How metal helped save vinyl

Years ago, I started seeing a lot of record stores that catered to rappers and DJ’s by selling albums and turn tables.

Recently with the collapse of the music business, and music fans rejecting CDs, vinyl has experienced a big resurgence, and as Karen Pearson, co-owner of Amoeba Records says, “Vinyl becomes a little more cultish and hipper than so much of downloading is mass market – and singles driven. It’s kind of a forced feeding, and I think music connoisseurs are taking back the night, so to speak.”

Of course, metal also has a big hand in keeping vinyl alive as well, with metal bands still releasing vinyl reissues to this day.

With metal, vinyl was usually a big step up for a band to try and get something out into the world, usually a 7′ first, then an EP or an album (vinyl still has an underground vibe).


As Matt Jacobson, founder of underground label Relapse Records (which still put out vinyl to this day) explains, “I think in general underground music culture has kept vinyl alive, and I think that includes a number of genres from DJ culture to maniac jazz heads, to a lot of people that are into underground metal in collector’s markets. I don’t think it would be alive today in the mass market or the mainstream market if it wasn’t for the kind of cool factor that rose up out of the underground music culture, and the association with vinyl there.”


“Vinyl is a very live, real thing,” notes Jonny Zazula, the founder of Megaforce Records who signed Metallica and Anthrax to their first record deals. “I think it sounds better than CDs, and nothing smells like a 12-inch album cover.”


Mason Williams, director of A&R at Rhino Entertainment, says, “Metal fans, and I include myself in that, are one of the last groups of collectors. I grew up in the ’80s and was a huge Metallica fan. I was always looking for things like the Jump in the Fire picture disc. I think that’s what got me into the whole collectible aspect of it… Metallica helped keep metal a collectible format and I can’t think of any other big-name metal band because it seemed like every country in the world was putting out a different version of their albums and everyone had to have them all.”


Although there’s now a demand for it again, Jacobson told me it’s harder to get vinyl made.

“There’s only a handful of plants,” and the costs to make vinyl these days far outweigh making a CD. “It’s triple, quadruple or more than the cost of CDs,” Jacobson continues. “We were faced with a problem in the past where we were close to, or in some cases losing money on vinyl, but I refused to let the format go, so we raised the prices to cover the costs because we still wanted it available for people who wanted it.”