Record Society, Nerrissa Crawford, said that listening to a physical copy of music can evoke a different feeling than merely listening to music on a phone.

“I think there's something really special about having a physical copy because it represents to me where music really originated and how it was formed and articulated," Crawford said. 

The Albums and Record Society is a student-run organization that discusses their thoughts on a chosen album and makes observations about the artist's perspective and process. In addition to weekly meetings, they host special events periodically.

“We did have a vinyl show-and-tell a couple of weeks ago,” Crawford said. “So everyone bought a physical copy of their favorite vinyl and we just sat around talking about why it was our favorite vinyl."

Another WXYC student DJ, Asiah Graham, has a record and CD collection of her own.

“I feel like with physical media, for me, it's a bit nostalgic because growing up when I was a kid, I had CDs and things like that," Graham said. "Obviously it became less common, but I feel that there's a special kind of connection to the music when you're holding it physically as you can see the cover art and different artistic choices with the music." 

Cimarusti has noticed a rise in record collecting amongst younger generations. They worked at a record store for two years and within that time, they said they saw multiple sale spikes, price raises and heavy foot traffic through the store, all so that a customer could get their hands on a physical copy of music.

They said the inconvenience and intentionality of choosing an album to put on a record player is part of what makes listening so enjoyable. Choosing to go out of the way to buy an album, they said, provides support for artists and displays personal expression.

“You don't really have any control over what music you are given or algorithmically told to listen to, so I think there's also taking control back into your music library and that's something that you build, something that you develop," Cimarusti said.

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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