There’s a romanticism about vinyl, and we share that enthusiasm of the format for obvious reasons. However it should be noted that the romanticism that surrounds vinyl, is largely that- romanticism. Below we’ve assembled a number of recent editorials and reports about the state of vinyl production to shed some light and much needed perspective on this subject.
There several important take-a-ways from our friends who are on the front lines of vinyl production that are also noted in the reports below.
1) Vinyl revenues are grossing more than free streaming receivables. This sounds impressive at first but said another way it means that free streaming is just not generating a lot of revenue in the aggregate of the total business (not a surprise, free streaming is a big problem).
Second, and more sadly is the fact that vinyl production is very expensive and miscalculations on selecting a title or the pressing quantity almost certainly will create a loss in thousands of dollars (if not tens of thousands) per title. In other words NET PROFITS on vinyl are pretty small in relationship to the GROSS REVENUE generated at retail due to the excessively high manufacturing costs.
2) Turn around times to make vinyl have been pushed out in excess of six to nine months on most indie label titles. If the major labels want to dominate the presses then they should invest in helping to create more pressing plants and overall pressing volume. There are only so many titles that can survive a demand curve that extends more than half a year from when there was initial excitement. This means titles that could have sold through their pressings often end up as excess inventory.
3) Good test pressings are fewer and farther between. Many test discs are often inferior and unlistenable. Problems range from pops and clicks, and surface noise to outright skipping. Getting an acceptable pressing can often mean rejecting two or three test pressings before all sides of an album are approved. A CD length vinyl release requires four vinyl LP sides that must be approved before the album can be commercially pressed. Each rejected side adds four to six weeks to the overall production timeline.
4) Colored novelty vinyl sucks as a listening experience. So much of the custom vinyl being released on colored vinyl and specialty blends sound completely horrible. These are purchased by consumers more or less as merchandise (we hope) more than they are audio products. There are a lot of not great sounding new vinyl releases, but hey if it’s on rainbow splatter glow in the dark vinyl who cares, right?
All of this is to say that if anyone thinks that vinyl is the solution to the economic exploitation artists are facing from free streaming models, then they just don’t understand the mechanics of the contemporary vinyl marketplace.
Pressed to the Edge: Why vinyl hype is destroying the record | FACT
“There are only two companies worldwide that produce lacquers. One of these companies is a one-man operation in Japan run by an old man who produces the lacquers in his garage. It’s excellent quality, but who knows how much longer he can and especially will want to continue to do this. When we are in contact with him, we attempt to order as many lacquers as we can in order to stock up as much as possible. You don’t really know when you will reach him again. The other company is in the USA and serves a large portion of the market. It is practically a monopoly. This is not good for business.”
How Independent Artists and Labels Are Getting Squeezed Out by the “Vinyl Revival” | Noisey – Vice
“But the law of supply and demand is not necessarily applicable in this case, as within the same time frame, the number of facilities producing vinyl has remained static, at roughly 20 active pressing plants nationwide. These facilities can in no way meet the current demand for vinyl. “
“I currently have a release at United [pressing plant] and it’s been over two months, and I still don’t even have a test pressing yet. I put in a re-order [a re-pressing of a previously pressed album, usually necessitating less turnaround time than a new release due to fewer steps in the production process to create the vinyl] for back catalog releases and I was told it would be at least 16 weeks. Sixteen weeks! Four months for a re-order!”
No, vinyl sales have not overtaken music streaming revenues | Telegraph UK
“A mid-year report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) found that US consumers spent $226m (£149m) on vinyl albums and singles in the first half of the year, surpassing $162.7m in revenues from ad-supported streaming.
What that means is that the amount Americans were willing to spend on vinyl records was higher than the amount the music industry made from the streaming services those consumers weren’t willing to pay for, such as Spotify’s free service and YouTube. “
Indie Labels Say Major Labels “Constipate” Pressing Plants for Record Store Day | Digital Music News
“There are currently no copies of Spectres’ album ‘Dying’ on vinyl in the shops because the repress is somewhere towards the back of the queue after some Foo Fighters studio scrapings, a host of EPs by The 1975 and about a million heavyweight ‘heritage rock’ reissues that no-one really needs.”
Hey Record Store Day, Face the Facts. You’re Hurting Indie Labels. | Digital Music News
“If the majors want to start pressing lots of records again they’re more than welcome to, but perhaps it would be better received if they invested some of their capital into building new pressing plants to lessen the strain.”
“It’s unfortunate, but it seems like every year our vinyl schedule gets delayed by months for some *limited* Dave Grohl or Jack White single.“
Have We Reached Peak Vinyl? | Stereogum
“Stewart Anderson has had enough. The frontman for noise-pop veterans Boyracer and head of likeminded label 555 Recordings has been releasing music on vinyl since 1991. But the well-documented manufacturing delays that have gone hand in hand with the format’s unlikely resurgence have finally pushed the artist/entrepreneur to the point of wanting to break it off with analog discs.