'My music is always there when I need it'

By Robert Plummer
Business reporter, BBC News

image copyrightPaul Holland
image captionPaul Holland's favourite Black Sabbath album takes pride of place

Paul Holland has seen some upheavals in his life over the past year, but his music collection of vinyl albums and CDs has helped him to get through tough times.

"It's been massively important," the 35-year-old from Bracknell in Berkshire told the BBC.

"It's always there, always accessible when you need it. That's why I like having physical copies."

Paul's collection actually straddles two continents at the moment - he has about 100 albums in the UK, but the rest are in Portland, Oregon.

That's because, after living in the US since 2015, he moved back last year, at the height of the pandemic, following the breakdown of his marriage to an American woman.

"We're still in touch, but it didn't work out," he says, adding that his ex-wife is still taking good care of his records.

Paul is one of many BBC News website readers who got in touch with us following the news that supermarket giant Sainsbury's has decided to stop selling CDs and DVDs.

Although streaming has replaced buying records for many people, others would never part with their collections and are still adding to them whenever they can.

"I can't imagine a world where media is not in your hands and not yours. Films, albums and TV shows are removed from streaming services all the time," says Paul.

He has a varied selection of albums, including Otis Redding and David Bowie, but also "a lot of rock and heavy metal".

His favourite album is Black Sabbath's first: "It's got the heavy bits if you want to shake your head, but also quieter songs as well - there's a bit of light and shade."

'It's an expensive hobby'

Some music collectors have quite specialised tastes. Kathryn Kyle, 29, from Carlisle, loves buying CDs and DVDs, but by just one artist, a Japanese rock band called D.

image copyrightKathryn Kyle
image captionKathryn Kyle is busy buying up D's extensive back catalogue

That means she scours the internet for import releases, which she buys from Japanese websites or from online fan communities.

"Though my family and colleagues don't understand the draw to these physical copies, I love the way CDs look, and I love opening them up, reading the leaflet and pamphlets inside," she told the BBC.

"It's an expensive hobby, for sure, but I can't help that feel that something could go wrong with digital services and having something physical is a reliable back-up."

Kathryn, who works in a building society, says she got into the band through listening to the music from Japanese video games and anime films.

"I've just moved house and I've bought a bookshelf for my CDs," she says.

But she adds that her housemate doesn't share her musical tastes. "She's into vinyl and she listens to country music. Frankly, I would rather cut my ears off!"

'My son's got my vinyl'

Retired market researcher Leslie Sopp, 68, of Brill in Buckinghamshire, has let go of his old vinyl albums, but still has a collection of 850 CDs to which he adds regularly.

"My son took over the vinyl mantle," he told the BBC. "He works in the music industry, so he cherry-picked my records with my permission.

"CD has given me a real benefit, because it allowed me to downsize the volume while maintaining a physical collection."

image copyrightLeslie Sopp
image captionLeslie Sopp finds CDs more practical but misses LPs

Even so, he admits that he misses the artwork and lyric sheets that come with LPs: "I can't read lyrics on CD inserts."

Leslie says his collection contains "smatterings of everything", but his main interests are electronica, ambient and above all jazz, with a special fondness for Keith Jarrett and other artists on the ECM label.

However, he also listens to music digitally with a Spotify account and buys new CDs after checking them out on the streaming service.

"Storage is an issue," he says. "I have one big piece of furniture to hold them and the rest are in plastic storeaway boxes.

"It's all out of sight, but I've got it all on a spreadsheet, so I know where everything is."

'I loathe vinyl'

However, not all music fans believe in owning physical copies of their favourite tunes. And whereas you might think that younger people prefer streaming and older listeners want CDs or vinyl, that's not always the case.

"I am passionate about vinyl. I loathe it with a passion," says Tony Neal, a 69-year-old civil servant from Fareham in Hampshire.

image copyrightTony Neal
image captionTony Neal keeps his records in the loft

"I spent a small fortune in the 1970s building a top-end hi-fi system to play my records and the quality was impressive, but there was always that click and crackle to spoil the experience," he told the BBC.

"The gear is still in the loft, never to be used again, along with the records that now sound so much better when streamed. I am now fully digital."

These days, Tony has Bluetooth speakers scattered around the house and listens to his music on Spotify.

He says that getting involved with sound recording for amateur dramatic productions has taught him to be "picky" about what he listens to.

"It's been years since I last bought a CD and playing old vinyl is a pain," he says. "Streaming is so much more convenient and the quality is so much better.

"I've heard things listening to streaming on headphones that I've never heard on the original recordings back in the 1960s and 1970s. It's the clarity and depth of the stream."

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