Old Recordings Gain New Listeners in Brazil

05 May 2024

Plastic music recordings, or vinyl records, are popular again in Brazil.

In 2023, more records were sold than compact discs (CDs) and DVDs for the first time in many years. That information comes from Pro-Música, an association of Brazil's largest music production companies.

The new interest in the pressed vinyl discs and high-quality but less costly record players is bringing fame to singers who thought they had been forgotten.

Brazilian singer Catia de Franca, 77, belts out a tune at a warehouse converted into a venue for independent artists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
Brazilian singer Catia de Franca, 77, belts out a tune at a warehouse converted into a venue for independent artists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

Catia de França is 77. In the 1970s and 1980s, she traveled through Brazil performing her music. But she was not popular when CDs replaced records. Her music was lost to a new generation who did not use old record players.

By 2021, de França was living in a small community in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro. She said it was "where you can't even imagine an internet signal."

But one day, she got a telephone call from the head of a small record company. He said he wanted to make a new version of her first record from 1979 called 20 Words Around the Sun.

"This must be a prank," de França thought at the time. But it was not. The producer wanted to make more copies of her 40-year-old record.

Today, at 77, de França is again traveling Brazil performing her music for new fans.

Her new fame is part of a rising interest in records. Pro-Música research shows that from 2022 to 2023 the money coming from sales of records in Brazil increased from about $1 million to $2.2 million. It is 15 times higher today than in 2019.

Carlos Savalla is a 66-year-old music producer in Rio de Janeiro. He owns about 60,000 records and pays attention to their value. He said many people buy and sell used records on websites and social media sites like Facebook or at record stores. Brazilians and visitors are looking for samba, bossa nova, tropicalismo and other popular forms of music.

The trend is in more places than Brazil. In the U.S., sales of vinyl records brought in $1.4 billion in 2023. Some say the interest in Taylor Swift brought about a jump in record purchases. Swift's 2022 record – Midnights – was the first big release to have its records sell more than CDs since 1987.

Martin Froes reports on music in Brazil. He said today's top-selling records do not come from the most popular artists. They release their songs to digital streaming services. But new music groups and classic singers drive the sales of vinyl records.

By 2008, all of Brazil's vinyl record production centers closed because of digital music services. But after records became popular again in Europe and the U.S., João Augusto and his partners decided to buy an old vinyl pressing factory called Polysom.

Luciano Barreira is the company's general manager. He said they began producing old records with "commercial appeal and demand." Now, the factory helps record companies and independent music artists put their music on vinyl records. After 15 years, Polysom has pressed 1.3 million records and other companies have re-opened factories.

João Noronha started his pressing center in 2019. He and two friends started a business called Tres Selos. They send their customers one newly pressed record a month.

"We didn't expect much," Noronha said, but in the first month of operations, 120 customers paid for the reissue of Sinceramente, a 1982 album by Sérgio Sampaio, a Brazilian singer from the 1970s and ‘80s.

A few years later, one of Noronha's partners, Rafael Cortes, saw that de França's record was selling in the used record market for $135. That is when they started working to get permission to re-release her 40-year-old recording.

On the first phone call, Cortes said, de França was "suspicious." She wanted to know why anyone wanted her old music.

"I think her mistrust comes from the fact that the industry often pushed her aside," he said.

Cortes and music writer Chris Fuscaldo said de França was combative, firm in her ideas, and off-beat. Although she was performing with many of Brazil's most popular artists and gaining listeners, larger record companies like Columbia Records did not spend the money to advertise de França.

Fuscaldo has written about the lack of support women received in Brazil's music history. She said part of the reason de França is popular now is that she was suppressed before.

"She's absolutely brilliant," Isadora Attab, a fan, said at a recent performance.

Some of the larger music companies are starting to get interested in vinyl records in Brazil. The Brazilian partner of Universal Music now has a service. It sends customers new pressings of famous Brazilian singers like Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Maria Bethania along with foreign singers like Billie Eilish.

De França might be known only to a small number of music fans around Brazil, but she is now reaching 30- and 40-year-old listeners. She recently performed for a crowd at a former industrial storage building in Sao Paulo. She compared herself to the fictional bird, the phoenix.

"I was reborn, rising from the ashes like a phoenix, disquieting my enemies..."

As she finished, someone put warm clothing over her to protect her from the cold night air. She looked like an old woman, not like the star she has finally become.

I'm Dan Friedell. And I'm Gena Bennett.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press.


Words in This Story

vinyl –n. a kind of plastic used to make records

disc –n. a round, flat object

prank –n. a trick or a joke played on someone

trend –n. the direction of change of something, often of growing, or decreasing popularity

classic –adj. an example of one of the best things from a certain time

customer –n. a person or group who buys a good or a service

suspicious –adj. not trusting, suspecting something is wrong

brilliant –adj. very impressive and successful