Vinyl Lives

Vinylives Background


Q: How many independent record stores are there currently in the U.S.?

A: According to Los Angeles-based record retail support organization The Almighty Institute for Music Retail, between the years 2000 and 2010, more than 4,000 record stores (including many chains) closed. As of December, 2009, 1,884 record stores remained in operation. The current (2012) total is 1,600.

(Source: The Almighty Institute of Music Retail.)

Q: How many record presses are currently in operation?

A: There are approximately twenty record press businesses in operation within the U.S. Following vinyl's demise in the 1980s, many of the existing machines were relocated to California and Nashville. Between these twenty companies currently manufacturing vinyl, there are approximately 150 machines of different types. Bootleg or pirate presses also exist.

Q: What is Record Store Day?

A: In an effort to bring renewed attention to the plight of independently owned record stores, the first Record Store Day was held in April, 2008. Businesses who participate report good sales days; and many members of the community --including plenty of musicians-- show up to lend their support.

Q: What is the oldest known musical recording?

A: Handel's "Israel in Egypt" --recorded on an Edison wax cylinder on June 28, 1888.

(Source: Wired)

Q: When was the first phonograph invented?

A: Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the phonograph in December, 1877. Within the next decade, improvements to Edison's cylinder design were carried out by Emile Berliner.

Berliner's Gramophone (as first demonstrated in 1888) featured lateral-cut records and utilized a flat playing surface (versus Edison's cylindrical). Also, his design included a parallel arm and stylus--what today is known as a tone arm; and, Berliner perfected manufacturing methods enabling duplication of (initially, zinc) discs.

Edison cylinders remained in production until 1929. By 1913, Edison had introduced his own version of discs, called "Diamond Discs". Berliner's discs (initially made of rubber, nowadays thermoplastics) and record player --with its many technological permutations over the years-- are still in use today.

(Source: "Sound Recording: The Story of a Technology", by David L. Morton, Jr.)

Q: How many records are there in the U.S.?

A: Billions!

Q: What record (disc) first sold more than one million copies?

A: That honor goes to the 1903 recording of "Vesti la Giubba", as sung by Italian tenor extraordinaire, Enrico Caruso.

(Source: "78 RPM Records and Prices", by Peter A. Soderbergh)

Q: Vinyl or digital? There seems to be some debate about the differences in sound quality between the two. Which format is better?

A: That depends on who you ask! Technically, and according to audiophiles (people who scrutinize these sorts of things), digital sound gets closest to sonic perfection. But, there are two camps (analog vs. digital).

Digital is clean (no surface noise, etc.) and --theoretically-- can be preserved with little degeneration. Much of the debate about digital centers on the problems caused by digital sound compression technology (MP3, etc.) --fitting more notes into a smaller space (streaming media, computers and iPods) and losing what was once known as "Full Spectrum" audio. The digital processes required for recording and reproduction are predicated on eliminating sounds that are determined to be inaudible or immaterial --conveniently clipped and removed from the final musical end user --the listener.

Because of these and other factors, analog sound is perceived as accessible (less fascistic!) and more representative of actual sounds in the real world. To be fair, the use of compression became more prevalent in the 1960's --well before the widespread use of digital technologies.

But to its adherents new and old, analog sound and the vinyl format contain more warmth, more definition and detail than digital ever will. To many --if not all-- true audiophiles, this is an irresponsible thing to say!

© James P. Goss, 2009. All rights reserved. Website by FCE Web Design.