The effects of climate change have already crept into the vinyl industry. As dangerous heat waves have swept through the U.S. this summer, one minor inconvenience is that vinyl record shipments are being warped by extreme weather.
"A typical vinyl record can start warping due to heat at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) and can melt at temperatures exceeding 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius)," Peak Vinyl reported for Newsweek. "Other factors, such as humidity, sunlight exposure, and improper storage, can drastically impact the resilience of a record."
In a TikTok that has now gone viral, vinyl lover @mattsvinyl2626 left a broken vinyl in the sun to test how intense the British heatwave was. "In the U.K. currently, in London, the weather is very hot, much hotter than usual. So I thought it would be interesting to see if the heat could make the bowl instead of the oven," Matt told Newsweek. "I decided to leave the vinyl record in the sun and to film the process for my followers, as I thought it would be interesting to see."
After the first hour, Matt notes the record has become "a little bendy." Later, Matt shows viewers the vinyl is "starting to warp." By the three-hour mark, the disc becomes blazing hot and very pliable. Matt even bends both sides inwards, allowing Demi Lovato's Unbroken to stand on its own.
"Today we learnt that vinyl doesn't like heatwaves," Matt jokingly concludes in the video.
vinyl record science👨🏻🔬 #vinylcollector #vinyltiktok #vinylscience #brokenvinyl #meltedvinylrecord #ukheatwave #vinyltok #vinylrecords♬ original sound - matt
However, the problem is not that vinyl customers are leaving their disks out in the sun: vinyl shipments are already coming broken and warped in the mail due to intense heat. Ba Da Bing Records, a U.S. indie label that released Cassandra Jenkins's new album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, sent an email to customers noting several people received warped records. The label offered customers two options in an attempt to prevent the risk of damaged vinyl:
"1. We can delay your shipment. If you write us and let us know you'd like to have your shipment held until the heat wave definitely passes, just reply to this email. Then, when things are looking a bit cooler in your region, let us know you're ready to receive and we'll send your copy out.
2. We send our records via media mail, which can take up to two weeks to arrive. We do this since it's so much less expensive to ship and we don't have to charge that much back to you. However, we would be happy to upgrade your shipping from standard to priority mail. This would require you to send us a bit of extra money to cover the postage increase—it could be up to $8 more depending upon where in the country you live. Let us know and we can tell you the cost."
Other labels are giving consumers a heads-up about the heat wave damage. Sargent House Records, the label behind albums by Deafheaven and the Armed, noted the merch store it works with, Hello Merch, added the following about weather to its Terms of Service:
“Please be aware we DO NOT issue refunds or replacements for damage due to extreme weather conditions, minor cosmetic damage, such as corner dings, bends, split inserts, and so on.”
Label Joyful Noise Records has been proactive about the heat wave damage. While they have not experienced much regarding the warped record dilemma, they've printed large labels for vinyl mailings that read: “PACKAGE CONTAINS VINYL RECORDS, DO NOT LEAVE IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT (f--k climate change).”
The Houston Press also reported in 2011 vinyl records should not be left unattended in cars, especially during a heat wave. As vinyl makers "generally use an oven at only 200 degrees (Fahrenheit) to get them soft enough to mold," cars that aren't air conditioned can quickly heat up and result in record destruction.
"There have even been reports that sunlight reflecting off of car windows and windshields can even melt vinyl siding off of houses," the outlet added. "If this heat can do damage to siding, it will have no problems with your record collection."
In addition to blazing heat, the vinyl industry has also suffered problems with delayed production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a major setback when the global demand for vinyl albums was recently estimated at twice the available supply.
Mega retailers like Walmart, Target, and Amazon now embrace vinyl, and with multi-colored special editions from superstars like Harry Styles and Billie Eilish, turnaround times for independent artists can range from eight months to a whole year - up from two to three months in times of lower demand.
It still stands that music streaming, digital downloads, CDs, and cassette tapes are not affected by the intense heat waves and production delays. If you're looking for an alternative to vinyl, those options are your best bet.
"Beyond vinyl, the possibilities are endless, the implications both artistic and economic," Marc Hogan writes for Pitchfork.
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Article Image: A black vinyl over a yellow-orange background. (Immo Wegman via Unsplash.)