Vinyl records released from decades ago are still existing to this day (even though vinyl pressing wasn’t as sophisticated as today) while some have unfortunately not seen the light of day of the new decade.
Well that has to do with many things, like the care you put into them, how you store them, and many more.
VINYL CAN BE AN EVERLASTING FORMAT
When you consider what material the current vinyl records are made of, you will surely be convinced that this format was made to live forever.
Vinyl records were once made of shellac but they’re now made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which are much more durable.
PVC is a plastic material that is vulnerable to heat, but it can last for as long as it is not exposed to extreme temperatures. If you do not know yet, it is used for making water pipes.
This means that PVCs can endure constant contact with water and be buried underground, which implies how durable vinyl records can be.
So if you’re planning on going for a short run vinyl pressing or you’re going to buy a custom vinyl record album, then there’s no need to worry.
YOU CAN PLAY THEM A THOUSAND TIMES
Is it possible?
It is, very much.
But I would like to just tell you that this is not without any degradation.
You cannot expect the vinyl record to play like it has never been used before after a hundred or thousand plays. That would be quite impossible.
You also have to bear in mind that there should be rest times when playing a record. Nonstop playing of the same vinyl record for hours would accelerate a vinyl record’s deterioration since heat builds up within the grooves.
Let your records rest. Avoid re-playing a record and instead play them maybe once then move to another.
FACTORS THAT WILL AFFECT A VINYL RECORD’S LIFESPAN
We have been talking about how durable vinyl records are, but we must never forget that they are still susceptible to wear and tear.
Aside from the fact that it needs to not be repeatedly played at once, here are some more factors that might shorten your vinyl record’s lifespan:
Storage Method of the Record
The way we store our vinyl records can greatly affect our record’s lifespan.
It still needs our TLC!
No matter how durable a thing may be, when it is abandoned and not taken care of then it will surely be unusable in the future.
When storing vinyl records, they must be positioned vertically.
They should never be stacked one on top of the other.
Pressure builds up when they are stacked which will result in warpage and distortion.
Moreover, the pressure will also result in the cracking of the vinyl record which will make it irreversible.
Though minor warpage can be fixed, there’s nothing we can do to a crack on the vinyl, right?
Exposure to Sunlight and Humidity
These two are more specific factors that are still under the storage method of records.
Extreme temperatures can affect PVCs negatively. When vinyl records are exposed to sunlight which will surely result in extreme heat they will melt and warp.
To avoid this from happening, you will have to move your collection away from places that invite sunlight. These places I’m talking about are those near windows, doors, and those places where the sun will shine on.
In the case of humidity, we all know how it conducts positive static charge which attracts dust on other foreign particles. This dust can adversely affect a vinyl record’s sound quality so we must at all cost store them away from a humid environment.
Unfortunately, some cities are naturally humid. To counter this positive static charge, you can store them in a room where a dehumidifier is installed. With the humidity being managed, you will not only save your vinyl records from degradation, you will also be able to preserve your vinyl albums’ artworks.
Of course, cleanliness is a factor that will affect a vinyl record’s lifespan.
It doesn’t only apply to them actually, it applies to almost anything we possess. Dust negatively affects the playing of the record as it can result in distortions and skipping of the needle.
It is heavily advised that you clean your vinyl records every before and after you use them.
If you haven’t played them in a long while, you will still need to clean them since dust may have already accumulated in the grooves.
You also have to make sure that fingerprints are not found on your records because I am definitely sure that there are natural oils stuck on where your fingers touched. Oils, as we know, invite dust and other small particles and we don’t want them near our records.
To clean your vinyl records you will have to buy a carbon fiber brush. It’s very delicate you know and normal brushes may scratch them which will affect their sound quality.
Equipment Used for Playing
The record player you use can also affect the lifespan of your vinyl record. If you have a worn out or dirty needle/ stylus, then it defeats all the care you’ve done for your records. One play from a turntable like that will already damage your vinyl record.
The weight of the stylus can also cause damages to your record. If it’s too heavy on the record it will cause scratches. If the weight is too light, the stylus will jump off and then damage the record when it lands on the grooves again.
HOW LONG IT WILL LAST… IS IN YOUR HANDS
In conclusion, the answer to how long a custom vinyl record will last depends on you.
If you take care of it and follow the suggestions given above, then I’m sure it will last for a long time. If you don’t treat it with TLC, then you will have to accept that your records won’t last for long.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.