By Ken Zurski
In 1948, the LP (Long Play) microgroove vinyl record was introduced by Columbia Records for the sole purpose of playing more music on a phonograph or analog sound medium. Circular in shape like its predecessors, the LP was larger in diameter at 16-inches and turned at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, much slower than previous versions.
The LP was designed to replace the 12-inch records being manufactured for RCA Victor player’s in the 1930’s which had tighter grooves and less background noise, but unpredictable sound clarity overall.
The larger LP’s, more commonly known as albums, were slow to catch on at first, representing only a slight percentage of sales for consumers who were accustomed to the smaller size, faster speeds (78 rpm) and shorter play time. But as home stereo systems improved, LP’s were streamlined back to 12-inches and quickly became the preferred choice of buyers.
In the 1960’s and continuing into the 70’s, music artists such as the Beatles and Pink Floyd found a niche by exploiting the availability of time per LP side. They began experimenting with varying layered pieces of music, thereby making, marketing and selling albums with longer songs and conceptual themes. In some instances, two LP’s were included, called a double album.
Then in the 1980’s, thanks to MTV and the rise in popular music, chain record stores opened in malls across America. The dominance of the LP ended in the 1990’s when music was digitally placed on a cheaper and more compact disc format (CD). Many privately owned record shops, or independents, continued to thrive by specializing in rare or out of print editions.
Today the original LP’s are considered nostalgic and collectible.