Why are vinyl records to flippin' expensive?

I want to buy a record player, and I’ve seen some around town and online that are fairly priced ($100>). I started sniffing around town and on the interwebs seeing how much actually maintaining a record collection would run me, and I was a little taken aback by how much records cost. What gives?

It probably has something to do with the fact that there have been much cheaper and easier media for storing music for about 30 years now.

But I don’t want your MP3s and your YouTubes and your mobile phone textings. I want records!

All right, I sort of lied when I said I’d post where to find cheap records, because you don’t live where I live. If you ever come to Cleveland I’ll show you. But you’re in what…Minnesota? Can’t help you there.

Don’t buy them new, tho. Wait til the summer and check out garage sales at least. Do you not have any used record shops around? How about Half Price Books? Anything like that?

MP3s and YouTube have not been around for 30 years – CDs have. If you want a better sound than you can get from a CD, they you want a vinyl LP in pristine condition, and those are pretty rare, hence the higher price.

There are a number of big reasons keeping new record prices high:
–economies of scale. Even the best selling new vinyl records do maybe 25,000 a year. Compare this to the millions of CDs sold of big hit albums.
–the complexities of pressing records. It’s really hard to mess up the manufacture of CDs. A physically intensive process like pressing records means more ways to go wrong (after the 80s, CD were considerably cheaper to make than tapes or records even though they cost more). Plus there’s considerable breakadge of vinyl just getting to the record store.
–record labels will accept record store returns of CDs for full credit within certain time limits. In contrast, in the early nineties record labels made vinyl unreturnable. So if records don’t sell or are defective, the store has to eat that cost.

Yeah, I’m not looking for new records. Most of the albums I’m looking at are pretty old, and it would be near impossible to find a new one, anyway. There’s a record store near me that I checked out, and the record prices were comparable to CD prices. The internets haven’t helped me, either.

I’m not looking for better sound than I would get from a CD. Most of what I’m coming across are used records, and they’re running me $10-$30/each. Bah!

If you snoop around at flea markets and thrift stores you can find a lot of good stuff for $5 to $10.

I know that is an article of faith among audiophiles, but it is untrue. The process of cutting an LP requires a level of processing that CDs and digital files do not. I know - I have cut vinyl.

Admittedly, some moronic record executives have forced mastering engineers to compress the majority of popular releases to make them “louder” by reducing the dynamic range. But if one doesn’t use excessive compression and masters a CD with the aim of maximizing audio quality, a CD can exceed the quality of the best LP in every way. I’ll grant that older analog releases might be less compressed than current CD releases (I’m glaring at you Stereo Beatles box set!), but still, in almost every aspect, the CD will sound better.

CDs don’t have to sum the bass to mono. CDs don’t have to be compressed to avoid burning out the cutting head. CDs don’t have inherent high level of noise. CDs don’t have groove echo. CDs don’t sound worse every single time you play them.

I was happy to see the back side of vinyl. It’s not “better”. People who like playing vinyl are fetishists.

By the way, you can get all sorts of records very cheap by waiting for your local record stores to close shop. Then you can pick up all sorts of stuff for a buck or less.

The problem is supply and demand. There is a niche market for vinyl and those artists that can sell vinyl will put out a small number of albums.

The biggest problem is vinyl decays over the years, either through use (remember each time a needle runs on a record it does a bit of damage) or misuse.

Vinyl only sounds good if you take excellent and I mean EXCELLENT care of it. You can’t do a “good” job and have a decent sounding disc.

There’s a lot of vinyl out there, that is full of pops, cracks and other defects. Who wants that? No one, this is why vinyl that HAS been take excellent care of over the years has a demand. The better you took care of it, the higher the price.

There may be a thousand albums by Cliff Richard but if only two are in excellent conditions then in reality there are not 1,000 albums by Cliff Richard but only TWO of them.

Vinyl isn’t rare but vinyl that has been looked after very well isn’t common.

OK, I’ll explain the laws of supply and demand to you one more time, but that’s it…

Hey, don’t sass me! This non-poll poll was just a ruse to get people to tell me about online (of if I’m really lucky, local) stores where I can score cheap(er) vinyl records.

There’s a Cheapo in the twin cities that only sells vinyl. I don’t remember what the prices are like.

This page has links to the Cheapo Records locations on google maps.

Very good, young man! I’ve driven by the place, and I suppose next time I’ll stop it.

I hope you find what you’re looking for there. I just had the idea of looking at the price stickers on my LPs to see what they cost, and the only two I could find that I got from Cheapo were $4.20 and $4.80. Not bad prices, a little cheaper than cds anyway.

It really depends where you look. There are record stores that needlessly upcharge on old records within a certain range, and there are those that are more honest in their practices. Any purveyor of old goods will charge whatever they think someone will buy - think of used records as you would collectibles (like ‘antique’ collectibles at the swap meet) and the market begins to make a little more sense. garygnu is spot on here.

A practical guide to record shopping: used records pressed by major labels (RCA, Columbia, etc.) should go for no higher than $5, and then if only in absolute mint condition. Unless you’re shopping for ultra-rare records, there’s really no reason to be spending more than $10+ per piece.

More to the general point: Vinyl pressing plants and distributors in the US are dropping like flies. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Does Let It Be still exist in MPLS? I’ve never been, but a friend picked up some great finds there years back.

You should see the price of 78 rpm records. Great deals. Lousy selection if you like anything made after 1950.

Your thoughts intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Which Stereo Beatles Box Set are you dissing? The old one or the new one (and yes, I’ve got the Mono box set and the stereo of the new ones only).

I gather that you are of the camp that a proper CD is always better than a proper vinyl. I’ve always suspected this, but I have some damn good vinyl. Is this a consensus among vinyl engineers? I’ve always loved the convenience of CDs, as much less care needs to be taken when playing them.

Also, what is burning out the cutting head and groove echo.

Lastly, I understand the idea behind vinyl sounding worse every time it is played, but I’ve played some vinyl with great care, and it still sounds fine. Is this really noticable?

Thank you for your thoughts.

They seem to be online only now, but they have a great selection! I am geeking out over here now. Thank you very much for this!

This page explains how it occurs - sounds to me like tape ‘Print Thru’ (or as the article - more a usenet response it seems, cross-talk).
Also mentions the ‘RIAA recording curve’ - this was the first time I heard the phrase RIAA (decades ago), and probably the last I heard it in a postive context (in that at least the recording curve contributed something to music recording and distribution)…