The Comeback of Vinyl

Photo by Simon Tubey
Photo by Simon Tubey

It is a known fact that the vinyl record looks, feels and sounds better than the CD. Although the CD was major improvement for the musical world, it seems that it was only the cassette that it outdid in terms of music quality. Analogue recording was fast becoming a thing of the past and sound quality was compromised from the early 80s. In America, nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year. And in Australia, that same trend is taking flight. But why, after nearly forty years, has the vinyl record come to surface again?

The Gramophone record was invented in 1895, using the analog horizontal stylus method. This innovation changed music forever. By 1948, the first ever vinyl record was created using the same horizontal stylus motion with discs at 7″ and the famous 12″ inch record. Fifteen years later, the compact cassette was brought out by Dolby and vinyl sales dropped tremendously. Ray Dolby, the American inventor, died at the age of 80 years in September 2013 with a fortune of $2.4 billion. From the big screen to your living room, Dolby has transformed the entertainment experience. Today, Dolby technologies can be found in cinemas, professional recording studios, video games, laser discs, DVDs, mobile media, digital broadcast TV, digital cable, and satellite systems. The phonograph disc record had been the primary medium used for music reproduction until late in the 20th century, replacing the phonograph cylinder record, with which it had co-existed, by the 1920s. By the late 1980s, digital media, in the form of the compact disc, had gained a larger market share, and the vinyl record left the mainstream in 1991.

In 1991, the Seattle grunge band Nirvana unleashed an unassuming album titled ‘Nevermind’ and became one of the biggest bands in the world virtually overnight. Just like the CD. Rock & roll was at its high point and many artists that had released their work on the choice of either Vinyl or the CD had subsequently turned to releasing their work only on CD. It would not be until years later that companies would begin to turn music from the 70s, 80s, 90s and even 2000s, into the renowned vinyl record again. Sales have since hiked up and with only fifteen companies in America manufacturing old-fashioned vinyl records, the influx and demand for this returning trend is so great that the companies are simply unable to handle it. While new LPs hit the stores each week, the creaky machines that make them haven’t been manufactured for decades, and just one company supplies an estimated 90% of the raw vinyl that the industry needs. These companies face supply shortages and breakdowns and the demand for vinyl record recordings is only increasing.

In Los Angeles, Rainbo Records, America’s second-biggest plant, presses records 24 hours a day, six days a week, using 14 machines—and averages 24,000 records a day. In a recent article by The Wall Street Journal, it is said that “Rainbo president Steve Sheldon is trying to refurbish and install two more presses he found in Canada by next May. One thing that is making his life more complicated is that musicians keep ordering up limited-edition, exclusive, novelty LPs that run the gamut from groovy to downright strange.” And if the multi-coloured and speckled vinyl records are not enough. You can even get different smelling scents pressed into your record expelling aromas such as vanilla. Steve Sheldon said his limits for how far he will go in regards to pressing anything and everything will stop the day somebody asks to have their deceased loved one’s ashes pressed into the vinyl. Now that’s sentimental!

Photo by Simon Tubey
Photo by Simon Tubey

Have you ever ripped the plastic from a CD and being overwhelmed and overjoyed by the physical, technical and sound quality of the late invention? Or do you think you have been wasting your time spending twenty to thirty dollars or more on something that you could stream for free endlessly on Spotify? Speaking of which, “Industry growth was flat from 2013 to 2014.” says the RIAA. Year over year, the market share for streaming has grown. Since 2009, revenue percentage for streaming has grown from 5% of the take to the nearly 30% we see today.

From album purchases on iTunes, to the HD stream of live recordings on Youtube and music streamers, nothing comes close to the sound of a room filled to the ceiling edge with sense-shaking quality neatly pressed into the keepsake style analogue vinyl record. Nothing. To musicians out there, what are you going to record on and why? Forget about what advice you’d get from Billy Joel in the 80s. Get a record player, sit in your room with door shut, get your favourite album on Vinyl and lie on the floor in your room and listen to it. The difference will amaze you.

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