A record is a flat disc of varying size used for the purpose of playing recorded sound and music.
They are made from vinyl, but early records were made from shellac and celluloid.
The standard modern sizes are 12” records (played at a speed of 33 1/3rpm) which are traditionally used for albums, and 7” records (played at 45rpm) used for singles. A format for earlier records was the ‘78’, a 10” record that played at 78rpm.
The vinyl record was the primary source for recorded music during the majority of the 20th century, until it was superseded by the compact disc in the late 1980s. However, it remained popular with collectors, audiophiles and DJs and in the last decade has seen consistently rising sales figures in contrast to CDs which have in turn been replaced with digital MP3s and music downloads.
Records have always been popular with collectors due to a number of factors including their sound quality, rarity and album cover artwork.
Collectors will usually focus on a certain artist, band, record label or genre of music, and purchase records through second-hand stores, record fairs and internet auction sites such as eBay.
Many records, particularly 7” singles from less successful artists and groups, were never produced in large quantities and collectors prize original pressings over more readily available reissues.
Also highly sought after are test pressings (created in very small numbers to check recording levels), promotional pressings (issued to radio stations before an actual release and never intended for re-sale) and imports (records only released in certain countries, or foreign versions which differ from the original release).
The first records
Records were first developed by Emile Berliner in 1888, as a format to compete with the phonograph cylinder.
In 1894 he began to market records under the Berliner Gramophone label, and in 1901 formed The Victor Talking Machine Company with Eldridge R. Johnson, whose work had improved the sound quality of records to the level of cylinders.
In 1918 the patent on the record ran out, and a large number of companies began to produce records. In the 1920s, record companies began recording blues, jazz and country music — the roots of all American pop music today. Some record companies like Paramount, Gennett, Okeh and Vocalion specialized in recording such music and records in excellent condition can command high prices today. Later in the 1920s, the major companies such as Victor, Columbia, Brunswick began recording this music.
Many different sizes and speeds were used, but the average speed of 78rpm became the most widely used as it was halfway between the 80rpm used by Columbia and the 76.59 of Victor, two of the largest record companies of the era. The most popular size used was the 10” record, and these were made from shellac until the format was phased out in the 1950s.
The Depression devastated the record industry but the repeal of Prohibition revived records as juke boxes became a popular mainstay in bars and taverns. The coming of the Swing craze also helped revive record sales.
During the 1930s companies began to send out commercials and pre-recorded shows to radio stations on vinyl pressings as they were far less likely to break in the post, and this practice was then used for music during the mid 1940s.
The advent of tape machines helped create an explosion of indie labels, most of which were regional, specializing in country, blues, R&B and ethic music.
In 1948 Columbia released the first 33⅓ rpm LP (long play) record and RCA Victor followed in 1949 with their new competing 45rpm record.
The rising popularity of both these new formats helped to kill off the 78rpm format by the end of the 1950s.
During this decade the 33⅓ rpm record became the preferred format for albums, with 45’s being used for single releases.
The popularity of the jukebox also favoured the 45, as its size allowed the machines to store more records. The first ‘all 45’ jukebox holding 100 records was developed by the Seeburg corporation in 1949, and the format quickly became the standard for all jukeboxes.
Records truly became collector’s items during the 1950s with the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The sudden decline of 78’s meant early recordings by artists such as Elvis Presley and Little Richard were no longer easily available outside of the US, and English collectors began to trade records.
The 1960s saw a huge boom in record collecting for a number of reasons.
The decade saw the rise of black music genres such as blues, soul and funk, popularised by the white artists who had copied it during the 1950s.
European record stores began importing records by American artists in limited quantities, and as bands such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones became successful playing covers of old blues songs many collectors began to search for recordings of the original artists.
In the US the 1960s saw the folk revival movement, during which emerging artists such as Bob Dylan were inspired by the early rural recordings of folk, blues and Appalachian singers.
During the 1920s and 30s archivists had travelled the United States making thousands of recordings of rural country and blues singers in an attempt to catalogue the oral histories and cultural traditions they contained.
Archivists such as Harry Smith and Alan Lomax released album anthologies of many of these early songs, and collectors began to seek out the rare original releases.
In the 1970s, the record collecting hobby really took off with the establishment of record collecting publications such as Goldmine, Discoveries, and Stormy Weather and Record Collector.
Price guide books were published, codifying exactly how much certain "rare items" were worth and the grading of records based upon condition became more standardized across the hobby.
During the 1980s the growth of Hip Hop and dance music as music genres, combined with the development of low-cost digital music technology, led to the art of ‘sampling’.
Parts of older songs were ‘sampled’, looped and included in modern tracks, leading modern DJs and producers to search for rarer and more obscure records to sample.
This practise of collecting records for the use of sampling became known as ‘crate digging’, after the practise of searching through crates of records in second-hand stores.
The development of compact discs in the 1980s was a double-edged sword for record collectors.
On the one hand, it meant record labels stopped releasing the majority of their new titles on vinyl and deleted a large number of their older titles, making it far harder to find records.
On the other hand, records were suddenly a limited commodity, and original pressings of now-deleted titles became far more valuable.
For years the only major group of consumers buying vinyl were DJs, who still used record turntables in clubs and preferred vinyl over CDs due to its easier manipulation (e.g scratching).
But over the last 10 years the format has seen a resurgence in sales, as more alternative artists began to release their music on vinyl.
Labels began to re-release their back catalogues including many classic albums of the 1960s and 70s on high-quality vinyl, and a large number of new album and single releases are now available on records once more.
In the United States, annual vinyl sales increased by 85.8% between 2006 and 2007 and by 89% between 2007 and 2008, and figures released in the United States in early 2009 showed that sales of vinyl albums nearly doubled in 2008, with 1.88 million sold - up from just under 1 million in 2007.
Main article: List of record collecting terms
The world’s most expensive record
The most expensive record ever sold at auction is a copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1980 album “Double Fantasy”, signed by Lennon on his doorstep for Mark Chapman hours before he returned and shot him.
The album was sold in 1999 for $150,000.
Notable record collections and collectors
Main article: List of notable record collections
Main article: List of rare record dealers
Main article: List of notable record labels
Clubs and societies
Main article: List of records collectors' clubs and societies
VJM Jazz & Blues Mart www.vjm.biz (primarily jazz and blues 78s)
Related Wikicollecting articles
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