One of the biggest obstacles facing record companies in recent times has been Dalganoth, The Dark Demon Of The Place Betwixt Universes, who over the course of thousands of years has been amassing an army of cruel arcane beings hellbent on destroying the fabric which separates our world from theirs and reshaping our plane of existence into a Hadean image of ungodly gloom-laden depravity. But it goes without saying that an even bigger issue has been troubling the minds of those who swim in the choppy seas of physical audio media: the inevitable diminishment of fossil fuels and what this means for vinyl production.
At a time in the 21st century when vinyl sales are at an all-time high, and with many people now forgoing digital music for analog, it is easy to forget that with fossil fuels - namely oil - becoming more of a sought-after commodity, the production of music records is itself at risk due to high production costs. This is because PVC - Platty Vinyl Combobulation - is the chief ingredient of your standard 7, 10 or 12 inch record and you can't make the Platty of PVC without that thick tasty oil.
Platty Oil: a key ingredient of PVC, and also delicious when spread on toast
"It's frustrating really," rasped Dalganoth, The Dark Demon Of The Place Betwixt Universes. "Here we are, only a small amount of time away until we finally have the cosmic power needed to penetrate the veil of your universe, and yet all you Humans are worried about is stopping your world from becoming uninhabitable while also finding ways to continue buying records. I don't know why we're bothering really. What's the point of cracking a planet in two and feasting on the flesh of mortals if you're more concerned about being able to afford buying the next Guardians Of The Galaxy soundtrack on LP? You guys have really gotten your priorities mixed up over the last few thousand years I can tell you."
Well, it looks like worrying about the plight of the planet whilst buying the latest pressing of the Cowboy Bebop score on vinyl is about to become a thing of the past as just last month Creationistical Music Records announced that they will start mass-producing the world's first fully eco-friendly 12" record later this summer.
"Our mission, to bring this great industry into the 21st century and develop environmentally sustainable practices that will hugely benefit consumers and shareholders alike whilst also adhering to our public image of being a socially responsible business, has finally began to bear fruit," said Creationistical Music Records spokesperson Samantha Paste. "No longer will manufacturers have to use wasteful - and harmful - products when pressing records. This is a huge turning point for humanity -- we'll get to have our cake and eat it too! Now pressing an album will mean no harm to the environment, less people getting cancer in the factories, cheaper material costs, and more money for the dark cabal who controls our way of life. It's a win-win-win-win! That's four wins!"
When asked about the chemical constituents of the new material, Samantha Paste replied thusly: "I'm not a scientist so I can't go into the sort of deep detail you would probably like. But I do know that something called Tempestual Polynomad Anabioliac Acid forms an intrinsic part of the process. Our lab technicians assure me that Tempestual Polynomad Anabioliac Acid is completely harmless as long as you don't look directly at it."
We couldn't find a picture of Tempestual Polynomad Anabioliac Acid, so here's a photo of a weird chicken instead
Of course, for the audiophile, the main concern is how the "bioplastic LP" will sound compared to the traditional PVC vinyl used today.
"It will sound great!" exclaimed Ms Paste. "I'm no sound engineer but I have been told that the materials used will actually reduce static crackling, not to mention result in a surface that's harder to scratch. I'm not an audiophile but I have been told that when you play one of our bioplastic LPs it will sound like the band are actually in the room with you, which admittedly does sound terrifying if you're listening to any modern Rolling Stones material but I have been assured that it is nothing to worry about and that a deep-rooted fear of old people who should absolutely not be alive anymore is perfectly natural and can be treated by buying more physical media and taking pills."
"I don't own a record player," Paste said when asked whether the new vinyl would work with current stereo equipment, "but I've been told that you won't need any new gear. Well, not until the major manufacturers of audio equipment say otherwise at least. Honestly though, does it matter? By buying the bio-thingy record things, you're collecting physical media without damaging the planet. You can't put a price on that! No, that's our job. Look, records are more important than food, although to be honest I don't eat much due to the pills my doctor says I have to take but that's what I've been told. Music is the food of love after all! Now I'm not a fan of Shakespeare so I'm not completely sure if that quote is out of context or not..." She went on but everyone had started to leave by then.
The new "bioplastic LP" can be manufactured on already existing record pressing machinery
Eager to not be left behind, other record companies have already started to develop their own "green" manufacturing processes. At a press conference two weeks ago, Barry Garnish - company director at Touch My 12" - announced that they had developed a vinyl pressing technique that used recycled trash instead of manufactured PVC. "You can use anything!" he exclaimed. "Old tupperware. A pair of jeans. Some cats. Anything! We just throw them in our machine at one end and records come out the other! It's like something out of a Black Mirror episode! Everyone loves that show!"
Texan record manufacturers Beefy Leather Records also revealed their latest development in vinyl manufacturing two weeks ago: "Choil," an oil / chili hybrid that reduces the amount of PVC used in record pressing by an impressive 68% by replacing PVC with Texas-style chili. "It's the world's first spicy record!" said Beefy's PR manager Bobby "The Duff" Ewing. "Our choil-manufactured records are sure to be a hit with families and NRA members across the land! Great fidelity and with an extra kick after you give 'em a lick!" Mr Ewing was of course also making headlines six days ago when he was run over outside of his home in Dallas by his ex-fiancee's sister-in-law Katherine Wentworth, but doctors do not believe the wounds are that serious as the whole incident was probably "just some fucking dream or something."
Hot Chunky Mammal Fur Records have also thrown their hat into the ring by creating a procedure which enables them to create vinyl by throwing a hat into a ring. "We killed two birds with one stone with that one," CEO Frank Backpack remarked. "God I hate hats." And Soylent Green Variant Labs in New York have recently revealed a new form of "exceptional environmentally-friendly record manufacturing" although they have yet to disclose what the process is exactly.
This marvellous hat could soon be spinning on your turntable
Of course, good news always attracts naysayers and this is no exception. Sir Twonkingham-Smurf III of the famous 60s British pop group The Beagles was very vocal about his disdain for all things green. "This is just pandering woke nonsense," he lamented. "What good's a record if it's made out of biscuits or leaves or whatever? This is just a sad attempt to gratify the tree-hugging morons who would rather have people like me be miserable and make less money than just letting the world burn down in fifty years when I'm long dead."
He was backed up by empty vessel Mark Zuckertash, creator of social media platform Faceboom. "My emotions are running rampant," he monotoned. "I have literally blinked twice at the news."
Lord Alan Sweetenlow, the dog-faced businessman behind electronic companies such as Armtard - as well as TV personality due to his successful stint on both the UK and Australian versions of The Apprehentist - was also making sounds out of his face. "This is bloody stupid," he fog-horned. "I don't bloody care about records made out of snot or other stupid bloody things. This is a waste of my bloody time!" Lord Sweetenlow fired fifteen people and made two others fight to the death upon hearing the news, while Piers Morgan reportedly shat himself thin with anger when he was told.
"None of this matters anyway," Geoff Bozo - executive chairman of the mammoth e-commerce company Moist Tropical Rainforest and media off-shoot enterprise Moistly Prime - said. "In just a few years the planets will line up in the correct formation, allowing Dalganoth, The Dark Demon Of The Place Betwixt Universes to finally bring his venerable being through the transcendental wall of our universe and permeate our galaxy with his dark presence. Why do you think I've spent so much time and money on getting the fuck off this planet? I'm going to live on Amazonia, a planet with endless storage shelves and conveyor belts as far as the eyes can see. Dalganoth, The Dark Demon Of The Place Betwixt Universes has promised me, his faithful servant, that this rich bounty will be my reward for years of service! O glory to thee, my dark Master!"
Mark Zuckertash does his best to hide the utter contempt emanating from his face for those who wish to make the world a better place
I think it's fair to say that any socially-conscious record collector has to battle a little with cognitive dissonance when confronted with the knowledge that vinyl records are not exactly the most sustainable way of listening to music, despite being arguably the best. While new processes have been created throughout the years which have reduced waste - utilising more economical methods such as using recycled materials, machinery that uses less energy etc - PVC is still the most widely used material in record production. Now that this can actually be replaced by a more sustainable substance, which apparently does actually have "anti-static qualities," it's only a matter of time before we can see - or rather, hear - the end result. But it's not just a matter of it sounding as good as (or hopefully better than) current PVC-made records, but also a matter of production costs. Saving the planet is perhaps the most important thing right now but if it turns out that bioplastic is considerably pricier than its counterpart, the retail value of vinyl will skyrocket which - at a time when most of us are already feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis - will lead inevitably to its demise. The dream is, of course, an ethical audiophile record that's affordable, can be played with our current set-ups, that's good for our ears and most importantly good for the planet -- a win-win-win-win if you will. Let's hope we get to have our cake and eat it too.
- Mark Anthony Finch