What Was The First Vinyl Record? (4 Facts You’ll Want To Know)

Vinyl records have been with us for a very long time, but they have been made obsolete by the invention and implementation of digital music. However, some people still prefer listening to music on vinyl and are curious about how vinyl records came to be – and also what the first vinyl record was.

The first vinyl record was not used for music, but for program transcriptions. The first musical recordings made on vinyl in the ‘30s were recordings of popular artists at the time, primarily used by radio stations. Vinyls became publicly accessible in the ‘40s. The first LP was released in 1948.

There is a lot to learn about vinyl records for anyone unfamiliar with the history of this musical medium, and delving into the world of vinyl records is genuinely fascinating for anyone interested. Vinyl records are still the platform of choice for many music lovers, so let’s learn more about them.

What Was The First Vinyl Record?

Vinyl records have been used for many decades and have become more popular in recent years than they have been since the implementation of cassette tapes. This leads many to wonder what the first vinyl record was.

vinyl record spinning
Vinyl records have been around for decades (almost a century as of this writing!)

It is difficult to precisely pinpoint what the first vinyl record was, as the very first vinyl records were not made for recording music but rather for program transcriptions. This means that the first vinyl records were not albums or songs, and this use for vinyl records only came about later.

The music industry was already in full swing when vinyl records were used for recording music. Several recordings were already made on previous mediums, such as wax cylinders and shellac records.

By the time the music industry shifted to using vinyl records for recording, it was a simple medium change. It made no real change to music recording, as this was already a popular practice internationally.

The first vinyl records used for music were likely used for recording single songs, as the technology was not yet refined. By the time LP vinyl records came about, full albums could be recorded onto vinyl records.

When Were The First Vinyl Records Sold?

Before vinyl was used for making music recordings, various other mediums were used for this purpose. Music distribution was usually done with shellac records, as these records were easy to play at home, but there was a time when the music industry shifted to using vinyl records. When did this happen?

Shellac was used to make records before vinyl became popular.

In the 1930s, vinyl records began being used for DJs on radio stations, as they were far more durable and easy to distribute. However, these records required more sophisticated players than previous mediums and were not yet adopted for home use.

Vinyl records at this time were also very expensive, and the players were very expensive compared to others, such as shellac players.

However, the end of the 1930s saw the start of the second World War, and the US government commissioned vinyl records for troops to send along with them.

War-time innovations often lead to significant technological progress, which is true for the vinyl record and vinyl record players.

vinyl record player
Vinyl records were commissioned for US troops in World War 2.

When these vinyl records were commissioned for US troops, the development of vinyl records was increased, and subsequently, the machinery and processes for developing them were refined and improved.

The companies that produced these records during the war continued to do so after the war ended but now had no military clients to meet the demand. This led to the commercialization of the vinyl record.

The first vinyl records became available to the public in the 1940s after World War II, and the first LP was sold in 1948.

This quickly became the prevailing music-playing medium, and due to the new manufacturing processes that made vinyl records more affordable and more accessible, these records quickly replaced shellac records, which were by this time becoming more expensive and less accessible anyway.

When Did Vinyl Records Become Popular?

In musical history, vinyl records are one of the most popular physical mediums for playing music. They were once the most popular and widely used method for distributing and playing music worldwide.

vinyl record
Vinyl records became popular after World War 2 after production increased and they became more affordable.

The technology used for recording, distributing, and playing music changes quickly. The progression of this technology is shockingly quick, but when one method becomes popular, it spreads just as quickly.

This means that when vinyl records became affordable, they became very popular internationally, but they were not always the most popular medium for listening to music.

When vinyl records were first used for music, they were very expensive. These records were far more expensive than most people could afford, making them very difficult to find and buy.

The players for these records were also very complex and only produced in small numbers, making them very expensive.

vinyl on turntable
In addition to buying vinyl records, music listeners had to buy a record player (which was expensive at first).

Shellac records were the most popular music-playing medium at this time, and vinyl records were only popular among DJs. Radio stations could afford the equipment necessary for playing vinyl records, and these records have better audio quality, which made them ideal for this use, but no regular people could afford to use them.

However, the developments and progress made in the vinyl record industry during the Second World War made the production of vinyl records better, faster, and significantly less expensive. Small record players were developed for military personnel, so these small, affordable vinyl record players could now be bought by civilians. 

This made vinyl records very popular for recording. When long-play vinyl records were produced, which could hold more music, they quickly became the most popular music-playing method internationally.

This happened in the late 1940s and early 1950s and continued until new mediums were devices, such as tape, for recording and playing music.

What Came Before Vinyl Records?

Vinyl records became the most popular and widely used music-playing and recording medium in the early ‘50s, but several mediums came before it.

The first audio recordings were made on glass with a thin layer of carbon black in the 1850s. The next recording medium used was tinfoil during Edison’s early experiments with the phonograph.

The phonograph was one music playing medium that came before vinyl records.

After using tinfoil, wax-impregnated paper cylinders were used for audio recordings for a few years until the cylinders were eventually abandoned in favor of discs. These wax paper discs were then replaced with shellac discs, which was the immediate predecessor of the vinyl record.

Shellac is a type of resin secreted by a certain insect in southeast Asia. The resin is collected, melted, and formed into small flakes. When these flakes are further melted and combined, they can be molded, and when the substance is hard, it can be engraved upon.

This material was ideal for recording and playing back music as it was easy to work with and rigid enough to carve consistently, which means music could be recorded onto it using vibrational methods and a stylus.

vinyl record 2
The invention of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) made shellac obsolete.

However, the invention of polyvinyl chloride, the substance used for making vinyl records, made shellac completely obsolete, as vinyl is far superior to shellac in every way.

It only took about a hundred years from when the very first audio recordings were made on the most basic mediums before the vinyl record was realized and entered the musical market en mass. Since then, the musical world has continued to progress, and even vinyl records are now obsolete.

With that said, while other music mediums are far more popular and widely used than vinyl records are, these records are becoming popular again in the modern musical world due to the high fidelity of this medium and the analog experience they provide.

Vinyl records became popular in the ‘50s, were phased out, and have since become more popular again, as there are more vinyl records sold now that CDs.

Are Vinyl Records Good?

Vinyl records continue to be popular in the modern musical world, despite the fact that the largest modern musical medium is digital. Is there are reasons why vinyl records are still used today? Are vinyl records good?

vinyl records
Records made before the 1970s were thicker and made from better vinyl than later ones.

Vinyl records are not necessarily better than digital music, and many factors determine how good vinyl records are. Digital music is usually more consistent, but there is something special about vinyl records that lingers even in the modern musical world.

The best quality vinyl records are those made before the 1970s or today. Many of the records in-between were made from inferior vinyl or made very thin to reduce the cost of these records.

However, when the vinyl recipe was changed, and the discs made thinner, the quality of the audio recordings made with these records decreased.

Thick, high-quality vinyl records made with high-quality recording processes and equipment are shockingly good. These recordings are made with an entirely analog process, meaning that every tiny detail of the sound is captured in the vinyl, supposing it is recorded well with good hardware.

vinyl records 3
Thicker vinyl records made are made with an analog process, which gives high-quality recordings.

Digital music is tied to the bit rate, the rate at which a computer can process digital information. For digital music to be played, it must be interpreted by a computer as bits, and the faster the computer can read the bits, the better the music can be. However, before powerful computers were developed, this bit rate had to be very slow, which meant that digital music could not be high quality.

This all means that early digital music was inferior to early analog vinyl record music, but as time went on and technology improved, digital music became better, and vinyl records worsened.

However, modern vinyl records are made to a very high standard with very good vinyl and very good hardware, as they are made to compete with modern digital recordings, which are also very high quality.

Modern vinyl records are very good and are made to a high-quality standard. The high fidelity of modern vinyl records means that these recordings compete with digital music and can even be better than some digital music, depending on how it is recorded.

That said, vinyl records are only as good as the player they are placed into. It will not sound good to place a high-quality, high-fidelity vinyl record into a very cheap and basic player.

The trouble with analog technology such as vinyl record playing is that every machine used in the process from start to finish must be of the highest quality for the output of the vinyl to be any good.

Are Vinyl Records Still Used Today?

Vinyl records are no longer the most popular musical medium, but they are made to a very high-quality today to remain valid in the digital world.

vinyl record player 2
Today’s vinyl records are made to high-quality standards to compete against digital music.

Vinyl records are still in use today, but only by a niche market of people, and they are only produced in a handful of places internationally.

The resurgence of vinyl records is largely due to the work of Third Man Records in Detroit, Michigan. Third Man Records is a record label that releases select albums of vinyl. The company did this by purchasing and refurbishing vinyl press machines and selling special editions of high-performing albums produced by the label.

This idea took off well and sparked an international interest in vinyl records. In the past few years, vinyls have increased in quality and have become even more popular, but they are not as widespread or popular as they used to be.

Digital media is still the prevailing music medium in the modern world, but several music lovers enjoy finding and playing vinyl records. This experience is lost on people who only listen to digital music, and those who enjoy vinyl do so for the process experience.

vinyl record disc detail grooves
Many music lovers still enjoy finding and playing vinyl records from past and present.


Vinyl records were invented long ago and have been used for millions of audio recordings. This medium changed the music world forever and will always be remembered in musical history. Vinyl records are still used today and are cherished by many people internationally.

The very first recordings on vinyl were used for military morale, and they went on to mark an entire generation of music lovers and inspire innovation within the music industry. The world we live in would likely be a very different place without vinyl records.

Wondering what type of speakers are best for vinyl? You can find out here.



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