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Ripping Vinyl for 99 Cents Per ALBUM: The Hipster iTunes Music Store

May 30 2005 – 11:16pm

I’ve found a very affordable way to listen to a wide variety of music for very little money. Sure, it’s great to surf around Amazon or the iTunes Music Store, but there’s no way I could afford enough music to satisfy my craving for virtually any kind of music. Inspired by the music listening habits of a friend, I recently purchased a turntable. With a sense of adventure and a little patience, you too can satisfy your musical cravings with records from a number of sources (usually for less than a dollar an album). Even new vinyl tends to run cheaper than Compact Disk, but some of the older titles you acquire can end up being quite valuable.

This go-with-the-flow approach to consuming music has exposed me to a great deal of music I would never have thought to seek out. I will very rarely, but occasionally I run into an album that I wish to listen to in heavy enough rotation that the vinyl format just isn’t convenient – so I rip ’em. With the exception of an occasional pop or skip the sound quality is every bit as good as ripping from a CD. With a bit of ingenuity and alot of patience, one can manage to rip their vinyl to MP3 with GarageBand, but I have found that CD Spin Doctor, which is $99 or comes with Toast Titanium (also $99) works best. For Windows users, I’ve heard you can buy VinylStudio for less than $30 to convert vinyl to CD. There are also free – although slightly more complex – ways to transfer vinyl to cd. The cheap Sony turntable I got has a pre-amp and RCA outputs and hooks up to my computer nicely. Keep in mind that if you plan to purchase any 78s (really old records, Delta Blues, for example), that model will not play them.

There are a number of sources through which to get LPs:

Just about everyone has family members with old records that are still sitting in the basement or attic, and in most cases, they never get listened to. This is the cheapest way to get the really prized records such as those by The Beatles, because you don’t tend to find those at thrift stores. Hopefully you can buy these with love.
Garage Sales/Yard Sales
It takes quite a bit of driving around to find a garage sale that actually has records, but once you do, you can generally get them for really cheap. Those selling the records will likely have little knowledge of their value, and even if they do, they just want to get rid of them quick. I have acquired some valuable records for very cheap this way.
Thrift Stores
These are pretty cheap usually. Goodwill charges 63 cents here in Omaha, and Salvation Army charges $1. $1 is getting pretty steep considering all of the sifting you have to do to find anything good (see Record Stores below). You will see lots of Lawrence Welk, Engelbert Humperdink, and probably a few dozen copies of The Gambler. My advice is to grab a copy of “The Gambler,” but avoid the others. Sometimes you will hit a cache of records donated by someone with exquisite taste. My two Kinks records and most of my best Soul/R&B records came from hitting such a pocket.
Antique Stores
Sometimes antique stores will know the value of each of their records, which ruins the bargain-hunting. Most of the time they don’t have them, but if they do, they concentrate more on pricing their other stuff. Thus, you can get some gems for cheap this way.
Record Stores
No, not Sam Goody. There are probably at least a couple of stores in your city that sell vinyl. The price is a little more, but things are filtered out alot better, the condition of the vinyl is better, and the title on the record will match the title on the cover of the album. At Antiquarium in Omaha, there are quality records of every genre. The more desirable titles are 2–8 dollars (if in excellent condition) with the occasional record that goes for 30 or more. There are also loads of LPs that are either less desirable or have a few minor scratches for 50 cents or $1 (Be prepared to defend your musical selections). The downside to record stores is that they tend to know the value of the records, so forget about running into a Near-Mint copy of Revolver for $1 using this method.
Ebay or Other Online Record Stores
If you insist on getting a particular title on vinyl, go for this, but because of shipping costs, it isn’t worth it to me since I aim to not pay more that $1 each for my records.

I have been collecting LPs for just a few months now using all of these methods (except online), and I now have well over 100 records. Many of them I acquired simply out of curiosity and so I’ll soon be selling some of those that didn’t make the cut. I’ll let you know if I find any good ways of selling records.

Once again, one of the great advantages of buying vinyl is that the cheap price makes it affordable to try out music you wouldn’t drop $10+ an album for. Also, some of these records are either unavailable on CD, or if they are, can only be acquired for $30 (my Commodores record is more than $100 on CD).

Here are some of my newest discoveries made possible by the affordability of vinyl:

Roger Miller: The Return of Roger Miller (not available on cd)

Roger Miller: The Return of Roger Miller album cover

This album features this country music star’s best-known song, “King of the Road,” and is packed with other catchy and clever songs of child-like simplicity. Memorable lyrics from “Hard Headed Me”: She said if you aim to keep me, cut your foolhardy ways…How long is forever, that’s how long she’ll be gone.

I got this record for 63 cents at Goodwill. I bought 32 records that day for a total of $19.92. Some people with very good taste had parted with their records.

The Beach Boys: Holland

The Beach Boys: Holland

From recommendations from friends, I already knew that Pet Sounds was a piece of musical genius not consistent with the popular image of The Beach Boys. I had not heard about Holland, though, and I have yet to speak with someone familiar with it. How this got passed up as a notable album is beyond me. They abandon their trademark screeching falsettos for warmer, low key vocals. They recorded this album, through great logistical challenges, after moving to Holland in 1972. Favorite tracks: “The Trader” and “California Saga: Big Sur.” I got this one from family.

Marshall Crenshaw: Marshall CrenshawMarshall Crenshaw

Marshall Crenshaw: Marshall Crenshaw

Unlike books, you can judge LPs by their covers. I just liked how this one looked, but it turned out sounding good, too. Very poppy a la Elvis Costello or Buddy Holly. This album is from 1982, but Marshall Crenshaw is still actively recording and touring. Best track: “There She Goes Again.” I picked this up at The Salvation Army.

The Call: The Call (apparently not available on CD)

The Call: The Call album cover

The Call‘s self-titled 1982 release is dramatic rock I would characterize as a cross between U2 and The Clash. I got this during the aforementioned trip to the Goodwill (I got some really good music that day).

So if you’re looking for a cheaper way to get music, or if you’ve grown tired of all of the new releases, try vinyl. It brings adventure and affordability back to music, and you don’t have to sacrifice your iPod.

(Yes, the title is a play off of 43 Folders’ Hipster PDA)

[UPDATE June 7, 12:38PM] Thanks to this article on digitizing vinyl, I have discovered that CD Spin Doctor will be included in Roxio’s Boom Box – Essential Software for Your iPod, which will be available for $50 starting June 24.

P.S. If you change computers, you’ll have to transfer your iTunes music library, to retain all the vinyl you’ve ripped to iTunes.

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This post is filed under How To, Music, Technology.