The Future of the Format

Now that people have bought a novelty mini turntable conversation piece to play 3” records, what else could Crosley/Record Store Day/Toyokasei (or heck, any label) do to further the market aside from releasing more records to play on it (which seems like a no-brainer, now that there are thousands of these turntables in the wild)?

We have some ideas.

Two Sides to Every Story

Make them double-sided. Adding a second track to each would effectively double their value, and make re-releasing 7” singles on 3” records more attractive as the new releases could be replicas of previous releases. I don’t buy a ton of 7” singles, although I’d probably buy more if there was a nice small 7” turntable to play them on. 3” records could be the answer to “wouldn’t it be cool if I could play records on my desk at work?”

Yes, there are likely technical hurdles to overcome but there are already 3” sized records that are double sided, they just don’t use the 8-ban-sized spindle hole and are made to play on a standard turntable (which has issues with tracking angle, making them less than ideal).

High-Definition

HD vinyl could increase track length and sound quality of 3” record releases while keeping the size the same. Who wouldn’t want their little records to sound better? Because the HD vinyl process allows for tighter grooves they could also increase the length to five minutes a side, opening up the possibilities for even more tracks (not that there aren’t plenty of songs under four minutes that could easily be released on the current state-of-the-art for three inch records).

HD Vinyl hasn’t yet become a defacto norm for standard LPs, so this one is a longshot, but it’s definitely something that could be done to increase the quality of three inch record releases.

New Blind Box Series

We’ve previously written about some wishlist releases, but what else could be done with new release series? A new series of more than four titles (like say, 16 like the original Japanese 8-ban series) would mean that people could come back to collect them all, and they could be sold at the counter in record stores (or other retail locations) as an impulse buy.

Want people to want to buy them? Put out titles people would want to buy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

They could put out records that would sell worldwide, like animé theme songs or singles from cross-over K-Pop bands like BTS, who performed on Saturday Night Live earlier this year.

A Novel Idea

Lean into the novelty. Release more niche titles, or even releases unique to the format, like The White Stripes did with “Top Special”. Put out a boxed set of an album on a bunch of 3” records in a nice little box. Release titles that people would show off to their friends. “You gotta check this out…” is a good marketing tool.

People are already collecting these records because they’re cute and as a conversation piece for their collection - give them something to talk about.

Swap Meet

Record stores could promote and host blind-box record swaps, encouraging people to trade their blind-box doubles with other patrons. Bring people back to the stores. Make it an event. Records are fun and 3” records are even more fun because they’re cute and are actually “real records.”

Offer promotions around buying and trading 3” records. Offer buy-back programs (two for one, or something) to give retailers an incentive to stock these little records. Get people into the stores on days that aren’t Record Store Day.

These are tiny records that fit in your pocket. Embrace the portability and encourage people to carry them around1.

Economics of Scale

The original 8-ban records sold in Japan for around $3.29 USD in 2004, which is worth about $4.75 USD in 2019 dollars. That makes the $9.99 retail price of the new Record Store Day titles more than twice the price of the previously failed 8-ban releases.

Sure, these are niche titles and clearly people will pay it, but for the format to take off more than it has the prices will have to come down. Ten dollars is too much for a fun “what the heck, I’ll pick one up” purchase, especially for only a single track (although of course that value increases if they take our advice above and make 3” records double-sided).

Having said that, the original Bandai 8-ban record player also sold for around $30 USD in 2004 (so around $40 in 2019), although when you see the new RSD3 mini turntable that sells for $70 it’s clearly of better quality than the original Bandai player, so at least there you can see what you’re getting for the extra money (a real cartridge, better speaker, more serious styling, etc.). With the records, it feels like less of a deal.

More Labels, More Plants

Currently only Record Store Day has released new 3” records, all pressed at Toyokasei in Japan.

For the format to blossom more labels would need to release titles, and more than one pressing plant would need to press them. Maybe Third Man Records’ new plant could produce them, given their promulgation of the format so far.

Broaden Your Horizons

Why only release the Crosley RSD3 mini turntable as a numbered, limited edition for Record Store Day 2019? If there were more titles to buy, these little turntables could be a fun holiday gift for the vinyl lovers in people’s lives. Maybe the people who scoffed at or passed on the RSD3 would be happy to receive a different model as a gift. Imagine seeing a display of these at Target or Walmart. They’d sell, and more records would sell, and suddenly you’d have a niche format that people may not buy tons of records for but more people would buy some records to play on it, even if it’s just to sit on a shelf next to their record collection as a curiosity.

INTO THE FUTURE

There are already thousands of 3” mini turntables in the world - between the Crosley RSD3 from Record Store Day, the non-limited reissue in Summer 2019, and the Third Man branded Triple Inchophone there’s already a fairly sizable market that could potentially be hungry for more records to play.

Record Store Day may be seeing how the Sabotage single sells before committing to making more records, but if the speed at which these appeared to sell out is any indicator, there are lots of 3” record fans who will quickly lose interest in buying more records for their novelty mini turntable if there aren’t more records available soon, with titles they want to buy.

This should be a slam-dunk. Put out titles people want and they’ll sell thousands of each of them.


  1. Speaking of carrying around three inch records - the Crosley RSD3 mini turntable could really use a carrying case, with a pocket to hold some records. ↩︎
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