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Sony Will Start Pressing Vinyl Records After a 28-Year Hiatus

The company stopped producing vinyl records in 1989

(Galt Museum & Archives/Flickr Commons)
smithsonian.com

By any measure, vinyl records should have gone the way of the dodo. In the digital age, we have no trouble getting our music fix without turning to large, delicate records that require a bulky machine to play them. But instead of disappearing into the ether, vinyl has been making a comeback. They're so popular, in fact, that Sony Music Entertainment will start pressing vinyl for the first time in 28 years, as Alec Macfarlane and Chie Kobayashi report for CNN Money.

Though Sony hasn't released many specific details, the company has said that by March of next year, it will be making vinyl at a pressing plant near Tokyo. Sony, which represents chart-topping artists like Adele and Beyonce, stopped making vinyls in 1989. At that point a more wieldy option—CDs—became the go-to choice of many music lovers.

CD sales have tanked in recent years, as the technology was edged out of the market by digital music and online streaming services like Spotify. But LPs—short for “long playing” records, first introduced by Columbia Records in 1948—have been enjoying a surprising resurgence. In 2015, Chris Morris reports for Forbes, vinyl sales climbed 32 percent to $416 million, the highest sum since 1988.

Morris goes on to explain that vinyl began to soar in popularity as “hipsters in their 20s and early 30s sought a way to differentiate their music listening. Albums were old school, filled with hisses and pops that digital music had erased. But those flaws added a depth and warmth to the music that even people who once owned extensive album collections had forgotten after years of listening to digital music. (Digital is technically cleaner, but the compression technology in MP3s tends to dull the highs and lows.)”

The trend has been welcomed by the music industry, but it has also created a problem. As Travis M. Andrews points out in the Washington Post, many record labels shuttered their vinyl presses when it seemed like the technology was becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, companies that still produce vinyl have struggled to keep up with demand. 

Despite its newfound popularity, vinyl is “unlikely to ever be a major growth or profit engine,” according to the global consulting firm Deloitte. But vinyl records aren’t as niche as the used to be, and Sony is jumping on the bandwagon—once again.

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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