Vintage Vinyl on the Web

Collecting records is an activity linked in most folks’ minds with combing through dusty stacks in cramped storefronts or at garage sales. But there’s an alternative way to check out vintage vinyl, and I don’t mean record fairs (though those are cool, too). I’m talking about YouTube. The world’s most popular video-sharing site has become something of a magnet for music fans/collectors keen to share rare, out-of-print vinyl treasures with the world. Just type in the name of some obscure LP you’ve always wanted to hear; chances are someone has flipped it on their turntable, digitized the tracks on their computer, and posted the results on the ‘Tube.

YouTube being a video site, some minimal effort at visual accompaniment must be made. That’s why most posts include a photo of the LP cover or label, the better to give you a sense of its physicality — its vinylness — when listening. Some other YouTubers go so far as to make a video of the record itself playing on their turntable, a charmingly low-tech attempt to teleport you to the actual event.

I’ve spent loads of time listening to music in this manner, mostly due to YouTube’s Suggestions list, a column of related videos that runs down the screen’s right side. Once you’ve dug in, it seems there’s always some other compelling bit of exotica to check out.

Moving beyond YouTube, there are plenty of blogs run by erudite collectors who digitize their vinyl and post MP3s on a regular basis. Some sites even offer podcasts. I strongly recommend both The Rising Storm and Waxidermy.

Needless to say, unlike services such as Spotify, which floats artists $0.00029 per streamed song, sampling music in this manner doesn’t put cash into the hands of its creators. But for those eager to explore forgotten nooks in the library of recorded music, it’s a great way to experience stuff that’s been otherwise neglected or lost. Looked at from that perspective, collectors who digitize out-of-print vinyl and post it can be seen as doing both the artists and us a favor.