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 demand to buy popular music, chain record stores opened in malls across America and record sales – included the smaller 45 rpm singles – continued to rise.
But it wouldn’t last.
Introduced in the mid 80’s, the new compact disc format (CD) for music recordings was cheaper and less expensive to produce. The CD player was costly at first, but eventually demand drove down the price and by the 1990’s, the age of the LP mostly disappeared as the record chain stores transitioned to only CD’s on their shelves.
Recently however, due to the simplicity of playing digital music with no physical attributes, there’s been a surge in demand for vinyl music. Newly pressed vinyl records of older and newer music has become popular as turntables sales have increased as well.
Many new artists promote vinyl versions of their albums as special editions.
Despite this uptick in newer record sales, privately owned record shops, or independents, continue to thrive by specializing in rare or out of print editions.
Today the original LP’s are considered nostalgic and collectible.