Thursday's HOT MIC

Thursday's HOT MIC

Do you still have a phonograph? I do. Along with about 150 vinyl records from the 1970s.

Guess I better dust it off because Sony is going retro and will be distributing vinyl again.

It has been dismissed as the niche domain of hipsters who don’t even have turntables and nostalgic dads buying countless reissues of Dark Side Of the Moon. But the resurrection of vinyl has been given major label backing, with the announcement by Sony Music that it will restart the manufacture of its own records.

The Japanese arm of Sony Music announced it would open its own record-pressing plant in March next year to cope with the huge demand for vinyl in the country.

Sony Music Japan shut down its in-house vinyl pressing production in 1989 after the advent of CDs, which entered the market in 1982 and were dominantfor the next two decades.

However, in a trend mirrored worldwide, vinyl sales in Japan have rocketed over the past four years and the country’s sole vinyl-pressing factory is unable to cope with demand, prompting Sony to step in.

It is a similar story in Europe, where most vinyl for major and independent labels is pressed by just two plants, GZ media based in the Czech Republic, and Record Industry in the Netherlands. However, their combined capacity of more than 100,000 records per day is not enough to keep up with global appetite.

“It’s actually too good,” said Record Industry’s owner, Ton Vermeulen, last year. “Demand is sky-high and we’re having to turn people away, which I don’t like doing.”

The boom in vinyl sales is attributed to two factors: older generations who have long been attached to the format, and also a younger audience used to digital forms of music who want to own a physical format; with CDs in decline, vinyl has become a popular alternative.

I stream all the music I listen to so I have no interest in investing in another system. But I thought the major reason CDs took over the market from both vinyl and tape was their far superior sound quality.

I'm sure the technology has advanced, but it's hard to imagine a diamond-tipped stylus being able to deliver the same quality of sound over my headphones as I get streaming. Or perhaps they don't even make those anymore.

Regardless, the care one must take with vinyl to avoid scratches and nicks makes it a dubious choice. I can't recall the number of records I loaned to friends that came back sounding like someone had done a tap dance on them.

What's old is new...