ARDMORE, Pa. -- The recording industry dealt a death knell to vinyl records with the advent of cassettes and compact discs in the last decade. But one Pennsylvania company has not only helped rescue vinyl from the grave, but has thrived in the process.
Since 1981, Collectable Records of Ardmore has built a business reissuing 7-inch vinyl records -- 45-rpm singles -- and distributing them for sale in record stores nationwide.
"It's a niche market that major labels pay little attention to," said Melissa Greene, who runs the company with her mother, Nina, and her father, company founder Jerry Greene. "People think vinyl is a dying market. But where the LP and new 7-inch vinyl has declined, the oldie is on the way up."
Many of the songs released on Collectable are no longer available as 45s anywhere else. Oldies are becoming so popular that sales of a given record today exceed sales levels of five years ago, Melissa Greene said.
The increased sales also help keep older rock music in the public eye, said Greg Loescher, publisher of Goldmine, a newspaper devoted to record collecting. "It rekindles people's interest in xTC artists who tend to be forgotten."
Through Collectable's reissues, recordings such as "In the Still of the Night," by the Five Satins, "Let's Stay Together," by Al Green, and "It's My Party," by Leslie Gore, have gotten a new lease on life. So, too, have more recent recordings, such as "Electric Avenue," by Eddy Grant and "Born to Run," by Bruce Springsteen.
The 45 single was a staple of pop music from its introduction in the 1950s through the '70s. But the development of cassette singles and, more recently, CD singles, has made the format obsolete for most major labels. Beyond what is needed for jukeboxes or mobile disc jockeys, few record companies release current songs as 45-rpm singles.
"Major labels viewed 45s as a promotional tool. If it wasn't used to promote current material, it retained no value for the label," Melissa Greene said.
Collectable Records relieves the labels of the burden of issuing 45s, she said. "Once it's not of hit value, it makes sense to do singles with us. We take over for the labels, and that's made our growth. We're an extension of the label."
In some cases, Collectable contracts with a record-maker to press out a new 45. In other cases, Collectable orders its 45s through the major labels that own them and then is billed for whatever the major label's manufacturer produces.
Over the last decade, Collectable has released more than 3,000 45s.