Local music enthusiasts are revitalizing vintage music mediums as more and more Provo bands sell their music on vinyl records and tape cassettes.
As CD sales plummet, nearly every record label and band is releasing a vinyl version of their work out of necessity, according to Nellie Rajabi, writer for Indie Rock Reviews and former employee of Warner Brothers Records and Rhino Records.
Rajabi supports the resurrection of analog music mediums like vinyls and tapes because of their potential to feed “starving artists.”
“As far as tapes go, they’ve been an iconic part of the blooming music culture,” Rajabi said. “I’d argue they’re almost cool again, intriguing most music snobs, including myself, into aiding with their resurrection. It’s all been a beautiful movement that’s bridged the gap between fans and their favorite artists’ need to not be so ‘starving.'”
The local garage/pop punk band “Baby Ghosts” has sold both tape cassettes and vinyls. According to Katrina Ricks, bassist and vocalist, they first sold their music on cassettes because they were cheap and easy to press. The Baby Ghosts currently sell their music on vinyls, as well as CDs and digital downloads.
“CDs seem to be much more common, whereas tapes and vinyl can serve as a special artifact,” Ricks said. “Cassettes and vinyls give people a reason to own physical albums because they are unique. We always include a digital download with these, however, because most people still listen to music mostly in its digital form.”
Skylar Hansen, audio engineer and former producer at BYU Radio, described how digital recordings differ from analog. He explained that analog recording mediums, like vinyl, capture a full sound wave, making pure representations of the wave. Conversely, digital recordings do not capture the complete sound wave.
“Digital recording involves taking or sampling little sections. With CDs it does this 44,100 times per second,” Hansen said. “So if we recorded my voice and made it digital, you’d technically be hearing my voice broken up into many, many little pieces.”
However, Hansen claims the difference in sound quality often goes undetected by untrained ears.
“While it is possible for human ears to discern the difference between vinyls and CDs,” Hansen said, “I think most people don’t listen closely enough to distinguish between the two mediums. I think it’s just become a cool thing to listen to vinyl and tapes because it’s hipster and retro.”
As Hansen pointed out, it’s helpful to look beyond the technical aspects of this trend and to examine its cultural components.
Logan Havens, music enthusiast and photography major, noted possible cultural influences.
“I believe our current generation is responding to the culture of our childhood … (and) I think we are seeking authenticity,” Havens said. “I think records and cassette tapes are a movement back to authenticity. Sure, digitally you might have more control and be able to create cleaner and more dynamic sounds, but that isn’t what people are looking for. People are looking for a comfortable and authentic feel to their music.”
Haven also commented on a musician’s choice to record using analog methods.
“By choosing to use a vinyl or cassette tape to record music, the musicians are choosing to brand their music with a feeling of nostalgia,” Havens said. “Each medium speaks of a different time period.”
Ricks, of Baby Ghosts, explained that their audience plays a large role in what medium they release their music.
“Releasing music on cassettes and vinyl gives your band a more well-rounded feel,” Ricks said. “We always like having a lot of different types of merchandise on tour. You can appeal to all sorts of people, whether they love cassettes, mp3s or vinyl. It seems like people from different places and age groups are drawn toward different things.”
A single motivation underlying this trend remains to be found, since the analog audience varies. Rajabi said she feels some music enthusiasts have formed a genuine, nostalgic relationship with vinyl, whereas others are exploiting the trend for their image’s sake.
“Low-tech fetish hipsters … want to be riding the biggest wave of the revivalism of vinyl and cassettes,” Rajabi said. “They’re in it for vanity’s sake and embarrassing bragging rights of ‘I did it first.’ … As far as the band image goes, it’s more of a strong strategic move on their end. It’s mostly done for monetary gain than anything else.”