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Vinyl Is Selling So Well That It’s Getting Hard To Sell Vinyl

“Vinyl was nearly at death’s door not that long ago. After CDs came out, the predictions of vinyl’s demise were an every day occurrence,” writes Slashdot reader smooth wombat. “And for a time it looked like the vinyl record, something which had been around since the 1930s, would meet its end as so many other yesteryear products have. Except the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. Now, with the sudden resurgence and demand for vinyl records, the few remaining manufacturers are struggling to meet the growing demand.” The New York Times reports: In the first six months of this year, 17 million vinyl records were sold in the United States, generating $467 million in retail revenue (PDF), nearly double the amount from the same period in 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Sixteen million CDs were also sold in the first half of 2021, worth just $205 million. Physical recordings are now just a sliver of the overall music business — streaming is 84 percent of domestic revenue — but they can be a strong indication of fan loyalty, and stars like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo make vinyl an important part of their marketing.

Yet there are worrying signs that the vinyl bonanza has exceeded the industrial capacity needed to sustain it. Production logjams and a reliance on balky, decades-old pressing machines have led to what executives say are unprecedented delays. A couple of years ago, a new record could be turned around in a few months; now it can take up to a year, wreaking havoc on artists’ release plans.

Music and manufacturing experts cite a variety of factors behind the holdup. The pandemic shut down many plants for a time, and problems in the global supply chain have slowed the movement of everything from cardboard and polyvinyl chloride — the “vinyl” that records (and plumbing pipes) are made from — to finished albums. In early 2020, a fire destroyed one of only two plants in the world that made lacquer discs, an essential part of the record-making process. But the bigger issue may be simple supply and demand. Consumption of vinyl LPs has grown much faster than the industry’s ability to make records. The business relies on an aging infrastructure of pressing machines, most of which date to the 1970s or earlier and can be costly to maintain. New machines came along only in recent years, and can cost up to $300,000 each. There’s a backlog of orders for those, too.


Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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