In its latest issue, Record Collector has sought to identify a hundred records that show “investment potential”.
The cover boasts “The 100 Best Music Investments” and “How Your Vinyl Can Make You Money In 2021”.
This is no bad thing. After all, we could all do with a few extra quid, if only to spend on more records.
The Record Collector Magazine article finds records from newer artists with limited vinyl runs (Sault), rising artists with lesser known early LPs (Phoebe Bridgers, Little Simz), limited runs of canonical artists (Bowie’s V&A orange vinyl “Heathen” – only 500 copies pressed) and even Sainsbury re-issues of Madonna and Kylie albums, among many others. It’s the vinyl equivalent of a Financial Times stock-picking article.
Who wouldn’t want some expert opinion on which records you could buy now that might appreciate in value? After all, history tells us there is potential jeopardy in such things. Tastes and fashions have changed through the years – for example many Elvis Presley LPs that may have looked like solid investments in the 1970’s are now cluttering charity shops as Elvis’ influence and appeal has lessened.
A close read of the article may evoke many emotions in the reader. The first response may be that of a cold blooded capitalist.
You may feel the need to look up many of the records online to see whether you can find bargains online. (Don’t bother, I tried. You can’t).
The second emotion may be of Record Collector’s Angst, a phenomenon well recognised by record collectors.
It’s the feeling you get when you see the Kylie LP that you didn’t buy for £20 at Sainsbury’s in 2018 because, well, why would you have bought a Kylie LP back then, is now fetching £100, and a similarly passed-over Madonna one in coloured vinyl and which didn’t feel like a high priority at the time, is selling for £50.
The feeling isn’t helped by knowing the Bob Stanley compilation you did pick up (okay, “I picked up”) is still worth no more than the £20 you (okay, “I”) paid for it.
There is probably a German word for the feeling of baffling regret upon seeing those records you were in a position to buy but had absolutely no interest in and did not buy, appreciate in value, and apparently at the expense of the records you did buy. It’s effectively the record collecting market laughing at your poorly performing choices.
You may then look up the other items on the 100 list to find they are all, in turn, either prohibitively expensive or unavailable. Or unavailable except when prohibitively expensive. That will give rise to the third emotion of frustration that you have already missed out on the Great Vinyl Gold Rush. People looking at the property pages of twenty year old newspapers often have similar feelings.
Another thought that may flicker across the mind of the seasoned record collector is that all of this buying records for monetary gain is all just a bit exhausting, pointless and well, not really much fun.
Is this the future of vinyl? As speculative artefacts and collectibles? As “assets”?
My Bob Stanley compilation LPs may not have appreciated in value but the songs they contain are amazing and varied and wonderful and…well, surely only accountants get excited about assets and capital gains?
One comment in the article – about Bob Dylan’s latest LP, “Rough and Rowdy Ways” – was revealing. “Buy multiple copies – just don’t open or play them” suggested RC. “Buy a CD for that or just stream”. It comes to something when Record Collector Magazine is recommending not actually playing records.
Where’s the fun in that? Buying things to keep them in shrink wrap is what parents used to do to a sofa in the sixties and seventies. Comic collectors did it in the eighties. Haven’t we all moved on? Buying records for their investment potential is not collecting, it’s speculating. Might as well buy Dutch tulip bulbs, or Bitcoin. Or an ISA.
Our loved ones may disagree, but surely a record collection is more interesting than a stock portfolio?
Okay, people have many motives for collecting or accumulating records, and we don’t want to be the gatekeepers of how they enjoy them. If you want to buy records without playing them, it’s your money. Collecting likes on Instagram as well as records isn’t a crime against humanity.
We can stroke our chins and say it’s only about the music, but we can also acknowledge a little bit of the appeal of vinyl is not just the catch – it’s the thrill of the chase. Not just limited editions, and unusual variants, but the differences in packaging, and the rare seventies pressings of obscure bands or singers. It’s nice when we own a record that is worth more than we paid for it. And if people thought collecting all ten-or-whatever-it-was different coloured variants available for McCartney III was great fun, then good luck to them. Instagram would be all the poorer without them, perhaps.
But having said all this, the overwhelming emotion you might feel after reading the Record Collector article is how boring it would be if all anyone did was collect records for their investment potential.
Record collections are milestones and markers in our lives. You can probably remember where you were when you bought many of the records in your collection, just like you remember where you were when you first heard certain songs.
Songs and records appear at certain times in your life, ready to mean something to you when you share a moment with someone special. They are there to enhance or even trigger memories of key times in your life, with family or friends, during good times and bad.
Records are physical copies of the music that has meant enough to you that you once went out and bought it, because you wanted to make sure you would be able to hear it again, or perhaps you once again wanted to feel the way a song had made you feel.
And you can look back on it all nestling in those Kallax shelves and remember how when you were fourteen you went through a Prince phase, or the time you dabbled with The Doors in sixth form, or when you tried your hardest to get to know jazz or indie or hip hop.
Record collections can be like stock portfolios perhaps, to be invested in and speculated upon.
But if that’s all they are, you risk missing out on all the good stuff. The memories and the feelings. The kind of things you don’t get if you keep everything wrapped in cellophane.