WWII Record Shortage

Toronto, ON, Canada / 102.1 the Edge

There was a shortage of recorded music during World War II.  It wasn’t that all the musicians were sent off to war, but because there was a shortage of material to make records.  Up until the end of the 40s, a major raw material of records was shellac, which was a resin secreted by certain types of insects found in trees in Asia.  But with the breakout of the Second World War, Japan–one of the Axis powers–controlled a big chunk of Southeast Asia where all these little bugs lived.  No access, no shellac, no records.  At one point in the 40s, the shortage was so great that consumers weren’t allowed to buy new records unless they traded in their old ones.  This crisis was a big part of the push to develop a substitute which we ended up calling “vinyl.”