Ongoing History Daily: The vinyl shortage, part 2

Last time we spoke of the shortage of vinyl records caused by COVID-related supply chain issues. But this isn’t the first time we’ve had this problem.

Vinyl records are made from polyvinyl chloride, which is derived from oil. Immediately following the oil crisis of the early 70s, record labels were faced with a spike in prices for polyvinyl chloride. This also caused a shortage and a spike in prices. Faced with higher costs, labels took fewer chances on signing artists, simply because making vinyl records had become so expensive.

Fewer records got distributed to stores and radio stations. Smaller labels suffered because any available polyvinyl chloride went to the big labels. And pressing plants started recycling old records. Before long, it wasn’t uncommon to find a record that was 70% recycled product. The rest was made up of “extender” compounds. The result was worse-sounding vinyl and growing disenchantment with the state of records by the public.

No wonder everyone was ready for the CD when it arrived in 1983.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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