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Vinyl Producers Can’t Keep Up With Hipsters’ Demands

Vinyl is cool again, but will it last?

(Justin Paget/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

For a certain set of music listeners, vinyl albums are all the rage. Maybe it's their lack of portability, their expense or their finicky requirements; maybe it's their physicality, unbroken auditory range or their cultural cachet. For some reason or another, vinyl LPs, lifted straight from the 1970s, are coveted for their particular je ne sais quoi. And people are buying them—lots of them.

That people are willing to pay money for physical albums is a huge draw for the music industry. Yet in their rush to cash in, music makers are running in to problems, says the Wall Street Journal: the vinyl pressing industry as it stands just isn't big enough to keep up with demand.

Last year people bought 8 million vinyl records, says the Journal. But there are only around 15 record-making factories left in the U.S., and just one company supplies the bulk of the polyvinyl chloride, the raw material for vinyl records.

Investors and manufacturers are hesitant to spend money and effort setting up new machines to capture what is, in all likelihood, a passing fad. Vinyl is hip, but will it be hip for the entire operational lifetime of a vinyl press?  

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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