Why "45RPM"?

By Tim Neill


Why "45RPM"?

I have been working in or on software and technology companies or running digital marketing firms for the past sixteen years. 45RPM, which does brand strategy and digital marketing, clearly fits that mold. A number of people have asked me: “Why the name 45RPM?” This is what I tell them.

45s Changed the Way Music was Distributed & Consumed

Before 45s, records were made of a mixture of shellac and finely ground limestone or slate. They were, as you can imagine, heavy and brittle making them both fragile and difficult to ship. They spun at 78rpm, and a 12” record held around 3 minutes of music.

In the 1930s, some music labels experimented with using vinyl and developed smaller grooves that allowed for more music to be pressed onto vinyl discs. This vinyl also improved overall durability.

By the late 1940s two competing approaches to the consumerization of music emerged: Columbia Music’s 12-inch long playing records that spun at 33 1/3 rpm’s, and RCA’s 7-inch singles that spun at 45 rpm’s which could hold around 8 minutes of music. RCA also released a consumer player that typically shipped with a high speed changer. Many radio stations quickly adopted the 45, and singles became the first widespread way to buy music.

These changes drove a shift in how people/fans/consumers listened to music bringing it out of the radio and into the average home. It was affordable, easy to ship, smaller, and reproduced music realistically.

Quality Lasts

With the explosion of digital media in the 80s, people predicted the downfall of the record as record sales slumped. CDs leap frogged vinyl in terms of sales. The emergence of MP3s in the late 90s further moved the popular consumption of music into digital formats, but vinyl diehards preserved a small new record business and a consistently used market. Vinyl never disappeared.

Over the last three decades as digital media has generally taken over, vinyl survived. Over the last five years, vinyl has thrived. Its reemergence is so dramatic, in fact, that even music superstars like Jack White, who want to open new pressing facilities in the US, have a hard time finding vinyl presses to buy. Production is at capacity.

Why did it survive? I think that most people that listen to music love the portability and ease of digital (I certainly do), but love the experience of vinyl – it’s realism, it’s physical form, the sound of the needle hitting the record.

Emotional Connections

I love listening to music. I have been buying records since I was 12 or 13, and Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis remains one of my favorite places on earth. There were two brief periods - in the early 90s when I lived in South Africa and during early grad school days - when I did not have a turntable, but they were few and far between.

I use many of the digital music services – Pandora, Spotify, and Tidal are my favorites. When I really want to listen to and connect with music, I always throw on records. They just sound ‘realer’ to me, closer to what it would be like to have the artist sitting right there in front of me.

That’s really what we focus on at 45RPM – how do we create something that feels real and that uses that feel as a foundation for connecting businesses with their customers. We do that by:

  • Creating messaging that is authentic and that connects with customers
  • Designing assets and writing copy of the highest quality that will last
  • Using technology to get it into the right channels at the right time so that people consumer it while understanding that the most valuable connections still tend to be human

A quick look at vinyl in 2016:

  • In 2015, vinyl was the fastest growing music segment (read about it here)
  • In 2015, vinyl sales reached a 26 year high (read about it here)
  • Vinyl sales were on the rise for the 6th straight year (read about it here)
  • While vinyl sales are dwarfed by digital streams, they account for more revenue and royalties being paid to artists than all streaming combined (read about it here)