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Factory Still Makes Vinyl Records

November 19, 1990

GLOVERSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) _ Michael Hornung is a vinyl romantic.

He plays albums at home and keeps a record player in his office. He also has resisted pleas from his 21-year-old son to ″get with it″ and buy a compact disc player.

As director of operations at MCA Manufacturing Corp.’s record and tape plant in Gloversville, N.Y., Hornung runs one of the few remaining plants in the country that manufacture vinyl records.

″It’s sad to think there may come a day when records are no longer made,″ Hornung said. ″Demand for vinyl has fallen off, but we’re still producing it. It’s still selling.″

The 37-year-old plant in this old tannery town in upstate New York manufactures cassette tapes and vinyl records for MCA, whose artists include Elton John, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bobby Brown and the Oak Ridge Boys.

MCA also owns Motown Records and the jazz-oriented GRP Records label in addition to Universal Pictures and the Universal City Theme Park in California. The company recently purchased Geffen Records in a deal expected to be completed by early next year.

The Gloversville plant is the only place in the country where MCA makes vinyl records, which account for 20 percent of music recording sales nationwide, according to Hornung. He said it might be the only place in the country where 45s are still made.

Hornung, who’s worked at the Gloversville facility for 20 years, believes that records will disappear at some point in his lifetime.

″I think we’re getting closer to that point,″ said Mick Borthick, head of production at Chrysalis in New York.

Several developments this year seem to indicate that. Chrysalis and PolyGram announced that with a few rare exceptions, all their new releases will be on cassette tape and CD only.

Warner-Elektra-Atlantic reported that it will cut out more than 40 percent of its vinyl catalogue. That means 1,205 album titles owned by the conglomerate will no longer be available on records.

The Tower Records chain said it will no longer sell 7-inch single records because several major labels won’t accept returns on unsold records.

″Record buyers are in the minority,″ said Robert Cohen, manager of the Finyl Vinyl record store in New York. ″Vinyl is becoming a specialty item.″

In 1982, the year before CDs were introduced, manufacturers shipped out 244 million records for sales of $2 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Last year, manufacturers shipped out only 34 million records for sales of $220 million.

By comparison, 207 million CDs were shipped out in 1989 for sales of $2.6 billion, the association said. About 446 million tape cassettes also were sold.

″CDs and cassettes have really taken over,″ Borthick said.

He noted that cassette players are favored by youths and most other music lovers have been seduced by the clearer sounds of CDs.

Chrysalis, with annual sales of $70 million worldwide, said recent releases by Sinead O’Connor and Billy Idol sold few record albums in this country, slightly more than 1 percent. The rest were CD and cassette sales.

″You can understand why we’re not anxious to manufacture records,″ Bothrick said. It’s not economical to operate pressing plants when they’re only turning out a few records, he said.

Merchants said they would rather discontinue records so they could have more room for cassettes and the more expensive CDs. Records account for only 2 percent of sales in the 82-store Record World, so vinyl is being phased out, said Mitch Imber, purchasing director.

That’s left many feeling that records are being killed off prematurely.

″Manufacturers are looking to remove the option of buying records from consumers,″ said Cohen, of the Finyl Vinyl record store. ″They have abandoned a big segment of the record-buying community in order to push the more expensive CD format.″

Merchants who still want to carry records said return policies and reordering difficulties are putting pressure on them to relent.

Cohen said he’s charged anytime he returns an album, whether it’s defective or not. There’s no penalty for cassette and CD returns.

Hornung is paying close attention to the changing times. But he said his plant, which distributes tapes and records throughout the Northeast and as far west as Ohio, isn’t planning to manufacture CDs.

Instead, the Gloversville plant is expanding its tape production capabilities. The facility is the No. 3 producer of tapes in the country, behind Warner-Elektra-Atlantic and CBS Records, Hornung said.

″We’ve shrunk vinyl operations and expanded into this,″ Hornung said.

The factory still makes 7-inch and 12-inch records and will continue to do so as long as there’s demand for them, Hornung said.

″Bless them,″ said Cohen, whose store caters to vinyl romantics, especially with hard-to-find records from the 1960s. ″And if we’re the last store still selling these 12-inch pieces of black plastic, then that’s just fine with me.″

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