Contrary to what the children of baby boomers might believe, vinyl records are far from extinct. In fact, they're popular enough in Japan that Sony is preparing to restart mass production after nearly 30 years.
A Sony factory near Tokyo will begin churning out vinyl in March 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on Wednesday. The company has already installed record-cutting equipment at a recording studio in Tokyo, which will cut the master copies before they're sent to the factory for mass production.
The initial albums will contain mostly older Japanese music, but could expand to include today's hit songs, which Japanese youth are increasingly searching for on vinyl, according to Sony.
"A lot of young people buy songs that they hear and love on streaming services," Sony Music CEO Michinori Mizuno told Nikkei.
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The company is searching for retired record engineers to advise its new record-making venture, according to Nikkei. Japan currently has one active record manufacturer that makes limited qualities of new releases, but it often cannot keep up with demand. Nearly 800,000 vinyl records were sold in Japan last year, Nikkei reported, an eightfold increase from 2010.
The situation is similar in other developed countries, including Britain, where revenues from vinyl sales briefly surpassed those of digital music downloads last December. In the US, revenue from sales of vinyl records was up 32 percent to $416 million in 2015, higher than that of revenues from ad-supported streaming services like YouTube and the free version of Spotify.
The United Record Pressing plant, which has manufactured vinyl since 1949, is reportedly planning to expand its operations in Tennessee, doubling its current production capacity. In addition to manufacturing commercial records, United also offers custom record-making services to consumers.