In an age of digital media, with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music dominating the music distribution industry by giving users free access to almost all music out there, physical media is dying out.

Physical media refers to objects such as CDs, DVDs, books, and vinyl records. 

I spoke to some local Isle of Wight record shop owners to see what they had to say about the importance of physical media.

So, what’s so special about records and CDs?

Alex Lee, owner of AAA Records in Newport, says: “They bring joy to people’s lives. Often, a lifetime dedicated to musical craft is encapsulated on a single piece of plastic or vinyl. They capture a moment in time and the fruits of a creative process forever.”

A similar sentiment is expressed by Rob Messer, owner of Hip City Records in Shanklin, who says: “Records are important as they bring enjoyment.

“There is something special about having a physical artefact, to connect to the music with the artwork and themes full of the artist's ideas."

"It feels to me like most of the big hyped releases are all fully curated concepts with whole worlds created around them, which is interesting,” says Mhairi Macaulay, Creative & Operations Director for Ventnor Exchange.

Why is physical media important when digital media exists?

Mhairi says: “I think having a physical copy helps with focusing on the artist's work fully, as you take time to choose listening, in comparison to having all musical genres from all-time at a second’s notice, on Spotify or another streaming service.”

“Physical media, especially music pressed on vinyl, sounds different to digital music as it hasn't been compressed during its production", says Alex Lee.

"Part of the fun of collecting records and CDs is the thrill of the chase, which is something you don't get with digital media. 

"So much crafting goes into a record, from the music itself to the track listing and the artwork on the sleeve.

"It's all very well having a downloaded file on your phone or computer, but it's not like really owning something you can hold.

"You can view a Van Gogh or Picasso on a computer, but it's not like looking at the real thing in a museum,” says Rob Messer.

Local record shop owners expressed they have space in their lives for both digital and physical media.

Alex Lee says: “There's plenty of room in my life for digital music. 

"You can't stick a record on while you're driving, going for a run or sitting on the bus - that's when digital music comes in handy."

Mhairi says: “I do use a streaming service but I also love to buy music I really care about…”

Physical media helps our economy, local sellers, and artists (local and global).

AAA Records' Alex says: “It gives people like me a chance to scrape a living doing something I love.

"A physical shop, such as the one I share with my business partner, Andy Barding, is useful to promote the local scene, in terms of raising awareness of what's going on and actually selling [local artists’] wares, if they have had anything produced on vinyl or CD.

"The record fairs I host quarterly at Quay Arts allow local music enthusiasts to buy, sell and swap records and CDs, while the venue itself benefits from an uplift in cafe and bar takings.”

Rob Messer told me: "If record shops bring people into towns, that's a good thing.

"People go record shopping at record fairs or shops, then they maybe go for a coffee or lunch.

"Shops like mine, that bring people into towns, have to be good for the economy. 

"Internet shopping has been detrimental to physical shops [so] anything that brings people into towns is positive.

"New artists enjoy releasing their music in a physical form too. It's a great marketing thing."

“The royalties paid from streaming are very low so I don't believe it is the best way to support emerging artists,” says Mhairi about digital streaming.

“There has been a huge jump in vinyl sales in the last few years, due to big artists like Adele, Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey pressing to record, which has been really good for raising the profile of the format to a new generation.

"The discussion of the moment is whether the famous artists are actually clogging up the pressing plants to print albums, when emerging artists are pushed out of the line - and whether that is fair or not.

"The bottom line is there isn't infrastructure to create the product fast enough and we could be in a situation where multiple pressing plants are being re-built again, as history repeats itself."

So, why not visit your nearest record shop today and purchase a record to spin or a CD to play?