Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The vinyl revival: Is it a victim of its own success?

Graphic: Pitchfork

The ongoing vinyl revival sees 2014 serve up Lorde with one of the top ten biggest selling LPs in the US - but the revival has one downside for record labels - now pressing plants can't keep up with demand.

Ian Henderson of Dunedin based label Fishrider Records reports via Twitter that the current turnaround for pressing vinyl for his label via "UK/ Europe is 5 months from masters to LPs. 8-10 weeks from test pressing approval to LPs. Some plants imposing 500 minimum [quantity]." He adds "I'm dreaming up ideas to make CDs as cool as Jack White is making vinyl now."

There are similar reports on the lengthening time around pressing up vinyl in this story below...

From Pitchfork:

“You used to be able to turn over a record in four weeks,” says John Beeler, project manager at Asthmatic Kitty, the label home of Sufjan Stevens. “But I’m now telling my artists that we need at least three months from the time they turn it in to the time we get it back.”

Across the board, lengthy lead times that were once anomalies are now the norm. “They’ve been longer this year than they were even nine months ago,” says Nick Blandford, managing director of the Secretly Label Group, which includes prominent indie imprints Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar, and Dead Oceans, and artists including Bon Iver and the War on Drugs.

“We crossed our fingers and hoped that turn times would improve after Record Store Day in April, but they’re still about the same. We’ve just accepted this as the reality.”

The Pitchfork story goes on to mention that " ... in 2014, the trickiest part for record stores is keeping those LPs in stock. One of the dirty secrets of music retail is that most distributors allow record stores to return unsold CDs—but usually not vinyl." This was why some Record Store Day releases are so hard to find this year, and stores only carry RSD releases they are sure will move.

" ... The decision to purchase LPs now is an aesthetic choice as much, if not more, than a sound preference ... So if it’s less about sound, then vinyl is a badge as much as a format—a way listeners can self-identify as true music fans. And when assessing the current state of vinyl, perhaps the harbinger of its eventual decline or plateau is the durability of that badge status:

If enough music fans decide vinyl’s perceived authenticity has been compromised, will it become a hollow gimmick? And if vinyl fatigue sets in, will consumers be satisfied to stream or download? If they still crave something physical, will they revert to CDs? Or cassettes?"

The story also discounts some chatter that the major labels are solely to blame, by hogging the pressing plants with endless reissues. "Everyone is competing with everyone to get their records made and, at this rate, there won’t be enough presses to meet demand for some time, if ever."

There's some great background behind the scenes at pressing plants in there too - Read it in full:
Wax and wane- the tough realities behind vinyls comeback

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