The Major Labels Are Announcing a New Vinyl Records Specification

The Major Labels Are Announcing a New Vinyl Records Specification

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is planning a major upgrade to its longtime vinyl records specification.

The RIAA, which represents major labels Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group, is now planning a major announcement related to vinyl record standards.  The announcement will involve a technical update to the existing standard for vinyl records, which apparently hasn’t been revised since 1978.

The upgrade will officially be disclosed at the ‘Making Vinyl’ conference in Detroit in early October, according to word from conference organizers.  Also party to the announcement will be the Media-Tech Association, which is focused on various physical media formats.

The official rollout of the new specification is slated for early 2019.

“Manufacturing specifications for vinyl were last updated in 1978,” Making Vinyl organizers emailed Digital Music News.  “The advent of new manufacturing technologies and resurgent popularity of vinyl prompted music industry leaders to review existing specifications and evaluate whether updated standards could help further advance the vinyl market.”

A broader announcement could be forthcoming.

The move is happening alongside continued growth in vinyl records sales, though manufacturing bottlenecks are continuing to create supply-side problems.  The result is a fairly antiquated manufacturing infrastructure that simply can’t produce enough vinyl to satisfy consumers.

Also entering the picture is ‘HD Vinyl,’ an overhauled (but backwards-compatible) vinyl format that utilizes lasers to produce a longer-playing, higher-fidelity record.  At this stage, however, it looks like the RIAA’s updated standard will apply to traditional vinyl, especially since HD Vinyl has yet to hit the market.

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Meanwhile, there are some signs the format could be slowing or plateauing.  Official data in multiple markets show continued gains, with a 10-plus year resurgence.  There’s no reason to doubt those figures, though recent intel from Best Buy suggests that things may be cooling off (we’ll have more on that later).