And so you can go on and on, comparing the pros and cons of vinyl vs. CDs. But there is one very special aspect of vinyl records that has been lost in the digital age. If you look at the runout groove of a record (especially if it was mastered at places like The Exchange in London or Frankford Wayne in New York) you might see a little secret message, engraved in the dead wax. Normally, this is where the person who does the mastering would have inscribed the catalogue number and other reference codes into the master disc with a stylus, but sometimes they add a personal touch (for a better understanding of how mastering a vinyl record works, read the Wikipedia article). What started as an industry inside joke soon grew into a cult phenomenon, and several websites are dedicated to cataloguing runout groove inscriptions. Even the artists themselves got in on the act and several bands requested that specific messages be inscribed on their records for their fans to discover.
Here are three of the many, many vinyl records out there with interesting things written in the runout groove. Have you discovered any?
Joy Division. Love Will Tear Us Apart. 7" single.
Factory Records FAC23 
Side A: Don't disillusion me
Side B: I've only got record shops left
This is obviously meant to be read as one message - has music become the only thing of value in the author's life? Is it an eerily prophetic message from vocalist Ian Curtis himself, who would commit suicide the month after its release?
Mute Records 12Bong10 
Depeche Mode. Stripped. 12" single.
Side A: Don't give me double messages, O.K?
Side B: More of a Kraftwerk kind of relationship
The older Depeche Mode singles are famous for crazy runout groove graffiti. The first message here is obviously a snub at another technician at the mastering plant, but does the second describe the influence of Kraftwerk's robotic electronica on the Mode's music?
Franz Ferdinand. Franz Ferdinand. LP.
Domino Records WIGLP136 
Side A: Because You're Lonely
Side B: Nobody Likes You
Didn't expect Franz Ferdinand in this list, did you? Their singles feature inscriptions too, and much speculation has arisen among fans as to what it all means. The band seems pretty tight-lipped about it, dropping subtle hints on their website from time to time. Curiouser and curiouser. It seems like the romance of vinyl is being kept alive, after all.