I buy music. I buy a lot of music. Frequently labeled as a sucker by those who never pay for any music, I’m still buying music. Most of what I buy comes from small, local record shops. I spend several thousand dollars every year buying new music. Mostly I buy vinyl LPs, but I also buy music in other formats. Most of what I buy is new, but I also frequent ancient small shops that sell collectible older recordings. I buy 45s, 33s, 78s, and I’d buy cylinder recordings if any of the shops I visit sold them. I’m saying this because musicians and shop owners need to know there are people like me in the world, and I’m not alone! People like me feel a direct connection to the music we love, and are willing to pay for it precisely because we think about the artists who make the music we love, and because we feel a special bond with the small retailers who work so hard curating their inventories, finding us the treasures we seek. I think being a recording artist must be the highest artistic calling ever, and the artifacts of their creation are irresistible.
Music, for me, is life. It’s a spooky cool combination of personal experience, emotional confluence with another’s life and art, poetry, visual art, storytelling, and… communion. A vinyl record is like a sculpture that makes sound happen when you put it on a turntable. Think about it! It’s sound frozen inside a vinyl sculpture. The jackets are like books, often with thousands of details written down about the bands, the songs, the history, pictures, and the endlessly evolving processes of making records. Music released as an object is spiritual and when it’s done right, it transforms everything in your life: my attitudes about my own life, how I want to live my life, and how I want to fit into my world are all shaped by music and recording artists. Music makes me laugh. Music makes my heart ache to the point I cry. Music makes me feel. Music makes me care. I play music and make connections in my mind that I simply cannot make without it. That’s value worth paying for.
Not all music fans steal music from the internet, regardless of what some record executives say (to justify, I might add, more often than not, their refusal to pay their artists any royalties). I canceled my Spotify account because they don’t treat musicians fairly, either. Instead, I spend my days in my studio surrounded by my precious vinyl records, books about music, CDs, posters, old radios, old stereo gear, everything related to the music “industry.” Everywhere I rest my eyes, I’m looking at an object related to music and its history. And I feel… grateful. Every artist I see perform live, if I get a chance to meet them after their set at their merch tables, I say thank you. And I mean it. I even buy second copies of LPs I already own if that’s all they have for sale on their merch tables, just to leave a little extra money with the band. True story.
Vinyl records represent the ultimate freedom in music for me because when I purchase one, I can enjoy it on my own, for years and years. If I can get a signed copy of a record, it assumes a position of high honor on my shelves. I can play my records, in any order I choose, and my playing remains personal, where I can take time to experience the truth behind real creatively. I’m proud to buy records. Of course, I have no idea if all the money is getting back to the recording artists, but I want artists to know that I care, and I happily pay for the pleasure I get from their remarkable work.
I don’t feel like a sucker. I hope both recording artists and small record-shop owners feel just a little of my devotion. I pay… because I love.