Wax Figures: The Economics Of Vinyl

Why does a hundred-year old format still intrigue us? According to the RIAA, the recording industry trade organization that tracks record sales, shipments of vinyl records increased 36 percent in value to $163 million in 2012. Meanwhile, physical recording formats, on the whole, continued to decline, down 16.5 percent. As streaming services like Spotify and mobile technology become more widespread, consumers are also gravitating to the tactile experience of vinyl. “When you play a record, you involve your sense of sight and sense of touch,” says Tim Hibbs, a Nashville-based record collector and DJ who works with Sundazed Records, a re-issue label. Vinyl, with its large display and required physical actions – removing the record from its sleeve, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle – is an involved experience. And in our modern world, that’s something special. Vinyl, as we know it today, came to prominence in the late 1940s, when manufacturers phased out more-easily breakable shellac material in favor of vinyl. New sizes and speeds were soon introduced, like Columbia’s 33 1/3 RPM 12-inch LP and Victor’s 7-inch 45. Until 1925, recordings had been done in a mechanical fashion. Musicians played into a metal horn, with sound…

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