Are you an avid collector of records who just does not quite understand why your favorite records are or have become so expensive? Are you looking to get into the nitty gritty of the processes of making vinyl?
The reason why is vinyl so expensive might seem simple but is drenched in nuance.
Simply put though, vinyl records are so expensive because interest in vinyl has been on the rise since 2007, but the production means have not met the demand, causing an imbalance in supply and demand. Between 2019 and 2021, vinyl sales skyrocketed by 121.34% to nearly 42 million vinyl albums sold!
Everything seems to be more expensive than it once was, and this is at least in part due to escalating rates of inflation as the years progress, and vinyl records are far from exempt. Even during this second era of the vinyl record, there are still so many production costs to consider, though we are largely getting ahead of ourselves in how records are made and what they are made of.
It is believed that back in the original heyday of vinyl record labels who would press records as their primary export things were cheaper. More accurately, the prices for everything were a little different as rates of taxation have affected different consumables differently.
A lot of those who reminisce about cheaper prices neglect to consider the fact that during the 60s in England there was still a different form of currency altogether, and though it was on the way out at this point it still would have affected the rates at which such consumables would be sold off.
The local record shop, still, was kind, and what they said and what vinyl albums they decided to push on their store front would be what the masses would listen to. Anyone who did not like the vinyl releases their local record store was pushing might just as easily start their own record stores.
Now, there are of course still record stores, but there is far more of a market for records online in the vinyl revival we currently find ourselves in. People flock to these online vendors for reasons of affordability, being able to find rare records and common records for a cheaper average price than their local store.
And yet, the prices still seem extortionate for a new single record, no? Are the major labels not laughing at the lay folk as they tot up their vinyl sales chart?
Why is Vinyl so Expensive?
I suppose in calling something expensive, we are automatically comparing it to the price of something else without even realizing it. In this case, it will be with other audio formats deemed to be cheaper, namely CDs and digital streaming platforms.
The simple answer is that the manufacturing process enacted in vinyl pressing plants in the production of records is a far more thorough and labor intensive process than simply mass manufacturing a whole bunch of nameless and faceless CDs and then scanning a bunch of digital files onto them.
Digital streaming platforms elide the scanning part of the process altogether and simply transmit the digital files through the airwaves into the ears of the consumer.
So, while these methods have been readily available for a while and have been adapted to meet the demand of the modern consumer, the vinyl record in its unexpected second coming has not been adapted to.
Though vinyl sales have rocketed in the previous decade or so as a result of a burgeoning culture of nostalgia, the means to meet the supply and demand of the medium have not been met. The vinyl industry is still working as though records are not exploding in popularity.
This means that all the old pressing plants are having to do much of the heavy lifting with records for the overall vinyl production. This is largely the reason why so many pressing plants are entirely backlogged with new vinyl releases, and why some have even closed their doors entirely until such a day when they can actually catch up.
Record shops, thus, are not able to provide for their consumers, the consumers get angry and buy the goods elsewhere for more money, and the whole ugly cycle repeats anew.
Is Vinyl Expensive?
While some believe that the price of vinyl is rather extortionate in this day, there are many who believe that the price should be looked at relatively and compared to other such products.
Mark Whelton, for example, believes that while ‘vinyl appears expensive compared to CD’s’, ‘the production costs are greater’.
‘However it is my belief that vinyl is now relatively cheaper than ever in the UK compared to the other of my passions, beer, gigs and football.
‘In the 60’s a LP cost the equivalent of 20–25 pints of beer. When I started going under-age in the 70’s to the local pub a LP cost the equivalent of 15 pints. Now a LP cost 4–6 pints of beer. I appreciate that indirect taxation has affected the price of beer in the UK but even so.
‘From posters I have seen gig tickets in the 60’s were considerably cheaper than LP’s. You could probably take a few friends with you for the same price. I still somewhere have tickets from head-line gigs in the mid to late 70’s. Paid £5,50 for The Who, probably paid £6.50 for Springsteen’s first “River” tour. LP’s were cheaper but generally it was the gig or the LP approach on my limited budget. The price of gigs nowadays is such that it is 4–5 LP’s or a ticket.’
Likewise, many might ask the parallel question ‘why are CDs so expensive?’ A blank CD costs next to nothing to produce and even less to transmit the files of the music onto – lending flame to the CD vs Vinyl debate. Artists supposedly receive even less of the sale of a CD, too, so there seems to be no reason why CDs are not being held accountable for these relatively soaring prices throughout the western world.
So, there you have it! Hopefully your curiosity regarding why is vinyl so expensive has been satiated somewhat and that you are feeling a little more clued up about the various processes that can have an effect on the overall price of a new record.
It is a messy situation no doubt, though it is no doubt one worth investing some thought and time in. The sale of records gives the artists far more breathing room, especially in today’s day and age where the recording artist is not necessarily the artist that is signed to a major label. In this way, the artist is given much more freedom to create the music that you live.
FAQs Why is Vinyl so Expensive?
This remains to be seen by each individual listener, though there are undoubtedly perks to buying and listening to vinyl. The experience of collecting records and listening to records on a good sound system is inimitable and cannot be matched by any other medium. There is a certain sound quality in listening to records that also cannot be copied without seeming only like a copy.
It is certainly possible, though I would not bet on it anytime soon. The reason for the relatively expensive price of vinyl these days has to do with the relative inflation of all things over the previous few decades, and also to do with the production process of records in general. Since the vinyl boom, this millennium the means of supplying the demand for records has not been created really. There has been little investment in new factories and pressing plants, so the same old industries are doing all the work despite the ever burgeoning popularity of record collecting throughout the western world.
There are a whole number of perks to actually collecting records and listening to them, though there are equally plenty that have nothing to do with listening to the records. Hanging around one’s local record shops is a sure way to meet a bunch of people who might either be like minded or able to converse with you and share knowledge and experience with you. Similarly, the purchasing of records in an age marked by the prevalence of digital streaming is a better way to support the artist behind the music than ever before, when a single stream on Sporify will be more like hot piss against an artist’s wallet.
It is difficult to say for sure, especially since we are still living within this second vinyl era, and there are undoubtedly more than one or two reasons for its burgeoning popularity. However, one that instantly springs to mind and that is likewise validated by the presence of stores like Urban Outfitters is a very real and potent cult of nostalgia, a yearning by the youth of today for a supposedly simpler time. These are doubtless complex times in which we live, and record collecting offers an escape to a previous time, one that is imagined to be simpler and better.