Andrew Eaton-Lewis: ‘I don’t buy vinyl often, but when I do I never regret it’

SUNDAY is vinyl-only day on BBC 6 Music. All the station’s DJs will be spinning actual, old school records instead of just pressing buttons – a rare occurrence since vinyl was phased out in favour of CDs two decades ago.

There should be some great music, given that those DJs include Jarvis Cocker, Don Letts, Cerys Matthews and Andrew Weatherall. Expect much discussion about the tactile pleasure of carefully placing records on a turntable, and endearing fluffs as the celebs fail to cue them up properly, or a scratchy old seven inch jumps mid-song.

In my home, every day is a vinyl-only day – the only CD player in the house is a battered old portable one in the kitchen that keeps skipping, otherwise it’s records all the way – so I love this sort of thing. It tends to be called nostalgia, but it has more to do with the way digital music fails to satisfy the human hoarding instinct. I don’t quite buy the argument that people continue to buy vinyl because it sounds better than mp3s; I think it’s more to do with the fact that, if you’re going to pay money for something, you want something physical, and aesthetically pleasing, to show for it – a job that CDs, overpriced and rarely packaged with much care, never quite managed.

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If vinyl leads the way in this, it’s partly just because no one has come up with anything better – although a few recent releases come close, such as Kristin Hersh’s Crooked, a hardback book with a digital code that gives you access to online content, or Natalie Merchant’s beautifully designed Leave Your Sleep album, with its exhaustive sleeve notes.

It is, of course, also to do with ritual. The very thing once seen as vinyl’s drawback – the fiddliness of putting it on a turntable, how easily it is damaged, the fact you have to get up every few minutes to change the record – is now part of its appeal. Digitalisation cheapened listening to music by making it too easy – where is the reward in anything if there is no effort? Vinyl gives music back its value by making you work for it.

It’s overpriced, probably. I paid £20 for Kate Bush’s new record at Christmas (for my wife, but partly for me too). Oddly, though, I didn’t feel ripped off, since I’d already listened to the whole album, leaked on YouTube, so knew I liked it. I don’t buy vinyl often, but when I do I never regret it. I’m not sure that’s a workable business model for a future music industry, but it works for me.