Once you get your hands on your first vinyl record, chances are you’re going to be hooked for life. I mean, at least that’s what happened to me after I got my grandfather’s old Beatles records.
And it seems I am not alone.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl album sales in the United States have grown for the 13th consecutive year, with its numbers now reaching its highest point since 1988. In 2018, 16.8 million LPs were sold in the United States, which translates to roughly 12 percent of album sales in the country – and that’s for the new pressings only. The market for secondhand records, according to online vinyl marketplace and cataloging service Discogs, has also grown exponentially, notching in 8,160,045 in unit sales for 2018 alone.
The same can be said for the local scene, as exemplified by the recent uptick in both the number of sellers, and artists who are now choosing to release new material on vinyl.
So, what’s a budding vinyl collector to do? Here are some tips to help you get started with vinyl:
Get your hands on a deck
There’s a lot of turntables available on the market right now, with options covering both ends of the spectrum.
If you’re in the market for a rig that you can easily set up in your dorm room or at a tiny nook in your apartment, there are good, all-in-one units like Satchmi’s popular Motorino line of portable suitcase-type players which — unlike the cheaper ones on the market — have features normally found on higher-end decks, such as removable cartridges and adjustable counterweights.
If you’re looking for a more robust rig, it’s best if you assembled your own stereo system composed of a turntable, a dedicated amplifier or receiver, and a good pair of speakers. Before you splurge on brand-new equipment however, take the time to browse for vintage offerings in online sales and in independent record shops. Not only are you assured of good deals, record and gear sellers will often set these up for you at no extra cost.
Right now, you can buy records at the click of a button but the truth is, nothing beats getting your hands dirty while crate-digging.
I mean, just imagine sifting and digging through boxes and crates at your local independent record shop (there are a lot in Makati Cinema Square and Cubao Expo!) for hours until you finally find the perfect record at the perfect price point. Take that, Amazon!
It goes without saying though that when you buy used goods, you have to be very critical when it comes to their condition. The same thing applies to used records.
While crate-digging, take the records out of their sleeves and check their surfaces for warps and deep, noticeable scratches. Ask the sellers or store clerks if you could try the vinyl out before paying for them. Trust me, the extra minutes you put in will be your primary defense against going home with a bag of scratched-up, unplayable vinyl. You’re welcome.
Handle with care
Records are delicate objects and it’s best if you handled them with the utmost of care.
Once you get home, take your records out and wipe them with some soft microfiber cloths in the direction of the grooves.This will help dislodge the dust from the surface, thus avoiding excessive, nasty pops and crackles. Found some pretty stubborn spots? Spray it with some water and isopropyl alcohol and the record will be as good as new.
Caring for your records doesn’t end with wiping them down — you also have to store them properly.
Store your records upright in a stable container and make sure they aren’t leaning on each other. This prevents building up excess pressure on the records which, if left unchecked, makes them more susceptible to warping.
Make It Rain (Responsibly!)
Let’s face it, records are expensive compared to other media, so it’s best if you only bought albums you actually like, instead of you know, getting dozens only to let their lot collect dust in a corner. Why not try collecting albums from your favorite artist’s discography? Or maybe, albums you liked back in your younger years?
PS: Spotify is your best friend. If you find an obscure album by an artist you like, or an album by one of their contemporaries that you still haven’t listened to, stream it first on your phone. If you liked half of the songs in it, then by all means get the album; if you didn’t, well, just leave it in the crate for another person to find.
TLDR: Only buy albums you wouldn’t mind listening to for hours on end para sulit.
Know who your local sellers are
Your local sellers and record store clerks are more than just shopkeepers displaying their wares.
Think of it this way: if you were in an RPG they’d be your resident merchant-cum-quest giver. Yes, they primarily sell the stuff you want, but they can also lead you to stuff you’ve yet to enjoy.
Talk to them once you’re done crate-digging. Ask about their music tastes, i.e. what albums they like, who their favorite artists are, and exchange stories about the hobby. Not only will you establish connections, they’ll also be able to help you fine tune your collections by directing you to artists and albums you might have overlooked, or maybe even give you first dibs when new stock comes in. Cool, amirite?
Attend record fairs
With the resurgence in vinyl’s popularity, it’s no surprise that record fairs and record-centric swap meets and tiangges are popping up across the metro: there’s the quarterly Kagatan in Cubao; there’s Satchmi’s annual Vinyl Day event; there’s Creekside Affair for those who live down South; and most importantly, there’s the local leg of the annual global Record Store Day celebrations.
Why attend all these? Well, let’s start with the fact that you’ll get to score records at marked-down prices (see Point 5) and you’ll also get to meet more local sellers and collectors to share the hobby with (see Point 6), not to mention that you’ll also get to enjoy musical performances and cool DJ sets during the events.
Provided you’ve prepared a budget, it’s a win-win situation, if you ask me.
Share deck pics
So you’ve assembled your stereo system, made a cool little space for your records. Snap a photo and show it off to the rest of the #VinylCommunity on social media. You know you want to.