Music mediums progress towards intangible files

Samantha Stulen | Staff Writer

From vinyl to MP3, the looks and sounds of music have been revolutionized, as well as the convenience of obtaining music. Senior Jonathan Balmer said having an MP3 player has allowed him to gain access to a multitude of songs. Buying a few albums and being stuck with songs he does not enjoy is no longer routine.

“Before, you had to look up review [for a certain album and buy] maybe one or two albums; now you can pick one single you really like,” Balmer said.

According to Balmer, even the music industry has made adjustments for customers’ music devices.

“My favorite source to use is Amazon MP3, because before you would use iTunes or another service, and you might be tied down to the device you could use because of digital rights management,” Balmer said. “Now, since the music industry has been more open about accepting the digital age, you can now use an MP3 on any device you want.”

Balmer also said that this advantage allows him to listen to music on the music device he has now and in the future.

Balmer said that media is becoming increasingly digitized and gaining music to burn to physical copies will become the norm.

“I know people who cling to their DVDs and books because they like being able to hold physical objects,” Balmer said. “They [think that] if [their] hard drives crash and something happens and everything’s gone, [they] can keep this physical object. The future would have mostly digital distribution, with people making physical copies burning to a disc, just so they can feel more comfortable, as a backup; [obtaining music] digitailly and making backups is the future.”

Senior Megan Gamm is an owner of the iPod, but is also a connoisseur of vinyl.

“I feel like [records] bring back the good ol’ days,’” Gamm said. “I imagine myself in [the decade of the record]. Plus some of the stuff I do have on records, I can’t really find [in] digital music.”

Balmer said that the MP3 is customizable and therefore easier, but Gamm said she disagrees.

“I have thousands of songs on my iPod, and I don’t want to sit there and put my music together,” Gamm said. “When I have it all on one record player, I can just pop that in and go to town.”

The vinyls also have nostalgic appeal, according to Gamm: she said she is more attached to her vinyls than her music files on her iPod. If a person loses music on his or her iPod, it is retrievable. When a record player is damaged, then it is irreplaceable.

“[There is] a lot more history to [record players] than digital music, which also means a lot more [value] to me,” Gamm said. “Let’s say I lost all my music on my iPod. I would be more okay with that than all my records breaking; I can always fix that if it’s digital. [Since] records are disappearing, they mean a lot to me.”

Spanish teacher Debbie Perry said the hardest thing about listening to records when she was younger was the structural fragility of vinyls.

“Storing [vinyls] in your home and scratching them every time you’d use them was a nightmare,” Perry said. “Literally, it was a needle going around in a circle, so if you bumped that, it scratched your whole [record]; it was dead after that. It would never play the same again.”

The portability of records was also difficult, and the risk of scratching increased, Perry said.

“[The] room for messing [vinyls] up is huge,” Perry said. “If you brought them over to a friend’s house or to a party it [meant] bringing a big armful of music. It would get banged around and there it goes — you may not have a record anymore.”

Since then, the vinyls have been replaced by the 8-track and cassettes, to CDs, to the MP3 player. Perry has gone from records to cassettes to the iPod and has witnessed the accessibility of music change.

“A radio was really it, [as far as music mediums],” Perry said. “When our family got this big stereo, a piece of furniture [that played] records, and then I got my own portable one.”

Perry, as a girl, had a 33” record player: a smaller, plastic record player that had a small record diameter. Perry said she remembers all of the modifications that needed to be in place for her to listen to albums.

“They would sell 33[-inch players], a single,” Perry said. “A record has a hole in the middle. That record player was based on an album and you would have to modify it for a smaller record, like the 33 would be a single. . . .They were fun, and they were all different colors, and you would have to stick an insert into the 33; they didn’t make 33s with the hole that fit the record player.”

After a 33-inch, Perry said 8-track tapes and cassette players were popular because they were an add-in feature for vehicles. According to Perry, in the early ‘80s the CDs were something no one had seen or used before, but only on walkmans.

“[In the] early 80s they started coming out with these discs, the CDs, and it was like, ‘Wow, how do you play this thing?’” Perrysaid. “And playing it on a walkman was the new thing. So, that changed from something being either a piece of furniture in your house or [in] your vehicle to [being] portable.”