Dust off your turntable and get ready to put that needle to the groove – Sony Music Entertainment is working to reestablish itself in the vinyl market by restarting production of records. The media powerhouse hasn’t made records since 1989 when it shifted to fully focus on CD production, but if they’re getting back into it, it’s obvious that the rebirth of vinyl is more than just a trend.
Production will resume in March 2018 via Shizuoka Prefecture, a Japanese subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment. The company also installed record-cutting equipment at a Tokyo recording studio – so it looks like things are getting pretty serious.
Sony and Shizuoka Prefecture plan to first press popular older Japanese songs and albums, followed by big mainstream releases. Orders will also be accepted from outside record labels.
Even without the nostalgia older generations experience through playing records, it seems that there’s something about that ritual that resonates with people of all ages. Record sales have exploded within the last several years, with vinyl beating digital music sales at one point in 2016. 17.2 million units were shipped last year, with 70% of those sales attributed to consumers 35 and younger. (Source: Nikkei)
The record industry is seeing some added benefits from being reborn during this era with new spins added onto old technology. For example, Jack White’s Lazaretto (2014) album featured many extras like dual-groove technology, hidden tracks beneath center labels, and even a holographic angel that floats above the record as it spins.
Despite the modern flair, vinyl is still an old business that is struggling to retain and retrain new talent. The engineers who built and worked on the remaining record pressing machines are mostly retired or dead. Between now and next spring, Sony is working to bring in old record engineers to pass their knowledge on to younger generations who will keep the market alive with their specialized training.
Record production is a delicate process that happens in three phases – mastering, plating, and pressing. The quality of sound is effected by the depth and angle of grooves on each record, so the work requires precision and skill. Most of the machinery still in use today is used around the clock and requires complex heating and cooling cycles, plus almost constant maintenance.
Media giants like Sony and Panasonic have been keeping their finger on the pulse, finding the perfect time to rejoin the vinyl train, responding by not only making plans to begin pressing records again, but also producing new turntable models for the masses. Boutique audiophile manufacturers like Pro-Ject have kept going strong all the while, but also noted an uptick in turntable sales in recent years.
Do you have a vinyl collection that you enjoy at home? Tell us about your turntable and record stash in the comments!