Recycled Vinyl Blues

Just one of those things you think about, and want to get it out somewhere… did you know that the current ever-more-restrictive copyright laws can be traced back to the Yom Kippur War?

Let me explain:

In 1973, as a result of the US support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the Arab members of OPEC decided to embargo the US, as well as raising the price of oil to their other customers. This caused the price of oil to quadruple.

Vinyl, from which records are made, is made of oil.

This meant that drastic measures had to be taken by the record companies, including recycling old records to make new ones, as sung about here:

The other major change that was made was making the records much thinner. If you compare a record pressed before 1973 to one after, the difference is huge. I’ve had turntables that can play, say, my copy of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music Vol 1 by Ray Charles with no problem, but where the tone arm just skids across Parallel Lines by Blondie because the grooves aren’t deep enough for the stylus to settle into.

This made a big difference to the sound quality of records – there’s a reason why new vinyl is often advertised as 180gm. The thicker the record, the deeper you can cut the grooves. The deeper the grooves can be cut, the more dynamic range can be put into the sound. The music is also louder, and scratches affect it less.

This meant that when the CD was invented in the early 80s, it solved two problems. Firstly, it was made out of less plastic, and so was cheaper to produce (once retooling of factories and so on had been covered), and secondly it sounded better than vinyl. Not better than proper, heavy, good vinyl, but better than the flimsy toys that were being produced by then. This is why the CD caught on.

But this led to several problems:

Firstly, the record companies suddenly found they were making most money not from developing new artists but from re-selling the same records to people who’d already bought them once, with ‘better’ sound (and later with bonus tracks and so on).
Secondly, the music was now in a digital format – which in the 80s and 90s didn’t make it easier to copy…

But come the 2000s, and these two things both cause a crisis for the music industry. On the one hand, all those lucrative records they’re selling to the Baby Boomers for the umpteenth time are going to start going out of copyright (if the EU hadn’t changed the rules this year, the Beatles’ records would have started entering the public domain next year. Most of Elvis’ bigger hits are already public domain in the UK). On the other hand, all the younger people – anyone forty or under – they’ve not bothered with for twenty-five years can suddenly share music on file-sharing services, because it’s all released in handy ready-to-rip digital format.

So there you go – the new, more restrictive copyright laws we’ve been seeing for the last decade are a direct result of the Yom Kippur War. Makes you wonder what completely unpredictable consequences we might see from events happening now. Maybe in fifty years someone will be writing “the invention of the time machine in 2055 was a direct result of the resignation of Liam Fox as defence secretary”?

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1 Response to Recycled Vinyl Blues

  1. excellent post ! / am linking *to* by way of F_cebook ..,
    LJ tdaschel

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