Physical Media: Why and Where You Can Get It

Posted on February 16, 2012 by


By Kyle Taylor

Vinyl and even compact discs may seem like physical medias that are making their transition into the histories of musical and artistic culture. It is presumed that records are a thing of the past and that the modern influx of mp3 media is the beacon of the musical future. It may, in fact, be true. After all, digital files are incredibly accessible and handy when one is on-the-go or plugged into a computer. So why should one bother with the inconvenience and cost of vinyl records and CD’s in such a modern age?

The answer to this question depends on the perceptions people have with music. For some people, music is a sound,  a noise to fill the void of silence while walking to class or going for their morning run through the park. For others, it is an art form that is to be treated with great care.

Modern culture has become accustomed to the simplicity and often free access to music by means of the digital world. In fact, the National Public Media research group concluded that not only is most music today digital, but 58% of it is pirated. With piracy on the rise, the question(s) must be asked: Is music art- Should it be free, and is the hardcopy culture obsolete?

Dmitri Beruti, a senior philosophy major at Assumption College, explained that “music is (in fact) an art, but that I believe it is free. It should be an art that is available to everyone.” Art is a vague and widely used term that offers different interpretations for everyone. In this light, there is no price that can be put on its existence. If art is freedom of expression, it should be free. If it is expressed, then it will be received by whatever means possible by the audience at hand. Considering the great waves of change concerning music and its acquisition, this view most certainly holds popularity with the up-and-coming generations.

There is, of course, the objectionable side to the digital and often costless world of music. In a blog post authored Brian Fallon. Front Man of the Rock/Punk outfit, The Gaslight Anthem, the subject of piracy was addressed when he stated that “it’s taking the magic out of music. There’s no surprise and no mystery of art when people take it upon themselves to do (these) things.”

Although not all music acquired online is stolen or shared, it still requires one to ask: What is art, and what connections do we make to it on a personal level?

Mike Penney, a Worcester native and musician, explained the reasons why he favors physical music, particularly vinyl, in an age of the digital file. “When you own vinyl or physical music, you can say that you truly appreciate it as art and music. It is something I can look at on my shelf and say, ‘I actually own that.’ On a computer, It may be lost if something were to happen to the drive.”  He also emphasized the completeness of an album by touching upon the aesthetics of visual music. “What about the artwork? It really helps tell the whole story of the album.”

There is an essential element lost, or so it seems, in the purely digital world of music. The “crackle and groove” found in vinyl records makes music more personal and ultimately of a higher value. The purely digital element takes the thrill out of peering through the record bins that were recently dug out of dusty attics by people who long ago sold off their players. There is a newly developed void that makes the whole art sifting process far too easy. So much energy truly goes in to the creation and display of an album. In the end, it becomes a piece; a truly finished product. Digital music may be the way of the future, but for some the past is the present.

For those longing for a vinyl or used CD fix in the digital age, there are local options. Ina Purvins, a Cambridge native and vinyl merchant of more than twenty years, recently opened Beech Tree Records and Books on Rt. 140 in West Boylston. She made her return to the business emphasizing that she “missed the people, especially with records and books, you get a lot of interesting folks coming through.”

When asked about what makes vinyl so timeless, she explained that “when somebody brings in their old record collection, like an old country-bluegrass collection assembled throughout the years, it has a sort of history to it.” The soul found in music is often accompanied by the excitement of finding and holding something real and new. That feeling in art is slowly slipping away in today’s time.

Folk, bluegrass, punk, blues, and other abundant collections and often rare gems can be found, with enough sifting and searching, throughout Beech Tree. For those on a budget, the dollar bin is home to a great variety of used records.

If digital has left you unsatisfied, this shop is a good place to affordably start building an arsenal of records. Music is, in fact an art and of course it is never too late to experience the world of physical media.


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