Today I bought some music on vinyl for the first time in at least five years, probably closer to ten.

I stopped buying vinyl because CDs, and then digital files, were infinitely more convenient to play on a computer, MP3 player or phone – the only ways I’ve wanted to listen to music over the past decade. My account has a lot to do with that – being able to log and share my music taste reaps so many benefits in terms of new music discovery that I like to obsessively log every single song I choose to listen to.

In fact, I discovered my favourite band, The Fiery Furnaces, via and I’ve since bought just about everything released by the band and its two members – brother and sister Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger.  So, it’s no surprise that my first vinyl purchase in a decade is Cut It Out, a vinyl-only solo album by Matthew Friedberger.

Cut It Out is the fourth of six releases from Friedberger this year that will only be available on good old fashioned 12 inch plastic. I resisted buying the previous three – a subscription to the US-produced series was simply too expensive, and I figured that the individual albums would eventually be available digitally, even if I had to wait a year or too.

Then recently, I stumbled upon one of the vinyl-only tracks on YouTube and realised I’d been a bad fan – I’d missed out on multiple albums worth of material from a brilliant artist who (when I met him at a Fiery Furnaces gig a couple of years ago) had told me that further solo albums were on the cards – the least i could do was buy them.. I contacted Thrill Jockey, the US label releasing the series, to check – would it be released digitally in the future?

Thrill Jockey’s David Halstead replied to the negative:

Unfortunately, no. The subscription (or trying to get each individual record in the shops over there) is the only way to get the music. That was intentional to preserve the special aspect of the collection.”

So, having missed albums 1 to 3, I’ve bought number 4 on import from my local record shop. I’ve no idea how I’ll listen to it (I imagine that a USB turntable is a purchase in my future at some point, so I can get the music into the format I want it in), but something struck me as I handed over the money to pay for the album:

As much as I love Matthew Friedberger’s music and want to pay for it to help support him financially, isn’t it incredibly arrogant to release an album on vinyl only?

 The idea of listening to music on a record player alone at home or in a small group of friends isn’t just old fashioned – it’s positively obsolete. These days I want to be able to listen to my music wherever I am, to share what I listen to on my profile or via Facebook’s new social music features – listening without the flexibility and social dimension that digital formats provide is at odds with what music is today.

Sure it keeps the music special, but six albums’ worth of music so special that only a few thousand people will ever own it? That’s the musical artist equivalent of being Amish.

I’ll still buy albums number 5 and 6 of course (1 to 3 are sold out) but I’ll do it through gritted teeth. The music may be great, but to ignore the advantages of the 21st Century just to to ‘keep something special’ just irks me.


  • Well, is painting obsolete as an artistic medium just because Photoshop and GIMP now exist? Any given medium can be a current medium if someone wants to use it for their art.IMO it’s not arrogant to release music on vinyl only. Bloody-minded and awkward maybe, but that’s what artists are for.Nobody is making you participate in the art and the experience the artist wants to offer, you’ve made that choice yourself… I guess the band want to include the possibility of the fan meeting up with an old friend who has a turntable to enjoy the experience that way. And I guess you could give that a go and see what happens. Embrace the serendipity in a different way!

  • It is arrogant but something that musicians can get away with, I think. The only problem I see is that for you to listen to it, you had to listen to it on YouTube. There is a) nothing stopping you from converting that video into MP3 or b) doing as you said earlier and buying a USB turntable to convert it.You probably won’t share it but someone else may do, not everyone buys into playing a part in the artist’s/label’s vision. However, having never heard of the guy (or the duo), I searched and it appears he is obscure enough to remain off of ThePirateBay and other file-sharing websites – perhaps it’s working for him!

  • I agree that it’s obsolete, but I’ve had fun with it, recording the music via a turntable I bought. If you want the first three records after you buy the hard copy, I can send you digital versions. But you should buy them first! 😀 Hahaha. I am in love with this series. Especially Old Regimes.

  • It’s not arrogant. It might be arrogant, or at least group-think-thoughtless to assume that there’s nothing to be gained from approaching something you enjoy because of its ease from an angle of assumed inconvenience. I’m not an audiophile. The thing listening to music on a turntable gives you is a reminder that Apple/Android manufacturers/whoever made your device & your ISP did not invent and does not own the copyrights to any of the music it freely provides you with. The tech companies and their engineers promote something called Free Culture – this is code for “corporate piracy,” and if there’s one thing that trickles down, it’s an atmosphere of amorality, ahistoricality and a complete lack of long-term thinking or planning.There is absolutely nothing easy about making, recording, distributing or producing good art. The tech companies have created the “cult of progress,” which includes an ever darkening web of bizarre, possibly illegal (depending on your region) invasions of privacy and the good-consumer/bad-citizen concept of ultra-disposability. Whatever Matt was thinking, beyond preserving the specialness of the package, it’s a reminder: this stuff is heavy. There certainly is an art to software engineering, but it ain’t music.It’s not Amish. If anything, it’s civil disobedience, and if you bought the subscription, it’s actually eight records – two you can’t even buy in the store separately. Because – if everything is valueless and all resources are limitless, what’s the larger meaning of obscurity vs. easy access? March onward with the tech companies; vinyl sales are increasing. Digital access means nothing; Spotify and MOG offer you the equivalent of storing your home movies on a DVR your cable company owns. And even though I’m not an audiophile, the shit that iTunes/Apple sells or the mp3s we all download sound like _shit_.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.