Vinyl records have delighted music lovers since 1930, but they experienced a resurgence of popularity during the 2010s and continue to trend in the 2020s despite an abundance of newer listening technologies. In fact, in the year 2020, vinyl sales officially trumped CD sales, making it king of the discs. Records have outlived cassettes, CDs and even MP3 players, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. You can’t go into a typical Urban Outfitters without appreciating the impressive wall of contemporary records and pastel Crosley or Victrola players.
Altogether, vinyl-listening has become fashionably retro (or hipster) in the new millennium, and it’s hard to separate the visual-aesthetic appeal from the audio-entertainment. After all, it’s incredibly easy and free (if you can forfeit life-saving premium features like ad-free listening) to stream music on digital platforms like Spotify or Apple Music; so why do people still use records in the digital age? Vinyl records could be functionally obsolete, yet they’re still used, collected and appreciated today for the nostalgia, physicality and aesthetics that enhance listeners’ experience.
“My Analog Journal” on YouTube
As streaming platforms continue to crop up and diminish the importance of things like album art and sequencing, record lovers rely on the good, old-fashioned nature of vinyl to cut through the chaos of the modern world and enhance it. However, the modern music lover doesn’t have to choose between the two, and most people do enjoy a mix of listening experiences. Dedicated record collectors like Zag Erlat have even found ways to marry their love of analog music with digital platforms to create a unique, shareable and immersive listening experience.
DJ Zag Erlat began posting videos of himself spinning records in his London apartment on his YouTube channel “My Analog Journal,” nicknamed “maj,” three years ago. According to its Patreon page, the channel explores “organic grooves on vinyl from high and low, near and far.” Erlat makes a point to share as many of his rare records as he can, from as many different countries as possible. He regularly posts selections from his home country, Turkey, and in all his videos, listeners can be transported to different eras and/or regions. The first video in his digital journal, “Japanese Funk and Soul on Vinyl (late 70’s, early 80’s),” has almost 2 million views and highlights the heart of the channel, which is sharing soul, funk and anything that’ll make the listener feel good.
“My Analog Journal” videos combine audio and visuals, like analog and digital, in a simple but enchanting way. Viewers become mesmerized by the soft movement of steady record spinning and Erlat — or a featured DJ from “Guest Mixes” — moving around, maybe dancing, setting things up or taking a sip of coffee. Maj’s audience can also appreciate the pleasant millennial aesthetics of Erlat’s apartment, from the naturally lit white walls and his large plant collection to the Himalayan salt lamp by the turntables that acts as a recurring character. It’s like watching the lowkey, lo-fi version of a Boiler Room video, which also features guest DJs at play.
The video series also recalls the energy of popular “NPR Tiny Desk Concerts,” where artists perform their own music live in a similarly calm, domestic space. While it’s fun to listen to music at a club or evening concert, daytime listening provides a different flavor of equally needed endorphins. They’re the perfect videos to pull up on your TV and leave playing in the background when you’re trying to study or unwind after a long day. You can even control your listening-watching experience by choosing a normal video, which usually lasts an hour, or a “Coffee Break Session,” which lasts 30 minutes. That way, Erlat or one of his guests can personally DJ your lunch hour or study session for free.
Erlat told Nuvo Magazine, “As a Turkish person, I just felt the lack of content when it comes to Turkish/Anatolian funk music from the ’70s. That made me record a vinyl set with Turkish seven-inch records that I had. I shot the episode with a single camera focusing on the turntables, as opposed to the boiler room setup where you only see the DJ.” He also explained the draw of vinyl, saying, “I love the whole journey that starts from looking for the records, discovering more records along the way, unboxing the records when they arrive, cleaning them when they are second hand, categorizing them, getting prepared for a YouTube episode, and after I share the episode, the joy of reading all the positive comments and sharing the good music with others.” One of vinyl’s greatest appeals is the ability to start a collection and hunt for specific records and artists. Whether someone does not wish to invest in building a large record collection, wants some ideas on how to expand their own, or is interested in riding the wave and finally getting into vinyl too, “My Analog Journal” is a great way to test-drive the experience.
The Connective Power of Music Persists Digitally
Whether it’s a “Get Ready With Me,” aka “GRWM,” video, or just a simple vlog, people use YouTube and other video streaming services to tap into a sense of shared experience. With the rise in technology and coronavirus measures increasing global feelings of isolation, it’s more tempting than ever to lean into the parasocial comforts social media can provide. The digital age has permanently altered the media and music landscape, and it can feel hard to keep up. While many vinyl users treasure the refreshing simplicity of “old-fashioned” technology, “My Analog Journal” is the perfect place for those just starting their journey into refreshing vintage mediums.
One “My Analog Journal” subscriber writes, “I like to broaden my horizons as much as possible. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this, but here I am locked up in my room listening to vintage Japanese funk while I study for exams.” Whether it’s a new language, new decade or new medium, “My Analog Journal” gives everyone a chance to successfully and enjoyably diversify their music listening experience. Christopher Adirance comments on the “Arabic Grooves with Shaqdi” video, “You guys are REALLY good at what you do. Thanks so much for making these playlists; for opening my ears to a whole other world of sound and getting me through this pandemic.”