It’s the surprise comeback of the century – decades after vinyl LPs declined in popularity they are now on the rise again.
In the last year, vinyl LP sales have increased by 49% from the previous year – to the tune of 8 million LPs. Indie rock fans and other niche music collectors are seeking out vinyl in greater numbers because of superior sound quality.
Are they up to the challenge? However, the companies that produce vinyl records aren’t up to the challenge. Many record pressing machines haven’t been used in decades, and 90% of the raw vinyl that is used to press records comes from one company. There are approximately 15 American manufacturers of vinyl records, and will the increase in sales they are struggling to keep producing while fighting breakdowns and supply shortages.
The manufacturers are in a strange position – they need to invest in new equipment and/or employees, but the industry is still dying. Many producers are trying to add new presses to their manufacturing facilities, but they are finding it hard to find investors. Overall, the vinyl LP industry represents less than 2% of U.S. music sales.
A long wait. As a result, sellers are often having to wait months for LP orders that used to take weeks in decades past. Pressing machines can produce about 125 records per hour, and factories are running their machines 24/7 in order to keep up with demand. However, this means that the equipment is more likely to break down.
In order to get more machines to meet demand, record manufacturers have been on the hunt for presses that are being stored around the globe and not used. They are playing between $15,000 and $30,000, and then paying more to get them into working order. However, this is a stopgap solution. If LPs continue to sell, the industry will need investors for a complete reinvention.