It seems more independent artists than ever are getting their music pressed on vinyl. The new world order in the music industry has created a market that caters for small runs from independent labels and self-managed artists. If you are looking into pressing your music on vinyl, here are a few things you should know:
A lot of the production process is still done by hand and is rather time and labour intensive. At the core of the pressing process is the metal stamper, sometimes referred to as the “metal work”. This is the template, a disc about 14” in diameter, that is used to press the grooves into each record. Creating this piece will hit home at $700+. That’s right, this is just the template - at this point, you have not yet pressed a single record.
Another big one is freight cost, especially when getting your records pressed overseas. It’s advisable to get a quote before you put your order in. Shipping heavy, bulky items like records to and from Australia is not cheap. Your standard courier services like UPS and FedEx will quote you crazy amounts somewhere between $400 and $800 (maybe more) to ship 100 records from the US or Europe. Services like https://www.ship2anywhere.com.au can help you find the best price, more often than not at a fraction of the price the big players will quote you directly.
Generally, as with most other things, the smaller the run, the more you end up paying for each unit. This means that ultimately you will have to charge more for each record to cover your costs.
Depending on which packaging option you decide on, the cost will keep going up. On average, expect a minimum price of $1400 for a run of one hundred 12” records in plain white cardboard sleeves - shipping to your door NOT included.
Vinyl masters are more dynamic than digital masters - less compressed. If you are planning to release your music on CD and vinyl, you will need to get two different masters done. Remember old TV shows? The ones that were shot for 4:3 screens? Watch those on a 16:9 widescreen TV and something’s gotta give. You either end up with black bars on the sides or with bits of your picture being cut off at the top and bottom. So, if anyone is trying to tell you (and people will) that you can use the same masters for vinyl and digital, you WILL end up with a lesser product. Something’s gotta give.
Lastly on this one, make sure the mastering engineer of your choice has proven experience in mastering for vinyl. Getting it wrong will make your music sound worse.
Some pressing plants only offer test pressings as an optional service. ALWAYS get test pressings! As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of manual work involved in the process and therefore a lot of room for error. The test pressing is the best (and only) chance you will get to make sure that the sound you will end up with is the one you want. ALWAYS get test pressings!
Is your audience the type of people who will buy vinyl? Let’s say you worked out that some of your Australian followers would buy a vinyl release, and that they would be comfortable paying $30 for your 12”. Will they still buy it after you have added $10 of shipping and packaging cost? That’s roughly what shipping one record within Australia costs. Also keep in mind that shipping cost goes up a fair bit when you start shipping overseas.
You guessed it, this one is about money as well. Keeping your expenses as low as possible is the challenge here. There are things you won’t be able to avoid, like buying proper vinyl mailers to ship out your orders. If you source these locally in small amounts, it can add up to $3 to your packaging expenses for each record. That’s right - that’s just one record. Add some packaging tape and some padding and your cost is quickly blowing out again. Bulk buying can keep costs down here. If you are planning to release more music on vinyl in the future, buy larger amounts of packaging material which will drop the cost per unit. Another alternative is finding other artists in your area who are planning to release music on vinyl. Join forces to put in a larger order and save everyone some cash. My point here is that these things take time to organise and you should start thinking about them from the get go. It’s too late when you already have orders coming in, and you will most likely end up paying the premium price - which makes it less and less likely that you will cover expenses or make any profit.
Scared? No? Well, go on then. In Australia, your two best options for pressing vinyl are Implant Media (minimum of 300) and Zenith Records (minimum of 100). For overseas options, consult Google and read as many reviews as you can, and make sure you’re dealing with an experienced supplier with high quality standards.
Have you considered pressing your music on vinyl? Or have you done it before? Let us know about your experiences and thoughts in the comments section.
Also check out vinyl realeases by Melbourne Hip Hop artists here.