COMMENT: The world is suffering from vinyl record shortage and massive price shocks – National

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A few weeks ago, someone sent me a photo of a Tragically Hip album on display in a record store. This appeared to be a standard vinyl number from the band’s album in 2006, Music @ Work, priced at $ 71.99. It wasn’t a typo. To put this in perspective, a copy of the band’s 2-CD deluxe edition Completely Completely can be purchased for $ 13.99. And it’s more than 10 times the cost of a digital copy available on iTunes.

I quickly began to receive emails and texts from other buyers outraged that the prices of regular vinyl albums had passed the $ 50 mark. What is happening? Several things, in the end.

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First, the public demand for vinyl records continues to grow. In Canada, new vinyl sales increased 44% compared to the same period last year. Vinyl revenue in the US has almost doubled from 2020. Things are also crazy in the UK as customers demand old-fashioned records.

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This created a massive backlog of orders at vinyl pressing plants. Each new album is available in vinyl version. Return catalog items – think of enduring bestsellers like Abbey Route the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, and Back to black Amy Winehouse – are perpetually out of stock. And as Christmas approaches, many massive boxes are in the works. Add in upcoming boxes from Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and a dozen more, and you can see the problem. There is a lot of material that needs to be rushed and shipped.

Yes, it is true that many new pressing factories have come online in the past couple of years to help sate the public’s desire for vinyl, but they have supply chain issues that started there. has several years.


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Just before the pandemic broke out, there was a fire at Apollo / Transco, a California factory that was just one of two master lacquer makers on the planet. As the supplier of about 80 percent of all lacquer discs needed to press discs, the entire industry has been thrown into chaos. MDC, a smaller factory in Japan, was already operating at full capacity, leading to a rush to find other solutions, including what was a nascent way to create the same discs but out of metal.

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Saved orders. A batch of vinyl that could have been shipped to the label or distributor in three to six months has gone down to nine months.

Then came COVID-19. The blockages hit the pressed plants hard. It didn’t help. Some order fulfillments have slipped to 12 months or even more. During this time, we continued to buy records.

This created a shortage of polyvinyl chloride, the petrochemical byproduct used to make vinyl. And when there is a shortage of a product used in any type of manufacturing, the prices of the finished products inevitably increase.

Some of these sets require a lot of raw material. For example, if you are hoping to purchase the more elaborate version of Nirvana’s 30th Anniversary Edition No matter – a milestone date which has passed September 24 – you will have to wait until the end of May 2022. During this time, all other editions will be released on November 12.

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Why the delay for the biggest set? Because there are eight 180 gram vinyl records in this box, and there just isn’t enough raw polyvinyl chloride to go around. Maybe it’s because of Brilliant adventure, a collection by David Bowie that includes (among many other things) an impressive number of 18 vinyl records of 180 grams. It is more than seven pounds of vinyl per box.

And things can only get worse. With oil price forecasts exceeding US $ 100 per barrel due to a combination of OPEC’s stubbornness and a growing need for energy As the world emerges from the worst of COVID-19, the price of petroleum by-products will also rise. This includes polyvinyl chloride.

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We’ve heard the exact same story before. In 1974, OPEC proclaimed an oil embargo on all nations it saw as helping Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The price of a barrel of oil rose from US $ 3 to US $ 12, an increase of 300%, crippling much of the Western world. Then, in 1979, there was a second oil shock. In both cases, the price of polyvinyl chloride has also increased dramatically.

This forced record companies to lower prices on pressed records. The beautiful thick, heavy, and warp-resistant albums of the 1960s and early 1970s gave way to thin slices of plastic. Forget today’s record 180 grams; some of these rejections weighed 100 grams or even 80.

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Because the grooves couldn’t be cut as deep as before, the audio quality seemed poor, especially when it came to the deep bass. They scratched more easily and tended to warp more so that they no longer lay flat on the turntable. If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember taking a freshly purchased record out of the wrapper only to find it was practically crooked. If he was reasonably flat, it was not uncommon for him to jump. the first time you played it.

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Then came the recycled vinyl, which was often full of impurities that caused noise like growls, clicks and crackles. No wonder we’re ready to give up vinyl altogether, first for pre-recorded cassettes (spurred on by the introduction of the Sony Walkman and its imitators after 1979), then for the compact disc in 1983. Outside of the Weird audiophile release, vinyl generally remained pretty awful for the next 30 years. Could we end up seeing this kind of reduction in quality again? Hopefully not.

Meanwhile, many artists want to release their stuff in some sort of physical format. I’ve seen stories of new orders for CDs and cassettes by those who can’t afford the wait (or afford, period) of vinyl.

Digital Music News to this quote from Jeremy Pafford, North American Market Development Manager for Independent Commodity Intelligence Services: “Nothing is wrong. It’s kind of a mole – something’s wrong, it fixes itself, and then something else happens. And it’s been like that since the start of the pandemic. “

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Alain Croix is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s podcast on the history of new music now on Apple Podcast Where google play

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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