If Music Brings You Peace, Here's How To Start A Vinyl Collection

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When it comes to most types of technology, advancement is a one-way march headed forward, leaving old formats in the dust. For instance, very few people would choose to give up their smartphone for an old rotary landline or brick-like Nokia. But when it comes to music, progress isn't so linear. Yes, we've moved on from 8-tracks, cassettes, and even CDs to embrace a mostly-digital audio experience. But purists still swear by one of music's vintage formats: vinyl.

When the vinyl resurgence started gaining steam in the early 2000s, it may have seemed like a niche, hipster interest. But now, years later, it's fair to say that vinyl has legitimate staying power. In fact, vinyl records have seen increasing U.S. sales for 16 consecutive years, culminating in a massive 41.3 million LP and EP records sold in 2022 (per Statista). If anything, vinyl is becoming more and more popular as we advance into the 21st century.

And this surge of popularity isn't tied to nostalgia from retirees. The Conversation reports that Gen Z is the number one demographic snapping up vinyl, with most sales coming from current musical artists rather than throwback albums. So whether you're more likely to grab the newest Taylor Swift release or a classic Fleetwood Mac compilation, vinyl records are a perfect medium for music lovers of any age.

All that said, it can be intimidating to jump into the world of vinyl records for the first time. They may seem mysterious or hard to care for. But this timeless music format couldn't be more beginner-friendly. Here's what to do if you've been thinking about starting a vinyl collection of your own.

Consider the many benefits of vinyl

Before you start your own vinyl collection, you might be debating whether or not it's really worth your time and money. It can help to consider the benefits of vinyl records, and where they fit into your lifestyle. First and foremost, there's the debate over sound quality. While the experts at SoundGuys have pretty unequivocally proven that there's no advantage to vinyl over digital tracks, they acknowledge that some people prefer the warm imperfection of listening to music through a physical medium, while mp3s can come across as too sterile and perfectly mixed.

Listening to vinyl can also foster a deeper connection with your favorite music. Consider the soothing, ritualistic process of putting on a record versus queuing up a digital playlist. Plus, vinyl encourages listeners to experience complete albums as the musicians intended, so you're hearing their true vision from start to finish.

Digital music also underplays one charming feature that used to be central to physical music formats: album art. Vinyl records are practically conversation pieces with their eye-catching covers, not to mention the inclusion of lyrics, credits, and sometimes special extras like notes from the musicians. You can even use vinyl albums as art. Just frame certain record sleeves and mount them on your wall for an instantly retro-chic aesthetic.

Finally, don't overlook that some vinyl records are genuine collectibles that can retain or even appreciate in value. It can be a little tricky to guess which ones will be goldmines, so don't make this your only reason to start a vinyl collection. But consider whether picking up certain albums like limited pressings or special editions might be a good addition to your vinyl catalog.

Make a list of equipment and vinyl albums to buy

If you've evaluated the pros of starting a vinyl collection and decided this vintage medium is right for you, it's time to get the ball rolling. Start by investigating what audio equipment you need to play your vinyl. Turntables and record players come in all sorts of setups and price points, from inexpensive, briefcase-style players like a classic Portable Suitcase Record Player from Victrola to sleek, high-end players like a Premium Turntable from Marantz. Depending on the player you choose, you may also need speakers or even an amplifier, so be sure to double-check the specs.

Next comes the fun part — deciding which albums you want to kick off your collection. As a music enthusiast, you probably want to start with a few personal favorites that will give you maximum enjoyment over repeated listens. Consider albums that you'd love to absorb in one focused sitting, share with friends during a party, or put on as the perfect background music for your daily life. After all, spinning the right record can define the atmosphere of your next get-together and even make washing dishes after dinner a little less of a chore.

If you're interested in building value into your record collection, you may also want to keep an ear to the ground for any special editions that will make good investments. Even if your vinyl collection is still in its infancy, you don't want to miss any limited-time offerings and end up kicking yourself later.

Make space for your vinyl collection and record player

As with any new hobby, collecting vinyl will leave a footprint in your home, so clear some space for your new records and turntable. You'll probably want to place them somewhere central and accessible. Consider where you'll get the most use from your record player and keep your vinyl nearby. You won't want to go traipsing halfway across your home to retrieve an album.

As for vinyl storage ideas, there's one rule to follow above all else: Store your records vertically, not stacked atop one another. The weight of stacking records can warp the vinyl, making them both easier to scratch and harder to play. Happily, there are plenty of clever vinyl record storage solutions to try instead. Consider propping your vinyl in cube shelving or buying dedicated record boxes. Crates are also a popular choice, whether old wooden orchard crates or latticed plastic milk crates, but these can be a bit rough on the edges of your record sleeves.

To ensure that your records remain in peak condition, it's also important to keep them away from extreme temperatures. Store them in a temperature-controlled room, away from heat sources like radiators, fireplaces, or stoves. Damp can also ruin your record sleeves, so avoid stashing your less-used vinyl in attics, sheds, or basements that can be affected by the elements.

When it comes to organizing your growing record collection, do whatever makes sense to you! Many collectors prefer to arrange their vinyl alphabetically by artist name, genre, or even record label, but there's no hard and fast rule about this. You're the one who'll be flipping through records to find the one you want to play, so feel free to arrange your vinyl according to your own unique system.

Learn how to care for vinyl records

To get the utmost joy and value out of your new vinyl collection, you'll want to give each record the longest lifespan possible. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to caring for vinyl for ongoing quality. Probably the most important method is to give your records a periodic cleaning. Even if you store them properly, your vinyl will gradually attract dust and dirt when taken out for a listen. But not any old rag and cleanser is safe for the delicate grooves that imprint your vinyl with music.

To clean your records gently and safely, wipe with a soft microfiber cloth or use a carbon-fiber brush like the Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush. The feathery bristles will sweep away dust without damaging the topography of your vinyl. Give your records a quick brush before each listen to keep them in pristine condition.

If you have a record with more serious damage — say, one that you inherited or bought second-hand that's been wasting away in a dirty corner for decades — then you may need to run it through a record-cleaning machine. However, this can be costly to purchase, so consider whether you'll get extensive use out of it. In a pinch, Record Head suggests that you can instead spread a thick coat of wood glue across the surface of a record and leave it to dry for 24 hours. When you pull the glue off, it should take any grime away with it.

Find places to buy vinyl records near you

Feel oh-so-ready to start your journey as a vinyl collector? Then the only thing left to do is to locate places to buy records in your area. With the past decade's renewed interest in vinyl, many music stores stock records as part of their normal inventory. But you may also find shops specializing in vinyl, especially as other formats like CDs disappear from shelves.

If you're in a more remote area, it could be difficult to find a reliable record shop near you. And if your musical tastes aren't mainstream, they may not even stock the albums you're looking for. In this case, don't be afraid to explore online retailers. There are plenty of sites selling new or pre-loved vinyl, from Amazon to eBay. By widening your search into various corners of the internet, you may even be able to find rare or out-of-date albums that your collection's been missing.

When purchasing used records from any retailer, whether in-person or online, just be sure to do a little due diligence and investigate for signs of scratching or dirt. If possible, check the record for damage yourself, or ask an employee to take it out for you. Some local shops may even let you test-play the record in-store, or offer cleaning services. Online, look for listings with good-quality photos that show the actual record, not just the sleeve and album art. Just keep these tips in mind, and before you know it, you'll be a vinyl expert with the collection to prove it!