Vinyl continues its triumphant return to the mainstream in 2017, with sales of records at their highest point since the late 1980s and a variety of new, stylish turntables hitting the market. Meeting this increasing market demand is a challenge with many large record pressing facilities closed, but Sony Japan is looking to tap into the trend by resuming vinyl production at one of its plants from March 2018.
Initially fueled by 21st century nostalgia, the vinyl resurgence has continually grown over recent years, with some pundits estimating 2017 will enjoy the seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth for the aging medium.
Sony ceased production of vinyl in Japan back in 1989 after compact disc (CD) sales indicated the aging format was on the way out. Now it's digital streaming services that are throwing a cat amongst the pigeons with some, including Kanye West, even heralding CD as a dead format.
Although CDs still account for the vast majority of music sales, the trendlines are clear. CD sales are on the downturn, while vinyl is experiencing a long-running upswing. This fascinating movement seems to be fueled by a sense that the tangible, and collectable, quality of a vinyl record is a much more preferable form of physical media than a CD or cassette.
Over recent years, the vinyl trend has spawned a variety of weird new turntable designs. From a minimalist turntable that hides its tonearm, to stylish device with a levitating platter, it seems increasingly clear that vinyl is winning the hearts of serious music collectors.
And it's not hard to see why. Putting aside arguments over which medium holds the optimum audio quality for musical playback, vinyl records undoubtedly make for gorgeous collectable objects. With their large, lovely artwork and tactile crackly warmth, vinyl records are physical objects to covet in ways that CDs or streaming service simply can't match.
The return to vinyl is not without its problems though, with the Nikkei Asian Review reporting that Sony is "scrambling" to find old record engineers after record-cutting equipment to produce vinyl masters was installed in a Tokyo recording studio back in February.
It's not hard to see a world five or 10 years from now that is all digital with vinyl as the dominant collectable physical media. With 70 percent of vinyl sales in the United States last year from those aged 35 and younger, this is a trend that has defiantly eclipsed mere nostalgia and become a true audiophile preference. As a result, Sony may not be the last big music player we see get back into vinyl production.
Source: Nikkei Asian Review