Not to be a broken record, but vinyl is back
Sesame Street Fever was my first album and I used to play it in my childhood bedroom on my brown Fisher Price record player.
Fast forward 30 years to 2013, the year I decided to go back to the record player. My first album purchased? James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. Only a buck at Goodwill. I’m not the only one reviving vinyl. Bands and record labels are turning away from CDs and going back to the basics.
“We’re busier than we’ve ever been. Our business has probably grown 20 to 30% since we’ve been in business,” says Carl Cordova of Pirates Press, a 9-year-old independent record manufacturer out of San Francisco.
He says it’s not just punk rock and indie bands that are pressing vinyl.
“Every genre of music today is doing it. Indie rock, metal, punk, pop music. We’ve done vinyl for Madonna and we’ve done vinyl for Rancid.”
As far as the technology is concerned, Carl says they press records just like they did in the old days. But he says the aesthetics of a record can be more diverse.
“We offer thousands of different types of colored vinyl that a lot of people don’t offer. Something like glow in the dark vinyl. We’re doing shaped records. It can be shaped into a heart or a star or a skull.”
Pirates Press has also brought back the flexie. They’re the only company in the world who makes them.
“They’re floppy. They were really popular in the 60’s and 70’s and they were used as throw-away promo items that you would insert into a magazine or maybe the back of a cereal box. You can actually play them on your record player. Those have definitely gotten popular again as well.”
So what is it about the humble record that’s so appealing? I mean, most of us carry hundreds or thousands of songs around in our digital devices, so why go back?
“I’m able to connect with the music more by listening to a record versus something like a CD. You know, the packaging makes a much bigger impact. Just because of the size. A 12X12 inch piece of artwork is really one of my favorite things about vinyl. The fact that you have to physically put the needle on the record and listen to it. I don’t know. There’s just something special about that that you’re not getting out of an MP3 or a CD.”
You do have to work a little bit for the music. I forgot how short a record is, and how often you have to get up and flip it over.
“I guess there’s more responsibility put on the listener. You can put it on as background music, but it’s definitely something that you kind of have to monitor. I think that’s a good thing.”
People aren’t abandoning modern technology completely. Most new records come with a little bonus.
“The ability to include a digital download card with the vinyl, it’s kind of become the main medium that bands are selling on tour now and labels are making. It’s becoming more popular than the CD. Especially when you can get a digital download card that comes with it.”