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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

UF students revive the past by collecting CDs and records

The once-popular formats of listening are making a small but mighty comeback

Record collector Jude Singleton shows off their prized Eraserhead vinyl on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.
Record collector Jude Singleton shows off their prized Eraserhead vinyl on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

Gone are the days of flipping turntables and shuffling through stacks of jewel cases. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have taken today’s generation by storm. At least, for some people. 

In Gainesville, several UF students keep the past alive through a trend that resurrects pieces of a bygone era: CD and record collecting.

Alejandra Agustin, a 19-year-old UF anthropology sophomore, has been collecting CDs since she was a junior in high school. When her family moved from Puerto Rico to Miami in 2015, her father had to leave behind his extensive CD collection. Although they have tried on several visits back to retrieve his ‘mythical’ collection, it is nowhere to be found. 

“It’s kind of been a goal of mine to get as much CDs that I can and see what CDs he had in that collection,” Agustin said. “It’s almost like a fun thing to show my dad. It’s a bonding experience.”

Like most students, she still uses streaming services such as Spotify to listen to music on the go. But when she gets home, she can peruse her collection of almost 150 CDs to pop the perfect album into her CD player.

This method of listening is less stressful for Agustin. It takes away the responsibility of choosing the perfect song or playlist and instead lets the CD do the work. 

“CDs in general are just really fun to listen to,” Agustin said.

Her collection grew significantly this summer after studying abroad in London, where record stores were more prevalent. Although Gainesville offers fewer record stores, she has still managed to find some of her favorite listens here. One particularly special to her is a homemade compilation of songs by the band Cibo Matto that she found at a local thrift store.

“The media that Gen Z consumes is kind of so intangible because everything’s on our phones or on the internet, which is not real,” Agustin said. “There’s these spaces that used to exist, but they’ve all kind of been condensed and shoved into the internet.”

Aubrey Finnegan is the store manager of Gainesville’s latest record store, Sunshine Records, which sells a diverse assortment of media including CDs, records, tapes and books. Finnegan grew up around Gainesville’s punk music scene and said that scene made her very interested in music.

“A bunch of punk bands will release CDs, and tapes, records and make a zine,” Finnegan said. “Growing up here too, that was a big part. You get to buy your friend’s music and now you have a copy of a flyer for the show or something silly, but it’s special.”

Although the store has only been open for five months, Finnegan sees a variety of customers enter her shop every day. The younger people who come in are mainly window shoppers, she said. 

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“It seems like they’re kind of after this lust for physical objects because they come in and are like ‘Woah, this is so cool,’ but then they don’t buy anything,” Finnegan said. “I think it’s almost a foreign concept to be in a music store.”

Finnegan may be right. Ninety percent of Americans who use music streaming platforms belong to Gen Z, according to a 2022 study published on Statista.

Jude Singleton, 20-year-old UF linguistics and English junior, collects another form of physical music media: vinyl. Their passion for collecting vinyl began when they received their first record, Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown, as a Christmas present in 2020. As the years have gone on, one record has multiplied into a collection of 169 records and CDs combined.

Collecting physical media is not cheap. Just one record can cost as much as multiple months of unlimited listening on a streaming service and that is without considering the equipment needed to listen to the music. 

Singleton estimates they’ve spent about $10,000 on records and equipment over the course of four years. But to them, the amount put in is worth it. 

“It’s really cost prohibitive to a certain extent depending on what you want out of it,” Singleton said. “It is really inconvenient and because it’s inconvenient you have to become much more imbricated in the experience. You have to work with the music.”

Unlike Spotify or Apple Music, where listeners can skip songs and create playlists to their liking, listening to music on vinyl offers no such features. This, however, does not deter most record listeners. 

“I have records that have songs that I can’t stand,” Singleton said. “But I think when you have to sit and listen to it all the way through with people, you gain a better appreciation for it even if you’re not a huge fan of it as a song.”

For those who do collect, no matter how small that group may be, it certainly means something to amass the media that they enjoy. 

“I feel like music seems like an intangible thing that we’ve made tangible through CDs and vinyls,” Agustin said. “I think it kind of connects with a past that we didn’t really have access to.”

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at bmatejowsky@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @bonnymatejowsky 

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.


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