Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Format That Refuses To Die; Vinyl Records Alive And Well

Even with all the advances in audio technology and the digital craze, one format has withstood the test of time: vinyl records.

The evolution of personal audio playback is an interesting tale: from paper cylinders to records, records to 8-tracks, 8-tracks to cassettes, cassettes to CDs, and finally, CDs to digital MP3s, only one "primitive" format has managed to not fade away into history. Records were introduced way back in 1877 and are still being widely used across the world, and it's not just DJs who are using them.

Thanks in part to high school children who are just discovering vinyl records for the first time, and baby boomers who are looking for a taste of nostalgia, the vinyl record market has exploded in recent years, with sales increasing about 35 percent in 2007, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. People are once again snatching up vinyl records as quickly as they are produced, and record label executives are taking notice.

As a result, more and more labels are choosing to press their new releases on the format they once considered obsolete, even going into their catalog and re-pressing some of their older albums. Labels are still catering to digital savvy consumers though, as many new vinyl releases often come with download cards, which can be redeemed online to receive MP3's of the album. Online retailers have also taken note, and are now offering more vinyl records for sale. An influx of new websites specifically catering to vinyl enthusiasts have also been popping up, selling vinyl and record accessories.

There are several reasons why vinyl sales have taken off in recent years. Any purist (or audiophile) will tell you that vinyl sounds better than any other format available today. You will hear things playing a record that you won't be able to pick up on when playing that same album in CD or MP3 format. Vinyl also comes in different weights, which is measured in grams, and ranges from the standard 140 grams all the way up to 220 grams. The heavier a record is, the better sound quality you will get. Some people will only settle for the best, and some younger folks are tired of the high compression rates found in CDs and MP3s, which steals the quality of the music. And some have sought out alternative methods of listening to their favorite albums.

Most records released today come in elaborate packaging that features liner notes and larger artwork than their CD counterparts. Vinyl now comes in various colors, patterns, shapes and styles. There's the standard 12 inch LP, which supports full length albums; seven inch singles, which are often used for only one or two songs; and all sizes in between. Records have also strayed from the standard black vinyl circle into elaborate shapes and bright colors. Records are being pressed on every color found in the rainbow and then some, as well as almost every shape known to man. The variety and bigger size attracts many buyers.

One more reason why vinyl sales have taken off is their collectability. The market has never been better for someone who is in possession of an original Beatles or Led Zeppelin LP. These days vinyl is often pressed in one time limited runs, or presses, compared to an almost infinite amount when records were the dominant format. This makes some records highly sought after. Multiple colors are also pressed, leading to many variations of a single record, which also leads to collectability. Some records released for the first time in 10 years can fetch as much as $200 once they go out of print. For example, a record of only 1,000 total copies were pressed: out of that 1,000, only 100 were pressed on red vinyl, and 500 were pressed on blue. A red record would be worth more to collectors than the blue record, and could fetch a hefty sum on eBay and other online outlets.

For whatever reason - whether it be for their superior sound quality, the larger and more detailed artwork and packaging, or just for old time's sake - vinyl records are here to stay. And they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

[Pioneer Times]

1 comment:

  1. they are really getting clever, i mean vinyl records.