In a world where music is readily streamed to us at the tap of a screen then, let’s face it, buying a physical copy of said music on vinyl may seem old-fashioned. Searching crates, shelves and market stalls – why don’t we just search for what we want online and listen? Yet this question assumes the art of collecting hasn’t adapted when, in fact, the industry has indeed adjusted to the ‘Internet Age’. So let’s talk about ‘digital digging’.
What is digital digging?
As mentioned above, acquiring vinyl records has traditionally been a physical process. In person, you would find yourself flicking through worn covers in wooden crates or on shelves, exerting signs of great determination to find your prize and unbroken from having to sift through Max Bygraves discography in almost every shop you visit.
Yet as transactions in the world began taking place online, acquisition of vinyl records started to experience an e-commerce makeover.
Launched in 1995, eBay encouraged users to buy and sell their goods online in virtual auction rooms. Taking inspiration, Kevin Lewandowski would launch Discogs in 2000. Suddenly, original records and subsequent repressings could be catalogued in great detail to be bought, sold and bartered for without users having to leave the house. Thus digital digging was born – bringing the art of crate digging to an online stage.
What does it involve?
Digital digging is a process that has numerous layers. It really depends what you are looking for. Running an album name with the word “vinyl” on the end through your desired search engine will provide you with instant results. Take this as the first layer – not really digging, more picking off the shelf in a music shop.
But what about that copy of Abbey Road with the drain showing or The Wall by Pink Floyd with the cover where the bricks don’t align at the bottom? What about Rozwell Kid’s Precious Art with the dual coloured vinyl?
For your more specific records, you’re going to need to dig.
Let me recommend this: run your desired product through Discogs first. Discogs will show you every release, every detail and every blemish that defines an individual release. The year, the colour, the misprint, the matrix runout – it’s all there. Better yet, maybe you’ll find it on sale on the same website or maybe you’ll use the information gathered to tailor your search engine results.
Suddenly, your search for “Black Sabbath Master of Reality vinyl” becomes “Black Sabbath Master of Reality Vinyl Matrix Runout 6360050 1Y//1▽420 1 11 1971 release” in your quest for an original copy. It will help find what you are looking for and make accessible those hard-to-find records.
Where should you digital dig?
As mentioned above, an easy source for digital digging is on eBay and Discogs. However, don’t limit yourself to one platform – use every available digital tool. I’ve acquired new albums by chatting on forums, such as Vinyl Collective and Vinyl Engine, to social media apps such as Depop and Facebook. Find what you want and search every platform for it. Be relentless.
Many record shops also have an online presence and reward loyalty or membership. Monkey Boy Records, a small Canterbury-based record shop and currently my favourite place to buy from online, offers membership that snags you 10% off all purchases. MBR doesn’t necessarily deal in age-old original pressings but is a good source for pre-orders and the music genres I enjoy.
The advice here: find a record shop online that caters to your tastes. Take advantage of memberships and throw yourself into mailing lists and email alerts to stay up to date.
Has digital digging replaced real world digging?
No. Simply put: digital digging has made crate digging easier and more efficient but has not replaced it.
Essentially, digital methods of buying records are a tool; they can be used to assess the value of a record and prevent you from getting ripped off. I’ve found records in shops cheaper than online and vice-versa. It makes your purchase feel worthwhile.
Whilst winning an auction on eBay or stumbling across a record you want for a cheap asking price on discogs is exciting, so to is finding the album you have sought after for weeks hidden amongst ‘It’s Party Time Again’ by Mrs. Mills and endless John Denver LPs in a shop.
So digital dig, research, and you’ll come out a well-rounded record hunter.
(Featured image source: http://www.electronicbeats.net/the-feed/discogs-moves-beyond-music-with-4-new-online-marketplaces/)