Still Living in the Plastic Age

Still Living in the Plastic Age

Minneapolis’s Taiga Records produces avant-garde music in an old-school format.

You probably haven’t heard of Minneapolis-based music label Taiga Records, much less the music it produces. Taiga founder Andrew Lange describes the styles as “contemporary abstract, jazz, minimal, drone, meditation, and sound documentation.” (Check out samples on Taiga’s Web site—easy listening they’re not.) In its four years of existence, Taiga has released only 16 records—all available only on vinyl.

A vinyl-only record label might not sound like, well, a sound business strategy, but listen up: LPs represent the sole music format that has seen growth the past couple of years. For 2011, Billboard reported 40 percent growth for sales of vinyl LPs. True, that puts last year’s vinyl sales a little shy of 4 million—compare that to 227 million CDs and 1.27 billion digital downloads. Artists releasing albums on 33-1/3 include cool indie bands Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, and Fleet Foxes. Locally, Trampled by Turtles, Doomtree, and Martin Zellar have vinyl versions of recent albums for fans who prefer the sound quality or collectability.

Taiga itself doesn’t sell many of those of 4 million. The most that Lange has pressed on any release is 1,000—and 300 is typical. Still, running Taiga is nearly a full-time job for Lange, who got the company up and spinning in 2007. In Taiga’s case, the CEO is the only employee; Lange says in a typical year, his label brings in about $30,000 in revenues.

But Adele-like numbers aren’t the point. Lange views an album cover as a canvas for art that complements the music. And art, alone, endures. “Vinyl has proven itself as the foremost physical media format,” Lange says, “through longevity and resilience.”