Roycin D'souza (right) at a vinyl listening session
Rewind the years. Go back in time to the '60s and early '70s. Imagine you're a rock 'n' roll or jazz fan with bushy sideburns and a wardrobe full of flared pants who feels like listening to his favourite LP. What do you do? You take the record carefully out of its album sleeve, place it with precision on your turntable, and then sit back on your sofa if you're at home, or shake a leg with friends if you're at a party.
Fast-forward now to the late '90s. Vinyls have given way to cassettes, which, too, are ceding relevance to CDs. So you decide to get rid of your records because, given their size, they are eating up too much space on your shelf. A friend offers to take them off you, since he remains a vinyl enthusiast, and so you tell him, "Here you go, take the whole lot if you want, even So Near, So Far [which is your favourite jazz LP]."
Album covers for LPs
That friend would be someone like Sunil Sampat, 74, or — given the year you were born in — Roycin D'souza, 26. They represent two different generations of vinyl collectors and this Sunday, D'souza is bringing back an initiative he started a little over a year ago, called Drop the Needle.
It aims to give the members of the small community a space where they can engage in their hobby. "There is no agenda behind the event," D'souza says, adding, "It's more of an informal meet-up where the idea is to make people leave their homes and exchange records, apart from knowledge, and listen to some music."
That excites Sampat when we inform him about the event. "I am hoping that with volumes increasing post the 2000s and prices coming down, as they should, there will be more and more young people buying vinyls," he says. "But it all depends on the corporate companies," he adds. "They've put us in a Catch-22 situation — if you buy a high-end turntable, the record labels are saying that you'll have to buy an expensive LP to not damage it. It's like buying a Ferrari, which you can't run on Goodyear tyres. So, you'd have to opt for Michelin."
D'souza seconds that. "Many labels are only selling records to make a quick buck. Plus, the whole hipster search for LPs, as much as it has increased sales and demand, has made records overpriced, a bit like it is with truffles," he says.
Participants at a gathering of vinyl enthusiasts
He adds, "Also, younger people have started picking up low-quality records for the sake of owning one. They are the same people who buy an iPhone just for the sake of owning an iPhone, without caring about its specifications."
So, what does all of this bode for the future of vinyls? Sampat and D'souza have differing views on this question. The older collector is more hopeful; the younger one, less so. "I see the trend dropping in a few years," D'souza says, before explaining, "A lot of dedicated vinyl collectors aren't happy with the new releases, because the firms behind them don't care about how they are produced as long as people keep buying."
But Sampat says, "When the history of recorded music is finally written, it will be with the use of vinyls. Cassettes are gone. CDs are going, and music on your computer might get corrupted. So, as far as preserving and archiving music is concerned, a vinyl is the best medium. As for me, they have become the vehicle by way of which I preserve my library of music," which, he says, includes a copy of Joe Henderson's So Near, So Far, which he had acquired in the '90s.