The long-playing 33 1/3-r.p.m. record is suddenly spinning toward antiquity, just like the old 78-r.p.m. platter it replaced back in 1948. LPs hold just 10% of the U.S. market for recorded music, in contrast to 52% for cassettes and 34% for compact discs. In the first half of this year, manufacturers shipped only $303 million in LPs, down 23% from the same period in 1987. Some record labels, including Warner Bros. and EMI, no longer maintain some titles in LP versions. Several classical labels, notably Deutsche Grammophon and CBS Masterworks, sell most new releases only in cassette and CD. In Japan CDs have already captured 50% of the market.
While the 80 million turntables in U.S. homes will ensure a lingering market for LPs, customers may have to scrounge for them on the back shelves of ! record stores. Says Teddy Allweil, manager of a Record Explosion shop in Manhattan: "After this Christmas, LPs are finished."