POZ Perspective: Why Your Vinyl Is Not At Your Doorstep (Part I)
PropertyofZack is beyond thrilled to be taking the wraps off of our new editorial section today! Over the years we’ve been happy to provide you with the best news and original content we’ve had to offer, and Perspective is an outlet for us to dig a little deeper into the issues that affect our music scene. Perspective will enable us to provide you with quality you expect and the insight you deserve.
Ever wonder why your vinyl pre-orders don’t arrive on time? And why those delays only get further delayed? In our first Perspective, Editor in Chief Erik van Rheenen tackles those questions and more. In part one of our two part feature, PropertyOfZack reached out to top vinyl outlets such as Triple Crown, Topshelf, Paper + Plastick, Shop Radio Cast, American Dream, Animal Style to get to the bottom of Why Your Vinyl Is Not At Your Doorstep.
Even when stuck in traffic on a bustling Wednesday afternoon, Fred Feldman can’t help but laugh when the subject of vinyl delays comes up.
“My favorite subject,” the founder of Triple Crown Records says with an almost involuntary chuckle.
Fans know the feeling. Feldman knows the feeling. Heck, most label managers know the feeling. From albums getting pushed back a day or two to the now infamous elusive Mightier Than Sword Records Take Off Your Pants And Jacket pressing, vinyl delays have become a footnote in the recent renaissance of the format.
“Vinyl has exploded, and there’s not a lot of new pressing plants setting up shop,” explains Feldman. “We’re really at the mercy of the plants.”
Feldman loves vinyl. The renaissance of artwork the format spearheaded. The warmth that comes from having to sit down and pay attention while a record spins on a turntable. The intricacies of sound.
But manufacturing vinyl, he says, is a big investment. The risk/reward variable is tantamount. Triple Crown tries to battle delays by ensuring parts and masters arrive to the plant on time.
“Once you get a test pressing back, there’s no guarantee it will work,” he says. “Sometimes you have to tweak it two or three times to get the best master possible.”
Thomas Nassiff, label manager for Paper + Plastick Records, half-jokingly considers himself an expert on the topic.
“We’ve had at least a partial vinyl delay for almost every release,” he says. “In an ideal world, we’d be able to control everything and prevent that.”
Nassiff is a vinyl collector. He’s only been working at P+P for the last two years, but he’s grasped the feeling from both sides of the coin, as a fan and, in the past year, as label manager.
“I hate waiting for records myself,” he said. “Our Flatfoot 56 record has been delayed since its release date in July, and I’m still waiting for my copy. The second we get records in, we put everything on hold and get it out to people who preordered.”
Paper + Plastick tinkers with creative packaging, but Nassiff refuses to make excuses for releasing albums on “some crazy color” causing delays. Some, if not most, problems are out of the label’s hands: when Paper + Plastick pressed Anthony Raneri’s EP, New Cathedrals, with coffee grounds, the plant sent 100 fewer records than expected.
Adding perks to a record is a catch-22 for labels. Joe Cubera, owner of American Dream Records, put it best: “The more complex a pressing is, the higher risk there is of something being delayed.”
Though it’s not a problem Cubera faces often, the effects of vinyl delays trickle down into other projects in the works: a hair-pulling game of Chutes and Ladders.
“Delays push everything back, and that includes projects we have in the pipeline,” he says. “We depend on the success of each release to allow us to work on another record, so the longer we wait to put something out, the longer we wait until we’re able to start to focus on anything else.”
When delays hit, though, they hit hard. Chris Hansen of No Sleep Records chalks vinyl up as one of the biggest headaches he deals with for the label. Though the label remains fairly lucky and unscathed by major delays, he guesses that 99 percent of orders get delayed to some extent.
“Vinyl is always a fun project to do. It’s the most beautiful item that can be released, both musically and as an art piece,” he says. “But it is definitely a project that comes out of love.”
Hansen can’t number the issues delays cause on just one hand. When an album isn’t pressed on time, the dominos start falling in line. Bands won’t have product for tour or release shows. Distributors won’t have records in stock at warehouses in time for street date store releases. Collectors who pre-order start getting frustrated. And the list goes on.
But the hardest part?
“There are honestly no easy or real ways to keep delays from happening,” Hansen says. “You just have to try and give yourself enough time.”
But it’s one thing to track one label roster worth of releases. It’s another case entirely for Shop Radio Cast, who currently buys from more than 50 different wholesalers in addition to manufacturing its own titles. Jenna Miles, co-owner of Shop Radio Cast, says vinyl delays, unfortunately, plague their lives on a daily basis.
“To make things worse, I was told to expect vinyl delays to drastically increase this holiday season,” she says. “Typical turn around time is usually between 4-6 weeks. I am now being told to expect a minimum of 8-12 weeks, which scares me. I really am starting to wonder how that will play out with October, November and December releases.”
Miles’ problem is the same as several other labels. Pressing plants have been bombarded with too many projects to handle at once. It’s a dangerous equation: a limited number of pressing plants plus high demand equals greater risk of delay.
“The majority of records are pressed in the United States and there are not a lot of plants,” Miles says. “If you want to make a bracelet I am sure you can find thousands of plants overseas who will get you a bracelet manufactured for next to nothing in a short amount of time.”
But vinyl isn’t just in high demand with labels shipping to plants in droves. It’s the only format that’s selling well for SRC, Miles says. The store plans to gear itself more towards vinyl in the coming year, complete with new logo, branding and moniker: “SRCvinyl.”
Plants getting shellacked with vinyl orders hamper many independent labels that don’t have the coffers to swiftly rectify problems caused by delays. Seth Decoteau, co-owner of Topshelf Records, says, “Pretty much everything we touch gets put on vinyl.” Since demand on pressing plants is hitting its peak, Topshelf is starting to feel the squeeze only a smaller label would feel.
“Labels with bigger cash flow can rush shipping overnight to minimize delays,” he says. “We can just try to make sure things go as smoothly as possible at the pressing plant from the artist’s side — we make sure parts are ready and sound quality is right for pressing.”
Matt Medina, owner of Animal Style Records, knows that, in his own words, “pressing records is sometimes a crapshoot.” Laughing about possibly jinxing himself into a second delay, he says he’s gotten stuck with one major delay: a pressing plant ran out of blue and white vinyl when putting the new Hold Tight! record on vinyl this summer. But, he says, he’s had too many close calls to count.
“There’s nothing quite like getting to the plant two minutes before they close to pick up records for a record release show that night,” Medina said.
What delays ultimately come down to is a struggle of control. And, as explored in next week’s follow-up, labels have devised new means of staying ahead of the game and battling back against delays.
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