Why Vinyl is a Better Format for Listening to Music Than Streaming [Opinion]


By Jack Cleveland, North Star Writer

If you look around the hallway at school, most if not every person wearing headphones is using a streaming service. Whether it be Spotify, Apple Music or Soundcloud, streaming services are the cheapest, quickest and undoubtedly the most convenient way to listen to music today. So, why would anyone want it to be different?

There are many reasons why someone may choose not to use a streaming service. There’s sound quality differences, more benefits towards the artist and a feeling of pride when one is in a conversation about an album and they can say, “Yeah, I have that one on vinyl.”

First, sound quality. While a lot of people don’t pay any mind to the sound quality of their music, it’s there. For example, on Spotify, all the song files have been compressed to make the song smaller and able to be played back faster and easier. This compression process is what makes your music sound different on your phone than it does on vinyl. There is more flexibility to how much content you can put onto a 12-inch record than there is for a single song on a cell phone or computer since streaming services have a predetermined amount of space a song can take up. Compression reduces your music’s dynamic range: the variation between the song’s loudest parts and its quietest parts.

Second, benefits toward the artist. Everyone knows the artists we look up to are pretty financially successful, but we never think about how the money actually gets to them. If an artist is signed to a label, they own the rights to the music and, therefore, they decide where and who the money goes to. The artist’s management, their label and anyone else involved in the production of the song or album in question is going to get a cut out of the total profit from the song. If you listen to this song on Spotify once, an independent artist without a label or any collaborators makes about  $0.0044. Now to make minimum wage off that one song it will need to be played 366,000 times. Yeah, that’s a lot. Now imagine someone huge like Playboi Carti. Currently his song “Magnolia” has 342,248,579 plays on Spotify. Doing the math, Carti and his management have made approximately 1.5 million dollars off that song’s Spotify streams alone. Physical sales are another story. If someone releases their album to record stores on standard 12-inch LP’s, those records are going to retail for around $20-$25. Let’s use Prince’s “Purple Rain” for this example. Currently, the album is at 25 million record sales worldwide. A rough estimate for the profit of that album is around $562.5 million. So, it’s obvious to see that if you can get your album in stores and people are buying it, the profit will be much higher.

Finally, the pride that you feel when you own a record. There’s something about listening to an album on a streaming service, falling in love with it and then going to a record store and making the commitment to spending the money on it. It can make the album resonate in a different way once you can physically hold it, look at any exclusive cover art or listen to any exclusive songs that only came out on the album’s physical copy.

All in all, whether you’re streaming your music or listening to all your favorite records, music is music. While streaming’s convenience and ease of access makes it a rational choice for the casual music listener, vinyl has higher sound quality, record sales are more beneficial to artists and it makes you feel much cooler.