From Vinyl to TIDAL: how Chapman students are listening to music

When it comes to entertainment, millennials live by a two word mantra: instant gratification. Especially when it comes to music listening.

This trend has become more apparent through widespread usage of streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music or TIDAL, sometimes at the expense of audio quality, diminished by streaming. Though physical media sales are still persisting- especially for vinyl records in recent years from youthful retailers like Urban Outfitters and Amazon- it is no longer the norm for many young people.

“As college students, we’re always plugged into our phones and laptops,” said Sabina Kashi, senior television and broadcast journalism major and communications manager for Chapman Radio. “Streaming platforms are so accessible to us at just the touch of a button and it’s all built off of convenience. In everyone’s crazy and busy lives, people just want to watch TV or listen to music whenever it’s convenient for them.”

In a poll conducted for this article asking 55 Chapman students their primary methods of listening to music, 57% reported Spotify as their main music listening platform, with downloads from iTunes taking second place with 13% of the vote. The results do not come as a surprise, as Spotify’s immediacy combined with its relatively cheap price point ($10 per month for Premium, $5 for a student or family plan) make for an attractive business model.

The dominance of music streaming platforms appear to be a music-hungry listener’s dream, but how does this affect the artists behind the music? Thomas Seraydarian, senior screenwriting major, Chapman Radio academics manager and editor-in-chief for Crossfader Magazine, described the bittersweet reality of the streaming model regarding musicians:

“Streaming has allowed more musicians to have their voices heard. However, they’re quickly being faced with the reality that they can’t really ask people to pay for music anymore. If you’re a music listener it’s positive because you’re being exposed to more music that you can easily obtain. For musicians it can be frustrating because you have to put in that much more work to get noticed and make money.”

With the craze of streaming in full effect, is there any hope for musicians to make money through physical media sales or to have their albums heard in their ideal formats? According to Josh Ingalls, senior business major and owner of a vinyl record collection that numbers around 250, there is great merit in celebrating the physical album:

“I’ve had doubts about my record collecting when I end up leaving a store spending $200, and I only have that much to my name, but I’ve justified it in a few ways. I want to support the artist and there’s something about the activity of putting a record on, sitting down and not just listening to a track or two. There’s also the cover artwork, cool booklets, lyric sheets, prints, stuff you can only really own physically.”

Ingalls is not alone in his collecting endeavors. Vinyl records have seen a sales resurgence in recent years. He described his habit as one that is motivated not only by a love for art, but also as quality over quantity:

“Some people don’t want everything faster, they want quality. Starbucks became huge because people wanted their coffee as fast as possible. As long as someone can get their vanilla caramel macchiato with light soy milk in two minutes, they’ll spend $5 on it, even if the coffee isn’t great quality. In terms of music, I think people are really starting to appreciate taking their time with it.”

Though vinyl nostalgia has been on the rise, streaming platforms are not showing any signs of slowing down. Whether this retro revival will continue to build momentum or reveal itself as a passing cultural fad remains to be seen. Ingalls remains blissfully content with his record listening rituals:

“There has never been a portable record player. There have been portable tape decks, CD players, MP3 players, but never a record player, yet it still appeals to people. You have it in that one place and you go to it to worship the music, in a sense. When I go to pick a record, I’m literally getting down on my knees and looking through my music. It’s pretty spiritual.”

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