A world of music in 33 revolutions per minute

For the younger generation accustomed to consuming music with iTunes and Spotify through a click, through streaming video or audio, acronyms such as CDs sound old. But there was a time when listening to a classic, the soundtrack of a film, a band or a singer-songwriter, corresponded to the celebration of a ritual in the center of which it stood: the turntable, that magical rotating plate capable of releasing sounds and emotions. In the beginning was the gramophone, on which the 78 rpm were positioned, an evolution of the so-called “phonographic disk”, both invented by the German Emile Berliner. The mass development came with the 33 rpm, born June 21, 1948 in New York: Columbia Records presented it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. This new format of vinyl record was a resounding success and profoundly changed the music market and consumption habits. In fact long playing, or LP, certainly one of the most used acronyms for decades, allowed the possibility of recording songs on both sides of the disc – indicated as Side A and Side B -, each of which guaranteed about twenty-five minutes of music. Clearly, the best usability, the quality and resistance characteristics of the new lighter and more modern format, supplanted the 78 rpm. A year later – we are therefore in 1949 – the reduced version also arrives: the 45 rpm, with its two songs and the famous covers that have now become collectors’ items like the older brother. Prices also become more accessible. At the end of the seventies vinyls achieved a resounding and perhaps unexpected success with stratospheric sales. The technological evolution brings further novelties and towards the end of the Eighties a new support arrives: it is the CD, or rather the compact disc: the material changes (polycarbonate), the size changes (12 centimeters in diameter against 30 of long playing) , and increases the capacity that digital technology can offer. It’s another revolution. That definitely makes a clean slate of vinyl. Or maybe not. In fact we can say that the 33 rpm never died but turned into a niche product, for admirers and enthusiasts. Today it seems to live a second life if it is true that the vinyl is again required and produced, in considerable increments. In 2018, in the United States, almost 17 million copies were sold between 33 and 45 rpm, while in Italy it now represents 10% of the record market. It seems that by now in the world there are over twenty million fans of “black discs” who buy at least one vinyl.