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Turntable Game Jams – The Resurge of Vinyl & VGM

June 23, 2015 | | 7 Comments Share thison Facebook Turntable Game Jams – The Resurge of Vinyl & VGMon Twitter

If you’re one of the older members of our generation, you probably know what vinyl is. For the younger kids, vinyl is the older brother of the CD (compact disk) – that physical medium that predates your fancy MP3 players and iPhones. (Man, I’m old.) They’re also commonly referred to as “records”.

So now that you have had the history lesson, you might not be aware that vinyl has not exactly gone the way of the dinosaur. What used to be a neat hobby for collectors of older-style medium has seemed to have a resurgence within the past few years, and one of the things that seems to be included within this return to a simpler time of music-listening is video game music.

Vinyl records, also known as “gramophone records”, weren’t a commonly used medium for listening to music by the time video games recovered from their crash in the 1980s. Cassette tapes and, eventually, CDs were the popular method for listening to music due to their portability, versatility and their lastability (vinyl records degrade faster), and music distributors were slowly phasing records out of circulation entirely by charging retailers more for returning unsold vinyl albums. By the early ’90s records were obsolete, and any music recording done, including any video game soundtrack albums, were released via the newer music methods. Releasing video game soundtracks at all wasn’t all too popular itself until the mid ’90s anyway, when making CDs had become cheaper and cheaper, but they were still seen as novelty.

However, within the last 7 years, vinyl records have made a bit of a return to style. Originally, records were only released for niche markets in limited runs by bands if at all, and only collectors or purists had an interest. This obviously didn’t create much of a demand, and thus was usually only a novelty. However, by 2007, vinyl records started becoming more than just a collector’s interest and the niche markets grew, particularly in Europe. Club DJs still used records for their manipulation ability over CDs and MP3s. In the United States, annual vinyl sales increased between 2006 and 2007 over 75%. Now, in 2015, you can often find mainstream artists and indie artists alike releasing albums on vinyl for their select crowds.

With video games and video game music having become such a wide industry by the late 2000’s, finding ways to reach niche markets appealing to retro tastes has certain become a norm. So it’s no wonder that the concept of releasing video game soundtracks on vinyl has now become a growing phenomenon, especially amongst game music aficionados, many of whom enjoy the analog sound wave format vinyl offers over the digital sound wave of CDs.

This seems to have start first with bootlegs. Video game music fans will find ways to make what they want, either themselves or by outsourcing, and distribution of game music to vinyl when it’s not officially released in such a media gives way to fans creating their own and sharing. The process of creating vinyl records is far more invasive than simply burning a CD, what with the process of mastering and pressing the record, but with online sites offering record pressing for a price, the vinyl enthusiast simply needs to create the playlist they want at the highest quality possible, and send  it off to be created.

Certainly, bootleg sales shouldn’t be encouraged, but for some fans it was the only way to craft beloved game soundtracks onto a favored medium, and thus came into amateur circulation on websites such as Discogs. The concept also spurred some video game cover bands to release their albums onto vinyl, such as The Minibosses.

Of course, once it became known that there was a market for game soundtracks on vinyl, certain outlets decided to go a more legit route. Places such as Data Discs and Turntable Lab have now become licensed creators and distributors of original game soundtracks from several classic series, such as Koji Kondo’s original Super Mario Bros. soundtrack, Shenmue and Streets of Rage.

With these sites and others starting to market official game soundtracks on such a classic medium as vinyl records, demand will be the key to further interest in other titles. With vinyl growing in popularity as it has the past few years and looks like it will continue to do for at least the foreseeable future, it’s not unlikely this will become a more regular occurrence, not just with retro game soundtracks, but even OSTs of new games. Imagine if you will, the upcoming Dark Souls 3‘s original soundtrack released on vinyl record, or The Last Guardian, alongside their respective games. It’s not as farfetched as one might think, and it certainly is amazing to ponder on. I can certainly say that an officially licensed release of Super Castlevania 4 would have me dropping a fair amount of coin on my own setup to enjoy in the comfort of my own home with a glass of spirits.

What game soundtracks would you love to have released on vinyl record? What would entice you to invest in a turntable of your own and enjoy a such a classic style of music enjoyment?

Edit to the original: We’ve been informed by Data Discs themselves that the Mario record from Turntable Lab is a counterfeit and not official. We thank them for this information.

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