10 Fun Facts About Vinyl Records For The True Vinyl Geek

Marc HenshallCulture & Industry4 Comments

Despite the convenience of digital streaming, vinyl records continue to grow in popularity. 

The world of vinyl is full of interesting facts and details that even the most seasoned collector might not know.

To celebrate the lasting returning success of a format once written off as obsolete, we’ve compiled a list of fun facts about vinyl records for the true music connoisseur.

The Most Expensive Record to Sell on Discogs

A self-released promo copy of Scaramanga Silk ‎– Choose Your Weapon sold in late 2020 for $41,095. It’s the only copy ever to sell on the Discogs platform, with only 20 numbered copies in existence.

According to Discogs, the record has a gatefold sleeve made up of two parts. Part one contains the 12″ single and a CD of the same music. Part two comes with an art print and a poem on an acetate.

Over $40,000 for any record seems hard to comprehend for most, but each to their own. 


The Most Expensive Vinyl Record Ever Sold

Perhaps the rarest (and certainly the most expensive) record ever sold was a copy of The Wu-Tang Clan’s 7th studio album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

The group recorded the album in secret over six years; the one and only copy sold for $2 million at auction in 2015 with specific contractual terms. 

It states the album cannot be commercially exploited until 2103; however, the owner (former hedge fund and drug company manager Martin Shkrelican) can release it for free if he chooses. 

The Biggest Selling Vinyl Record of All-Time

The biggest selling album of all time is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, with 32 million copies sold worldwide in the first year. It’s estimated the total number of sales to date now stands at over 70 million. 

Based on when the CD was introduced in 1982, and the fact it didn’t surpass vinyl in sales numbers until 1986, vinyl marketplace, Phonotribe estimated that Thriller has sold over 27 million copies on vinyl. 


Top Selling Vinyl Record of 2020

In the United States, the top-selling vinyl recorded for 2020 was Harry Styles Fine Line with 232,000 copies sold. It was closely followed by Billie Eilish, Queen, and The Beatles.

The top ten best selling vinyl records for 2020 were as follows (note the inclusion of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as mentioned above).

1. Harry Styles, Fine Line (232,000)

2. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (196,000)

3. Queen, Greatest Hits (176,000)

4. The Beatles, Abbey Road (161,000)

5. Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 (152,000)

6. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Legend: The Best Of… (148,000)

7. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (138,000)

8. Billie Eilish, Dont Smile at Me (126,000)

9. Michael Jackson, Thriller (125,000)

10. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (117,000)


2021 Vinyl Sales Look Set to Break Records (Again!)

Over 19 million vinyl records were sold in the United States alone during the first six months of 2021 (an increase of 108%). It’s a similar story in the UK where the industry has reported a 16.1% rise during the first three months of 2021.

Each year, vinyl record sales keep growing, meaning 2021 looks set to be the biggest year yet.


Intergalactic Records

Did you know, there are currently two records travelling through space?

In 1977, NASA sent two golden records into space on board the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts. 

The records contain music from around the world, voice greetings in 55 languages, and sound samples from earth, such as birds and oceans.

Curiously, there are also images on the record in the form of code. In order to see them, any intercepting alien being would have to decode the audio signal in a similar way to how cathode ray tube televisions worked.

The cover of the golden records featuring visual instructions etched into the disc; the hope is, one day, alien life might decipher the universal representations etched into the disc and perhaps play the record and decode the image data. 

The World’s First 12-Inch Vinyl Record

The first 12-inch vinyl record was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 In C Minor by the Philadelphia Orchestra. RCA released the format in 1931 as the first commercially available vinyl long-playing record. The flexible ‘Victrolac’ discs made using a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and were designed to be played at 33 1/3 RPM. 

RCA’s early introduction of the modern LP was a commercial failure, in part due to a lack of affordable consumer playback equipment but also economic impacts caused by the great recession.


The World’s Largest Vinyl Record Collection

The title of the world’s largest record collection goes to Brazillian businessman José Roberto Alves Freitas. On the last count, his collection stood at over 6 million and counting back in 2016. 

He regularly buys entire collections he finds through Ads in what can only be described as an extreme case of compulsive record-buying disorder!

Who knows how large the collection is today. He even has an entire team of people who spend 8 hours a day cleaning and archiving his collection. 

Getting through the entire hoard is no small task, and they’ll likely never achieve it. Crazy!

45 RPM Records Often Sound Better

When cut well, records spinning at 45 RPM can sound better. 

45 RPM records travel faster than 33 1/3 RPM, and therefore more waveform definitions can exist on the record surface. In other words, there are more bumps and grooves created, which means better audio quality.

In our article about the different types of vinyl records, we draw the comparison with flipbooks:

If you drew the same animation on 33 and 45 pages, respectively, you’d have to flip your 45-page version quicker to get the same speed animation as the 33-page version, but the changes from page-to-page would contain more detail, making the animation considerably smoother. 

This brief explanation above is, in part, why many audiophile releases of 12 Inch LPs are cut at 45 RPM.


The Inside Grooves of a Vinyl Record Sound Worse

The resolution and the ability of your stylus to accurately track the groove deteriorates towards the end of a record side. Inner groove distortion, or end of side distortion, is inherent in the vinyl format due to basic geometry.

We explain this fully in our article about inner groove distortion

In simple terms, there is more vinyl per second available at the beginning of the record than at the end of each side. 

Subsequently, the wavelengths become gradually shorter and more compressed (like an accordion) as you get closer to the records centre. 

These more condensed grooves are much harder for the stylus to track accurately. There’s also the issue of cartridge alignment as the tonearm pivots across the record surface, but I recommend you check our full explanation for the details. 

The problem is most noticeable at higher volumes—particularly if the material has a lot of high-frequency energy. 

Inner groove distortion is why many mastering engineers will place louder songs at the beginning of a side, and quieter songs at the end. 

Another technique for minimizing inner groove distortion is to avoid getting too close to the center, and instead spread the album over two or three LPs.

Summary
  • Robert says:

    Very good article.

  • TwesT says:

    45rpm records are better sounding because the cantilever deflects less for a given sound than on a slower spinning disc. There is _less_ data per linear inch, not more.

  • JACK TIETJEN says:

    I’m not in the corner of 45’s sound better. Too many 45’s were cut for throw away. Maybe it’s just me, but I find many of my early 45’s are just not full of sound. It tends to have a cheaper quality of play back. I really don’t think the record companies paid a lot for the vinyl these recordings, knowing they were more than likely, spun and done. Just my uneducated opinion. One of my biggest LP hated recordings is the company Fantasy Records. They did most of Creedence recording and they were awful.