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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Vinyl sells so well that it becomes difficult to sell vinyl

Joyful Noise Recordings, Indianapolis, a specialist label catering to vinyl-loving underground rock fans, has a corner that employees call the “Cave of Lathes.”

There is a Presto 6N record lathe – a 1940s microwave-oven-sized machine that makes records by carving a groove on a blank vinyl disc. Unlike most standard inserts, which are pressed in the hundreds or thousands, each cut-and-turn wheel must be created individually.

“It’s incredibly time consuming,” said Karl Hofstetter, founder of the label. “If a song is three minutes long, it takes three minutes for each song.”

This ancient technology – worn and cracked, the lathe looks a bit like a WWII submarine – is a key part of Joyful Noise’s strategy to survive amid the record-fueled vinyl surge in popularity. Left to die with the advent of CDs in the 1980s, vinyl records are now the most popular and most profitable physical format in the music industry, and fans choose it for collectibility, sound quality, or simply tactile music in the digital ephemeral era. … After steadily growing for over a decade, LP sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, 17 million vinyl records were sold in the United States in the first six months of this year, generating $ 467 million in retail revenue, nearly double the same period in 2020. Sixteen million CDs were sold in the first half of 2021, valued at just $ 205 million. Physical recordings are now only a fraction of the music business in general – streaming accounts for 84 percent of domestic revenue – but they can be a strong sign of fan loyalty, and stars like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo make vinyl an important part of their marketing.

However, there are worrying signs that vinyl’s prosperity has exceeded the industrial capacity needed to sustain it. Production congestion and the use of outdated press machines have resulted in what executives describe as unprecedented delays. A couple of years ago, a new record could be turned over in a few months; it can now take up to a year, hurting artists’ release plans.

Kevin Morby, a singer-songwriter based in Kansas City, Kansas, said his latest album, A Night at the Little Los Angeles, barely arrived in time to sell it during the fall tour. And he’s one of the lucky ones. Artists from the Beach Boys to Tyler, the Creator recently saw their vinyl.

“It’s almost the same as I feel playing live music,” Morby said in an interview. “I now consider every performance to be successful. “Wow, we did it – nobody got Covid.” Now I know what it will be like when the world comes to a complete stop. So even if it’s a little late, I’m still grateful for that. “

For Joyful Noise, vinyl crunching is also an enigmatic problem. Up to 500 VIPs pay the label $ 200 a year for special editions of every LP they release. But the delay in production means the label can’t predict which games will be ready in 2022.

“How can we, with a clear conscience, sell this next year,” Hofstätter said, “if we don’t know when these records will appear?”

The label’s decision is to make singles for each of the eight albums it intends to release next year, as placeholder bonuses while customers wait. It will cost Joyful Noise money and time, ”Hofstetter moaned when we calculated that eight LPs with five minutes of music per side, cut 500 times each would take 666 hours of lathe work, but the label sees it as a necessary investment.

Others are disappointed too. Thrill Jockey, a Chicago-based indie rock label, wants to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year with a series of re-releases, but founder Bettina Richards said she had no idea what titles might be released in time. John Brian of Important Records, which produces works by contemporary composers, recently stated on the Internet that “vinyl is dead, ”, But explained in an interview that the format is too important to refuse it.

Even the largest stars are not protected. In an interview this month for BBC Radio, Adele, whose “30” album will be released on November 19 – and will likely be an LP blockbuster – said her release date was set six months ago to get vinyl and CDs on time. …

“The lead time was approximately 25 weeks!” she exclaimed. “There are so many CD and vinyl factories that they shut down before Covid because nobody else prints them.”

Music and production experts cite the robbery as a multitude of factors. The pandemic has shut down many factories for a time, and problems in the global supply chain have slowed down everything from cardboard and polyvinyl chloride – the “vinyl” that records (and water pipes) are made of – to finished albums. In early 2020, a fire destroyed one of two factories in the world that produced lacquer discs, which is an integral part of the recording process.

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But the bigger problem may be simple supply and demand. The consumption of vinyl records has grown much faster than the record production capacity of the industry. The business relies on an outdated press machine infrastructure, most of which date from the 1970s or earlier, and can be expensive to maintain. New cars have only appeared in recent years and can cost up to $ 300,000 each. There are outstanding orders for them too.

Exotic issues arise that never get in the way of a YouTube or SoundCloud release. “We had a raccoon infestation,” said Karen Kelleher of Gold Rush Vinyl, a boutique plant in Austin, Texas. “It set us back a week.”

The limitations of this infrastructure are being tested as major artists and super-retailers like Walmart and Amazon increasingly push vinyl. It’s not hard to see why: at a time when CD sales are dwindling and streaming makes artists complain about tiny payouts, a new LP, especially if offered in attractive colors or designs that attract collectors’ attention, could sell for $ 25. … or more. For some, the releases of top pop artists are twisting the production chain, crowding out the smaller artists and labels that have remained faithful to the format all along.

“What worries me the most is that the big labels will dominate and take all the capacity, which I don’t think is a good idea,” said Rick Hashimoto of Record Technology Inc., a mid-sized plant in Camarillo, California. ., which works with many indie labels.

Others say the major labels are just convenient targets. For them, the real problem is not that celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon, but that the industrial network simply hasn’t expanded fast enough to meet the growing demand.

“Am I angry that Olivia Rodrigo sold 76,000 vinyl copies of her album?” said Ben Blackwell of Third Man, a record company and vinyl empire that counts Jack White of the White Stripes as one of its founders. “Not at all! This is what I dreamed of when we started Third Man – that all the biggest artists on the front lines are pushing vinyl, and that little kids are into it.”

“If someone gets angry that it prevents them from nominating some other title,” Blackwell continued, “they feel a little elitist and hidden.”

However, there are fears that the revival could be in jeopardy if further delays frustrate consumers and artists – or if vinyl is seen as just another commodity, such as t-shirts or keychains, that fickle fans simply walk away from.

Among older types of records, it has long been suspected that many new fans buy vinyl to enjoy collecting, but never drop the needle.

“During Covid, we noticed that we had a lot more complaints about postal orders, like, ‘The jacket has a 10-inch bend at the corner,’” said Brian Lowitt of Dischord Records, the Washington-based label behind post-punk. icons like Fugazi. “We ask them if the record is playing well and they say, ‘I don’t know, I just keep it in a shrink wrap.”

For artists, especially those not supported by major labels, the use of vinyl has become a question of whether it’s worth it.

“Vinyl seems legitimate right now,” said Cassandra Jenkins, singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, whose latest album, An Overview of Phenomenal Nature, was an unexpected vinyl hit – it started with 300 copies and eventually sold to 7,000 copies.

“This is an investment for an artist,” she added. “I need these properties that I can sell, so I’m going to invest in them.”

For some musicians like Jenkins, these investments have now begun to influence the creative process. After the release of her last album in February, she began work on the next material. But the long lead times for vinyl meant she had to get started immediately on a tight schedule to get her music into production.

In Jenkins’ case, the pressure had a positive effect. She has recorded an EP with new material, which will be released on vinyl by the end of the year. Another release, An Overview of Phenomenal Nature, with snippets and a new track, will be released on CD and digital next month, and on vinyl in April.

“It strangely pushed me to create more music than there would have been in the more luxurious deadlines of the past,” Jenkins said.

And her next project?

“It was really important for me to have vinyl this year,” she said. “Maybe next year it won’t happen.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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