Maybe you've heard a bit about the return of vinyl records.
(And the four items linked here are just four references in Plastics News in 2015.)
The LP record may still just be a niche in the music industry — and the plastics industry, with only two companies we know of making new machinery — but in a time when the music business is fighting to get people to actually buy albums rather than download a pirated free copy, it's a real growth opportunity for companies.
But this isn't yet another blog about the warmth of analog sounds or repairing aging machines. Instead, this is about the return of something related to albums I'd almost forgotten: Columbia House Record Club.
Remember Columbia House? It and its competitors blanketed Sunday newspapers (remember Sunday newspapers?) with ads promoting that by joining the club you'd get eight or 10 or 12 albums for a penny. Then all you had to do was buy five or 10 more albums during the next few years.
I was one of those college students who supplemented my meager collection by hitting up Columbia House offerings, and during the pre-Amazon days the catalogs offered up musicians that didn't appear very often in the bins at a basic Kmart in the Midwest.
There were changes over the years, of course. Columbia House added CDs and cassette tapes and dropped vinyl. It also added movie offerings in VHS tapes during the 1990s.
How powerful was it then? An estimated 15 percent of all CDs sold in the U.S. sold through music clubs. According to Rolling Stone, at its most profitable, Columbia House had an annual profit of $1.4 billion. (You can find more about how much cash the clubs were swimming in during their heyday in a roundtable discussion with four former Columbia House employees over at the website “The AV Club” in addition to a link to a documentary movie by a former worker.)
I don't think I've thought about Columbia House for at least 20 years. But then last week, John Lippman, who bought the brand out of bankruptcy four months ago for $1.5 million, told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to bring it back, offering vinyl albums to a whole new generation.
“You can see a yearning and an interest to try a new format,” he said.
Details are scarce on the proposal yet, although the new Columbia House Facebook page promises that “one of the most iconic names” in music is coming in 2016. So maybe this return of vinyl is something more than a quirky niche. Or maybe this is another fad. Either way, it looks like vinyl is going to keep making news for a little longer.