I’ve always enjoyed browsing flea markets, Goodwills and yard sales for CDs and records. As a music fan and a musician, there are tons of reason why. Here are a few of them.
Oh, The Things You’ll Learn (From Album Artwork)
Let’s start with the obvious one, although it’s not always about the artwork itself. It’s also about the writing on the back, or other “bonus” stuff. One of the cool finds I had recently ($2) was Uriah Heep’s Greatest Hits. It wasn’t the music, as I already had most of the songs, it was the chart on the back of the record that showed various members’ tenure with the group. What a cool find! Sure, I could probably find that on wikipedia if I searched, but why would I do that.. and when? This was one of those particularly nice bonuses to records you don’t get with mp3s or streaming.
I’ll talk about it below, but I got a Rick Wakeman CD that I really love, Classic Tracks, and scanning the album notes I saw it has a connection to my home of Orlando, FL. How random! I was blown away by the guitar playing on this record, too, so it’s cool to be able to look it up and see who played on it. Sure I could search the internet, but I was listening to it with my kid in the kitchen. I didn’t want to – and didn’t have to – get up and go to the computer or pull out my phone. The liner notes were right there.
It’s not just the thrill of discovery of the music, but the things you learn from browsing the packaging.
To be honest, I’m not that into buying new vinyl at $30+ a pop. I do love finding records and CDs at garage sales, used shops and flea markets though. They’re CHEAP! I often find CDs at garage sales at 3-for-a-dollar prices. I get a lot of vinyl at flea markets or Goodwill for a few bucks. Even mp3s can’t compete with a $0.33 CD. I get that streaming services are a good deal for a lot of people, but personally I don’t want to be locked into $100+/year for a subscription, and if I ever decide to cancel the music is gone. I also don’t like being locked into having to be online. Sure, Spotify lets you download songs to play offline if you’re a paid subscriber, but you need to know ahead of time you want to download it… which kills the “discovery.” I think used CD & vinyl is a great deal.
Of course artists aren’t getting a cut of the used album sale, but they did get paid for the initial sale. I definitely do buy new music as well, and I support artists I love, but it’s not an either/or thing.
Incentive To Actually Listen
We’re so inundated with music these days, but I find I don’t listen to artists in any depth when on Spotify or Youtube. They’re great services for checking things out, but it’s always brief. Background. One and done. I have no incentive to listen to something over again and really get it. When you purchase a physical product – spend the money and hold the disc – it’s incentive to put it on and listen. If you spend money on something specific, even if it was $2, there’s an inherent desire to not waste that money. Even if it’s not an album I listen to very often, when I buy something, I always listen through at least once.
How many times have I heard Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” from Frampton Comes Alive? Hundreds? After all these years, I’d never sat down (or ran, or biked, or worked) and listened to the whole album. What a great record, top to bottom. The hits get overplayed, but the deep tracks get overlooked. I would never have bought this on iTunes or streamed on Youtube. But for $2, I figured the record was worth owning, and it absolutely was! Tracks like “Lines On My Face” are so good. I see now why the record earned so much respect. Without buying the vinyl, I never would have listened to it.
You Can’t Find That On Amazon… and Wouldn’t Think To
It opens you up to random music you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Browsing through bins of CDs or records sparks curiosity. Sure, you can find 95% of the music online, but would you know to even look for it? Would you take the time to listen to it? Even spending a few bucks and having the physical product is incentive to actually listen to new things.
For example, I knew the name Rick Wakeman (keyboardist in Yes), but never sought out his music. While I like Yes, I’d never even think to look up his solo work. It’s incredible! What a great album. I highly recommend it, and I got it for the low prices of ZERO. The flea market shop owner thew it in for me as I bought a bunch of other stuff.
I find so many things that catch my eye, CD and vinyl shopping has expanded my interests, knowledge of music, and my ear. Artists I’d heard of but never listened to; artists I love but hadn’t heard X album before; styles of music I wouldn’t go out of my way to find but fora $0.25 garage sale record – why not?
Be it garage sales, church sales, Goodwill or flea markets, there are oddball gems to be had…
I stumbled upon this Lord of the Rings concept album by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Bo Hansson. It’s very much in line with 70s prog, and very cool. I’d never find this on Amazon or iTunes
Another time I bought a Paul Butterfield Blues Band record that had a newspaper clipping advertising a live show. Pretty cool bonus!
Get out there and browse! Look at the artwork, read the packaging. Find something cool, new, old, unique… Streaming certainly has its place. Historically with music, convenience seems to win out in the market. It’s just not as much fun.