Vinyl Records are back for good. After a massive decline due to the invention of the CD, Vinyl Records now have a market share again. What is more, Record Store Day hit a new Record in 2018.
Vinyl Record consumption is still a niche but one that has made it to the middle of society. Online sellers like discogs.com or recordsale.com make Vinyl hunting from your sofa as easy as it gets.
You may still be a total music nerd but at least everyone else has heard about Vinyl. The phonographic record, Vinyl’s fancier name, has a long history. It is part of the music industry for a very long time.
Want to know the best part? Here are 10 secrets nobody tells you about Vinyl Records:
1. A lot of Vinyl buyers don’t have a record player at home:
Studies have suggested that a lot of Vinyl will never get a spin at their new home. Maybe that is due to the fact that a lot of new Vinyl Records come with a digital download code.
Ironically, people use the download code instead of playing the Vinyl itself. Perhaps that is down to the high costs of Vinyl Record Players. Or the person likes the artwork very much and treats the Vinyl Record more as decoration.
2. Use photoshop for checking the quality of the Vinyl Record:
When you buy a Vinyl Record second hand you probably check the Vinyl Record for quality first. You take it out of its sleeve, turn it carefully in your hands, tilt it sideways to use light reflection as an indicator for scratches.
However, these basic quality tests not always leed to a satisfying result. More often you end up with undetected scratches on your precious Vinyl anyway.
Here’s the deal: there is a McGuyver way of checking your Vinyl for damages. Download the photoshop app to your mobile phone.
Open the photo of the Vinyl and go to Image>Adjustments>Levels. Now, you can play with the black, white and grey sliders to change the settings. Any imperfections are now way easier to spot!
3. Do the right set up for your vinyl player:
First-time buyers of a record player may just plug it in and give their new Vinyl Record a spin. You are probably too excited anyway.
But once the first rush is over, do take a second and make sure your player has the right set up. It can damage both the Vinyl Record and player if used with an incorrect setting.
Firstly, use a spirit level to make sure the record player stands evenly. If you live in an old building, for example, the floors are never totally straight.
You can adjust the feet of the player to make it perfectly level. Now, make sure that the player is grounded. That means that you’ll need a little cable to connect the player with something metal to ground any electrical voltage.
Otherwise, you will hear a constant ‘humming’. Last but not least make sure that the weight of the cartridge is levelled out.
If you make it too hard it will wear down the Vinyl. If you make it too light, the cartridge might jump if you walk by the record player, for example.
4. Download the digital version of the LP directly after purchase. Otherwise, it might expire:
If you buy a brand new record from the store it oftentimes comes with a digital download code. Chances are that was the reason you bought it anyway.
However, don’t just store the Vinyl and get the digital files at a later point in time. Most download codes don’t show an expire date for the download.
Nonetheless, out of my humble experience, they do expire. It can be quite a hustle to get in contact with the record label and proof them that you purchased the Vinyl correctly. So, make sure to download the files straight away and be on the safe side!
5. Check if the music was intended for vinyl or not. Also, check the mastering if possible:
Not all Vinyl Records are created equal. If you’re not careful, you’ll buy a record that was never meant to be one in the first place.
Here’s the kicker: not all music that is pressed on Vinyl was intended for Vinyl. What does that mean?
So, if a band is bringing out a new album they might make it for CD consumption. Then they might press a couple of Vinyl to go with the release.
They probably haven’t thought about adjusting the tracklist to the fact that a Vinyl needs turning after around 20 minutes. Or that the capacity of a Vinyl is shorter than of a CD.
In order to fit the whole length of a CD onto the Vinyl, the last couple of songs will be much reduced in quality to make up for space.
You see, there are many shortfalls if the production hasn’t Vinyl first in mind.
Another pitfall to look out for is Master For Vinyl. Most of the times music in the recording studio will be recorded digitally nowadays.
That doesn’t mean that you can master it for Vinyl Records. There are specialist mastering engineers who can make the most of the music so the Vinyl listening experience is really as superior as it can be.
However, if the record label needs to cut costs, they might just use the CD master for the Vinyl as well. That means that the compressed files will be the same, just the carrier is different.
6. There are DJ beginner workshops for women and female-identifying folks:
If you want to take your Vinyl love to the next level and always wanted to learn how to DJ with Vinyl, here is the space for you.
At Spoon, you can book a group workshop at Berlin club ://about blank. Initiated by Ena Lind, it offers a safe space for women to explore the ways of DJing with Vinyl.
There are also workspace sessions where more advanced DJs can find open desks to train and evolve their style. You can also book private sessions if you need a one-on-one tutorial by one of the mentors.
7. Hidden secrets on vinyl:
Most of the time a Vinyl is pitch black and the only mystery on it is the quality of sound. This is crazy: there are some artists who embroid secrets within the Vinyl Record.
Here is a complete thread about just that on Reddit. Sometimes, artists use the runout groove to inscribe secret messages for the eagle-eyed listener.
The runout groove is the last bit in the very middle of the Vinyl where no music is played anymore and the cartridge will run out.
Some musicians take it even further. Jack White is again at the forefront of Vinyl extravaganza. Within his record ‘Lazaretto’, he embodied anything from a hologram to different running directions.
Here’s a video with the man himself explaining all the details:
8. Vinyl on X-ray films. Soviet music lovers took DIY to the next level:
In the soviet union, censorship was a major part of everyday life. That also included music.
Music from abroad or music genres that didn’t conform with the communist party norm were strongly suppressed. Music production was centralised and intensely controlled by the government.
Amazingly, that didn’t keep music lovers from pursuing their craving for music. Instead of Vinyl, they facilitated X-ray films in order to produce a carrier for banned music.
Oftentimes secretly stolen from hospital garbage. The X-rays were then cut into 7-inch Vinyl, making the centre hole with burning in a cigarette.
The grooves were cut by using old phonographs. The quality, of course, wasn’t outstanding and the records only could be played a couple of times. But still, better than nothing at all!
9. Vinyl production or the search of the last living Dodo:
The selling numbers of Vinyl might roar at the moment. However, the production personnel doesn’t seem to be affected by those developments.
Only a handful of people can repair them [Ed: pressing plants]. They travel around the world throughout the year and have more to do than they can handle. In the worst case, this means that a machine will lie idle for many weeks.”Andreas Lubich, mastering engineer and Vinyl expert. *source: FactMag
The same shortage goes for lacquer experts. Lacquer refers to a step in the process in which the master is produced for cutting all Vinyl for one production.
Apparently, there is one rather older gentleman in Japan specialising in this particular trade and one company in the USA. They basically have a monopoly on this.
Next in line for causing problems is producing a stylus. ‘The needle etches a groove in the lacquer that spirals to the centre of the circular disc.’ (source)
Basically, the stylus is the needle that cuts the grooves into the lacquer which later will transport them onto the master Vinyl called ‘mother’.
Production company Apollo in the USA had one of the only experts on this, called Maria.
Maria knew exactly which adhesives were the right ones, and that you couldn’t use the large vats because the consistency of the adhesive would change. Then she retired, and for a long time the styluses were qualitatively just not as good.Andreas Lubich, mastering engineer and Vinyl expert. *source: FactMag
The list could go on and on with people needed to make sure Vinyl production won’t come to a halt due to the lack of skilled people.
10. There is hope for old Vinyl pressing machinery:
When journalists report about the Vinyl boom, they are always quick to name the downfalls of it. The limited production capacity due to the very old machines.
The few people who know how to repair the machines. And so on and so on. Now, help is coming. In the form of completely new production machinery.
In the rural nowhere of Germany, there is a company that builds the so-called ‘Newbilt‘ Vinyl presses. The best part is, you can also get just parts for your system.
That means that if something breaks down, you can repair it easier. Before, it was really hard to repair old pressing plants due to the lack of replacement parts.
Jack White’s Third Man Records in Detroit/USA got completely new ‘Newbilt’ pressing plants for the Third Man Pressing section of the company.
Vinyl Records universe is never-ending
There you go. 10 secrets nobody will tell you about Vinyl Records. I hope you could find some new facts and interesting topics to delve into deeper.
Vinyl Records universe is never-ending and always evolving. It may be an old format but music fans love of it is nonetheless as current as it gets.
No matter if you fancy an X-ray Vinyl for your collection or a Jack White super LP, the Vinyl world is your oyster!
I hope you’d enjoy the read.