We live in the age of the cloud. For a monthly fee, entire discographies of musical recordings can now can be accessed from one of the many digital streaming subscription services available to consumers. It is no longer required of the music consumer, to hunt down their favorite recording on whatever archaic format (vinyl, CD, cassette, 8-Track, etc.) is required for playback; it’s all there for them: in the cloud.
No longer is it necessary for the music consumer to catalog all their music in alphabetical or chronological order on shelves bowing from the weight of their collections. All that is required now, is to simply type the name of the artist (or song) in a search bar and receive instant gratification of listening to almost any song ever recorded.
With the concept of owning nothing, but having access to everything becoming more prevalent in this cloud age, why then, would anyone want to own music in a physical media?
Why own a circular piece of vinyl embedded with audio grooves that requires a mechanical device to spin it at thirty- three and a third or forty- five revolutions per minute, plus require a tone arm with a diamond stylus to track the grooves, with hope that there is no dust, nor surface scratches to distract from enjoying the music?
Why own a shiny piece of plastic that revolves at breakneck speed requiring a laser beam to reflect off of the surface just to hear a song?
Why curate a library of music that takes up precious space, and must be easily accessible and in some sort of order, to find what they want to hear; when all they need to do is type a request for the desired information into a computer program?
These are all questions I pondered as hundreds of shoppers filled the Turk Theater on the University’s campus early one Saturday morning for the second annual WCSF Mega Music Rummage Sale.
Why are these people here to flip through thousands of vinyl albums, compact discs, cassettes, and almost every known recorded format when it’s all available to them at their finger tips on some portable electronic device?
The answer is (for many of the shoppers who rummaged for hours through boxes of donated, pre-loved music) that is was not only about the thrill of the hunt, but, more importantly, it was about the love of the physical medium.
Many commented how they just found something they didn’t know they wanted, but when they saw that intriguing album cover art, or read the informative liner notes on the back of an album, they knew they had to have it.
Some had to have the album because it brought back memories from their high school or college days when they would “hang out” in a basement listening to the album with their friends. Some simply wanted to have a memento from an important time in their life.
Whatever reason for their purchase (and there were hundreds of reasons in that room), all were reasons that meant something special to that person, and it could only be had by owning the physical item.
Despite the easy access to almost everything ever recorded via streaming, or owning a computer file that may soon be extinct depending on future hardware and software compatibility, the shoppers at our rummage sale were a sentimental bunch that understood the importance of permanency. A stream or an intangible computer file meant nothing to them despite it having the information that contained the soundtrack to a part of their life. What they wanted was the permanency offered from the physical item; the same way they wanted to hold on to their memories.