For years, we made our music smaller. Traditional vinyl gave way to 8-tracks and cassettes, then we moved to CDs, mp3 players, and streaming services. Yet somewhere along the way, nostalgia kicked in, and we've started buying records in larger and larger quantities.
Can we still call this a resurgence after 13 years? That's how long vinyl sales have been climbing, a technology once thought extinct resurrected by a combination of nostalgia, sound quality, and capitalism. "Vinyl is still essentially a luxury purchase," said Jonathan Sklute, who runs Good Records NYC in the East Village. "It's still $20-40… You don't need to buy that record."
Sklute represents the last stop on a long, convoluted journey. We started in Carroll Gardens, where Josh Bonati has been cutting masters for artists like Mac DeMarco and Zola Jesus. The next stop was Elizabeth, New Jersey, where Mastercraft Metal & Finishing uses those lacquer masters to build stampers—metal molds containing the music’s DNA. The stampers are passed off to Thomas Bernich at Brooklynphono—he makes the actual records, melting a plastic pre-form into the vinyl we play at home.
Bernich and Donati are independents. They work on projects as they come, and if anything, the renewed interest in vinyl has made their lives more complicated. “The independent vinyl market has always been churning,” Bonati said. “Now the processors are backed up, and the wait time for an artist can be up six months. No one can wait that long.”
Sklute, meanwhile, anticipates a dip. “These things go in cycles,” he said, and his Good Records storefront is already stocking up on what might be the next pop revival—cassettes. For the moment, however, new processing plants continue to open up, and the record business is once again in the business of making records. Watch our latest Music Life above.