Sony to start dropping Vinyl Records again

People crate digging at the The Record Parlour in Hollywood, CA
People crate digging at the The Record Parlour in Hollywood, CA

This just in from the Nikkei Asian Review! Sony has announced that nearly 30 years after abandoning releasing music on vinyl, the company will start pressing records again by March 2018 at a plant in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. Ironically, the initial demise of vinyl occurred when Sony co-developed the CD format with Phillips and began distributing the polycarbonate plastic disc in 1982, and by 1989 the company ceased production. Much like it’s earlier predecessor the cassette tape, Compact disc (CD) skyrocketed in popularity when inexpensive portable, home, and players for your vehicle hit the market.

“Sony Music installed record-cutting equipment at a Tokyo recording studio in February, enabling it to produce the masters from which vinyl records are copied. Cutting is a delicate process, with the quality of sound affected by the depth and angle of the grooves, and Sony is scrambling to bring in old record engineers to pass on their knowledge.”

-Nikkei Asian Review

Japan is facing a shrinking population and a shortage of both menial and skilled labor, therefore if Sony is scrambling to bring in experienced engineers, the company may need to seek out experienced individuals from The U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world, in order to meet the demand for vinyl. The new Sony subsidiary facility may help take up the slack of vinyl production, as there is currently only one record manufacturer in operation on the entire Island. Toyokasei, located in Yokohama, is currently the only record factory in Japan, and as a result the supply is unable to keep up with the demand. Sony’s line up may include back catalog of primarily Japanese music, but I’m sure it will extend to other labels under the Sony Music umbrella. Labels such as Columbia, RCA, Epic, Arista, and Columbia Nashville. Now speaking of Columbia Nashville, I would love to get a couple of vinyl copies of Miranda Lambert’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and do a little turntable beat juggling! You laugh? Listen to those drums!

A Nielsen chart of record vinyl record sales.
The Nielsen Company (US), LLC

Vinyl Records are back! But were they ever gone to begin with? I recently went to a massive record sale known as “Free Vinyl Record Day” at the Record Parlour in Hollywood. Basically the way the sale worked, is you spend $20 on anything in the store, then you are given a ticket to go to the warehouse in the back and you can pick 100 records and be on your merry little way. I have gone two years in a row and I was quite impressed with the turn out. Lots of cool people, great music, and I can home with a ton of records. It literally got to the point that even with the large turn out, the store still had a surplus of unsold records. The gentleman manning the exit started asking people “is that it, please grab more.” I walked out with some real gems, including some duplicates of records I already have in my collection. I like to have a back up, just in case. You can never be too careful. Well, as I digress, lets focus on the topic at hand. As mainstream sales of Vinyl records started to fall off by the early nineties, independent labels continued to press records despite the lack of record plants and the popularity of digital downloads, via iTunes, Beatport, and Traxsource.

Photo of a new, but retro looking turntable by the Sony corporation.

Sony’s PS-HX500 Turntable

Even in the midst of laptops and DJ controllers, some analog purist insisted on playing only records, with some clubs touting vinyl only nights. Moreover, some labels will push a 12″ Vinyl release before the digital format in order to give the turntable DJs first crack. One such example is the Moscow-based label Highway Records. Back in 2014, they released Julia Govor & Rashid Ajami’s EP “A Regret” on vinyl first, and then followed with a digital release a month later. Websites such as the Decks online vinyl record store, Juno records and EBay have given those that don’t have an opportunity to go crate digging, a chance to get their vinyl fix. According to The Nielsen Company (US), LLC, vinyl sales reached 9.2 million in 2014, which was up from 6.1 million in 2013. What good are records if you have nothing to play them on? When Panasonic discontinued the Technics line, manufactures such as Nunmark, and Audio-technica attempted to fill the void with lower quality turntables, but it wasn’t until last summer, when the new Technics SL-1200G turntable was introduced, that is when things started to get interesting. Last year Sony also released a turntable (PS-HX500), with High-Resolution recording, for digitizing your record collection, and as of late we have seen turntables models from Denon, Pioneer (current CDJ leader), Reloop, Stanton, and Roland. In the U.S., you can now walk into Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics and purchase a turntable or two if you are so inclined. Fry’s even has a small section dedicated to vinyl records. What factors can we attribute to the resurgence of vinyl? Is it simply nostalgia, sound quality, or rejection of digital media? These could all be factors and it looks like the record labels and turntable manufactures are getting the message loud and clear.

Sony goes retro with return to vinyl production
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