Johanna Parker wrote:
each play physically degenerates the vinyl
I read this was a rumor, if you treat them properly.
Realize that vinyl is always in a state of flux. It is neither a solid substance nor a liquid substance. This is one reason why they will warp easily from only a 6% lean even without temperature change and can have clicks from the mere drop of a needle.
The groove walls are the most delicate part as you can see if you look at them under extreme magnification. Any damage to the groove walls will create noise when played again. Damage can occur easily for a number of reasons, the most common of which is a bad stylus or a poorly mounted stylus. Either of these will track improperly and damage the groove walls.
Another factor is compliance. The cantilever (the part that holds the needle) needs to be able to float so it will absorb the movement as it goes across the record. An older cartridge might have a needle in good shape but a locked cantilever, in which case it will not adjust itself to irregularities in the surface of the record. This will also cause damage to the groove walls.
Overweight racking will re-groove a record. A great example is early 78 RPM records which were 1/2 an inch thick to be able to be played on the old Victrolas tracking at sometimes as much as a pound. Later 78 RPM records were thinner and if played on the old Victrola would virtually eliminate the music from the groove walls. In the late 30's they sometimes used cactus needles which did not wear the records at all. If you are tracking at more than a gram, you are probably doing damage to your records. Basic physics also apply. If you are tracking at 1 gram, the actual pressure on a record when the needle comes down, however lightly, will cause damage and there will be a click in that spot next time through. If you drop the needle on a track in the middle of a record, it will click there next time. Listen to record that has been played 5 or 6 times. You will likely hear light clicks at the very beginning of the side due to this.
Yes, records need to be cleaned or at least brushed with a some sort of record cleaner before being played. Even a tiny bit of dust hitting a needle can cause minor damage.
Finally, playing a record repeatedly should not wear a record out on its own. I have records I bought in the 50's that still play quietly.