An unquenchable passion for music – and music on vinyl, in particular – drove Vinyl By Mars creator Alex to start his now wildly popular TikTok page, where he shares his love of music and vinyl collecting, focusing on such artists as Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Beyoncé. His Reviews By Mars website offers deeper dives into these musicians’ work, featuring critical analyses of popular albums and songs. In our interview with Alex, he talks about how he got started in the music industry, what he loves about his work and about collecting, and how he hopes to expand his reach.
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Can you tell us about your history in the music industry? How did you get started writing about music?
I’ve always had a passion for the music industry and understanding its inner workings. As a teenager, I’d spend hours studying iTunes and Mediabase radio charts to analyze how my favorite pop artists’ singles were performing, tracking their audience sizings, and the impact of promotional campaigns. This obsession led to me interning at Universal Music Group in the summer of 2016 as a College Lifestyle & Marketing Representative.
It was a pretty cool experience! But after college, I found myself working in e-commerce, and I felt like something was missing – my connection to music. During the pandemic, writing album reviews became my new obsession. I couldn't get enough of reading reviews from big publications about new music releases. So, I thought, "Why not give it a shot?" Since launching my review blog, I’ve heard such fantastic feedback from family, friends, fans, and colleagues – and I now write professionally as part of my day job
When did you begin to create content for your own platforms? What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Throughout high school, I actively managed two fan Twitter accounts, one of which garnered just shy of 10K followers at its peak and is actually followed by Britney Spears, who also replied to a tweet of mine – whether it was truly her is unknown (due to her court-ordered conservatorship) but still exciting, nonetheless.
In January 2021, I got my first record player – the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB* and began collecting vinyl records after seeing Vinyl TikTok videos populate on my For You page for weeks on end. Mixing my love for content creation and music, I birthed @vinylbymars to share my vinyl hauls and music thoughts. It's been almost three years now, and this account has blown up to nearly 50,000 followers, which is just mind-blowing.
The coolest part for me is being able to connect with so many people on the regular – sharing my latest music obsessions, fan theories, album reviews, you name it. It's seriously the most satisfying part of what I do. And to make it even better, I've had the chance to meet some awesome fans, and when they tell me I'm the reason they started collecting vinyl or got their first turntable, it warms my heart big time.
You offer your followers a range of content. While your TikTok videos tend to focus on your personal tastes, how-tos and vinyl unboxings, the music reviews on your website provide more in-depth criticism. Why is it important to you to offer this variety in content? Do you attract the same audience across platforms or are those who watch your videos different from those who read your reviews?
My goal for my online presence is to actively represent where I am in life with my passion for music. I not only collect vinyl, but I also curate playlists based on color, emotions, and time of year. I write in-depth music reviews to express myself and my musical opinions. I write these reviews to dive deeper under the surface for those fans who seek out a more thoughtful, micro-focused explanation of their favorite music releases. I know how excited I get when I read a well-respected major publication’s review of a song/album release and see that my untrained ears take in music the same as these professionals. If a reader of my blog or viewer of my TikTok album reviews can capture that same sentiment, that is the best gift I can receive from being a music influencer.
What is it you love about collecting and listening to vinyl? How does the experience differ from streaming?
What got me into collecting vinyl is still what keeps me going nearly three years down the line: having physical copies of my all-time favorite albums and showing some love to my treasured artists. Vinyl records, well, they're like an art form in their own right. They come in all sorts of different sizes, colors, textures, patterns – you name it. It's mesmerizing to see how many unique variations a piece of plastic can take on, and I love owning a large print of my favorite album artwork as well.
When it comes to listening to music on vinyl, it's a whole different experience. It feels richer and more substantial than streaming the same tunes. Depending on your speaker and turntable setup, you're getting the music exactly as it's meant to be heard. You see, most streaming services use compressed audio files, so vinyl quality easily trumps streaming. The streaming era is drastically impacting artists’ profitability, and purchasing vinyl from an artist’s webstore or a local independent record shop is a fantastic way to say “thank you” to your favorite musicians. Streaming, well, let's be real, it pays them less than a penny per stream. So, it's a win-win – you get great music, and the artists get some well-deserved support.
You listen to your records on the AT-LP120xBT-USB. Why is this your turntable of choice?
My Audio-Technica LP120xBT-USB is the first turntable I’ve ever owned. During the pandemic, I was holed up in my childhood bedroom, working away, when my dad strolled in with this LP120 turntable in his arms. He's been a rock-solid supporter of all my creative adventures, and as he saw my vinyl collection obsession grow, he surprised me with my very first turntable. I can't express how grateful I am for that.
Despite learning so much about turntables over the last few years, my LP120 continues to be my turntable of choice because of its advanced capabilities and the control it offers users. I love having the option to control my own counterweight, playback speed, and pitch control. And let’s not forget to mention how great sound quality remains after all these years too!
What are other key elements of your listening setup?
My listening setup sits right here in my studio apartment, and its sound fills up the whole place. I strive to make my listening setup as comfortable and sleek as possible. I can’t imagine not having my setup held on my snaking bookcase, which gives great height and diverse visuals to the apartment. I throw in some greenery, candles, books, childhood photos, and signed Taylor Swift CDs to the other levels to add some of my personality to my setup. If you came into my apartment and only looked at my listening setup, you’d have a fantastic idea of who I am as Alex, not just Vinyl by Mars.
What’s next on the horizon for Vinyl By Mars? Any upcoming features on your platforms that your followers can look forward to?
I’m interested in growing into other niches that align with my passions for both fitness and fashion, but I am even more excited to dive deeper into the world of music. I love creating content centered on vinyl records, but my passion for music goes beyond just vinyl and into playlist creation, album reviews, news reporting, and beyond.
My goal as a content creator is not just to share my own thoughts and collection but to inspire others. I want to get you to discover new artists, rethink familiar albums from a fresh perspective, and weave music into your daily life – whether that's on a leisurely stroll, during a workout, or in those work-from-home moments. I genuinely feel incredibly fortunate to be where I am, and I'm determined to keep my passion for all things music alive and kicking.