Thursday, June 23, 2016

Important Anniversary in Music: LP Turns 68

Before June 21, 1948, if you wanted to listen to recorded music that was more than a few minutes long, your only option was the radio. The format of choice back then was the 78-rpm record, which could hold about five minutes per side. This was an improvement over the wax cylinder, which could play for two minutes.

And then, behold, 68 years ago today, Columbia Records announced the LP, or "long-playing record." The 12-inch disc spun at 33 1/3 rpm and could hold more than 20 minutes per side. This was a banner day for classical and jazz lovers, and would prove exceedingly important for concept albums and rock operas a couple of decades later.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this anniversary is not the technological leap, but the fact that the vinyl LP has stood the test of time. Many other formats have come and gone since — reel-to-reel tapes, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs. Even the game-changing MP3 is on the wane after a few short years as listeners now stream music from the cloud. But the LP, close to dead in the digital '90s, has survived and now thrives again, with vinyl record sales increasing every year in the recent resurgence.