Music technology may come and go, but when something great comes along, it tends to stick around for a while. That’s been the case with vinyl in recent years—although CD and digital sales have been plummeting recently, vinyl sales rose by almost 26 percent last year, according to BuzzAngle Music. With so much interest in LPs, are there advantages to spinning vinyl for DJs? Here’s a run-down of some of the pros and cons.
Pro: The Sound
Most vinyl proponents say that they spin records for one simple reason: because they sound better. Yes, LPs might not be as technically accurate as a good WAV file, but there’s something about that vinyl warmth that just can’t be replicated.
Con: The Sound
While vinyl might sound better to some people’s ears, the truth is that there are downsides to the vinyl sound as well. When it comes to music that was invented in the digital age, pre-digital technology simply has a hard time keeping up sometimes; a high-energy EDM genre like dubstep, for example, with its extreme highs and lows, presents a major challenge for the mechanics of vinyl playback.
For turntablists and hip-hop DJs, vinyl is essential for the art of scratching. Of course, using LPs isn’t the only way to scratch—digital vinyl systems and CDJ controllers also have scratch pads, but for turntable purists, there’s nothing like the feel of the real thing.
(Check out this free lesson from DJ Kenya on 4 essential vinyl transitions http://spin-academy.com/lesson/4-essential-transitions-cutting-fading-spinbacks-and-rewinds/)
Con: Transportation, Storage, and Organization
If you’re a DJ, you’ve probably got hundreds if not thousands of tracks in your music library. Translate all of those tracks into LPs and singles, and that’s a lot of vinyl to haul around. Then, when it comes time to find that perfect track, you can’t just type the name of the track into a search bar on your computer—you have to have a system that allows you to physically locate the thing. That’s not to mention all of the storage space you’ll need…
Digital DJ systems are full of visual elements—waveforms, meters, touchscreens, and so on. With vinyl, all you have to look at is your turntables. That means you rely less on your eyes and you’re forced to use your most valuable musical tool: your ears.
Con: Expense and Availability
Finding the tracks you want on vinyl isn’t always easy, and when you do find the tracks, you can bet they’ll cost more than a $0.99 download on iTunes.
While records take more effort to search out, that effort can lead to new discoveries. With digital downloads, you can stay within your own comfort zone all the time, but with vinyl, you have to actually go to record stores and talk to people in order to get new music. These connections can lead to plenty of valuable new discoveries that you never would have happened upon if you relied solely on digital downloads.
There’s enough evidence on either side to convince anyone that vinyl for DJs is either a good idea or a terrible one. Ultimately, choosing vinyl for DJs does come with some drawbacks, but for those purists out there, all of the problems associated with vinyl simply fade away when they put on a record and hear that sound crackle to life.
If you’re interested in learning more about vinyl for DJs, check out the video courses at SpinAcademy.com. For only $19.95/month, you’ll get unlimited access to lessons like our complete scratching course taught by Mat the Alien, as well as tons of other lessons on everything to do with DJing in both digital and analog systems.