Letter from Senior Management: Inside the Vinyl Revolution

Mike SherwoodBy Mike Sherwood

Vinyl is in the fabric of Warner Bros. Records: the sound quality and artistry of vinyl exemplifies our 50-plus years of delivering timeless music. It’s also safe to say that we’ve been on the forefront of this current vinyl revolution.

Vinyl production slowed considerably from the late ’80s through the 2000s. It wasn’t extinct, but pretty damn close. Starting around 2007, WB began putting out a select number of titles in small, limited runs. It wasn’t until 2008, when Record Store Day started, that we went back and began mining our catalog. We started by releasing a wide range of out-of-print titles, as well as new releases which helped strengthen our relationship with independent retail and ultimately led to our official sponsorship of Record Store Day.

From a business perspective, sponsoring Record Store Day started out as a cool thing to do, to be supportive. The stores wanted to generate some excitement about music, drive sales and give people a reason to come back year-round. Those simple goals resonated with us and our artists. That first year, Metallica agreed to do an autograph signing in the Bay Area and re-release their first two albums on vinyl. Their participation instantly helped Record Store Day. With that momentum, in 2009 demand for vinyl switched from a passion project inside of WB to a legitimate business. Independent retail began telling us, “We have customers who want to buy this again and some want it in lieu of an MP3 or a CD.” We started hearing stories of stores selling more vinyl than CDs, and many had started selling turntables as well. A mini-revolution was happening and the industry—including WB—recognized, “Oh hey, this vinyl thing is for real.

From a collector’s perspective, the motivation to collect vinyl varies from fan to fan. Audiophiles are drawn to the sound quality and special packaging. I know people who have thousands of records. They want anything that is rare or limited just for the sake of having it. For me, I have a small collection of records that played a significant role in my life. Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands, but vinyl was not popular when they released their first few albums, so when they recently reissued Ten and Vs., that’s something that I had to have. I’m a huge Springsteen fan and I’ve collected all his albums on vinyl. New stuff like the Black Keys, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes are “must haves” for me too. I am not a collector for the sake of monetary value, but for the emotional connection to a record. Vinyl brings me a bit closer to the music and to the feel of days past. It’s that connection that has led to music fans of all ages rediscovering the wonder of vinyl.

—Mike Sherwood

Director of National Sales and Retail Marketing, Mike Sherwood has been with Warner Music for over a dozen years.

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