The life of an independent artist is a complex mix of jubilation and terror. On one hand, you’re excited to share your life with the world through your musical creativity. On the other hand, the thrill of tomorrow is met with the stark realities of today.
You’ve got bills.
It can be difficult to make ends meet.
The good news is, as an indie artist, you know where a lot of your sales come from: merchandise. While it continues to be hard for artists to gain exposure and earn money, an indie artist still has the ability to sell out concerts and move T-shirts, buttons, and albums to hungry fans.
What you may not know, however, is that while everyone continues to listen to music on Spotify, iTunes, and Tidal, vinyl records have been making a comeback for ten years.
And it could be the perfect medium to boost your bottom line, too.
You might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would even considering getting their music pressed onto a medium that dates back to the late 20th century. The fact is, however, that what once was old is new again.
In short, vinyl is enjoying an unprecedented resurgence within the music industry.
According to Nielsen, by the end of 2015, the sale of vinyl records hit a new all-time record with 12 million units sold. In fact, this marked the 10th consecutive year of vinyl growth.
But there’s more to it than just the potential for money. Vinyl has found a new audience—especially with the millennial generation—because of its unique history. Once the most popular format for decades, vinyl eventually took a backseat to technological advances that included 8-track, cassette tapes, CD’s, Napster, iPods, and streaming music.
Suddenly, records went underground, being used mostly by DJs in dance clubs and sold in seemingly antiquated independent record stores.
But now, with music becoming digitally compressed, less tangible and hyper convenient, new generations of music lovers are discovering the thrill of tactile collectability. Kids are enjoying the feeling of being connected to their favorite indie band via 12” x 12” cover art, colored vinyl, and the interactivity of dropping a needle onto a spinning disc that emits pops, crackles, and warm sound.
If you’re an independent artist, vinyl is your medium. Whether you want to create a beautiful gatefold for your fans, include a life-size poster of your band within the jacket, or add a holographic image directly onto your record, vinyl is one of the few remaining mediums that allows an artist to connect directly to his or her audience in a physical, engaging, intimate, and highly creative manner.
Plan Out Your Vinyl Pressing
Here’s where things get tricky. While vinyl is enjoying a huge record boom, the industry itself is not significantly expanding the amount of pressing plants within the United States (one or two exceptions notwithstanding).
Due to this, independent artists and labels are competing for space and time alongside major artists and record labels. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get your vinyl pressed, but with mainstream demand for vinyl at a record (pardon the pun) high, you have to be a little more strategic.
In order to press your music on vinyl, first come up with a plan. To do so, you have to understand the medium itself. Do you want your music to be pressed on 12” standard weight vinyl? What about the heavier and sturdier 180-gram record, which some audiophiles believe produces a higher musical fidelity? Or, do you only need a 7” record pressed?
Next, understand how music works when it’s pressed onto vinyl. Records are not akin to CDs, where you can place an entire 50 minute album on one hand-sized circular disc.
With vinyl, there are limitations.
A 12” record, for example, contains approximately 22 minutes worth of music on each side. These are often reserved for full-length albums. A 7” record, by contrast, contains approximately four and a half minutes of music on each side. These are often designated for singles—with one song per side.
Records spin at different speeds, as well. A 12” record usually spins at 33-1/3 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), but can also spin at a faster 45 RPM in an attempt to achieve higher musical fidelity. A 7” record, by contrast, usually spins at just 45 RPM.
You’ll also want to consider the possibility of having your music pressed on colored vinyl. Not only can vinyl come in different colors, it can even have swirls of different colors within it. Do note, however, that coloring or mixing your vinyl can potentially adversely affect the sound of your music.
This is something you’ll want to discuss in-depth with the pressing plant you’re working with.
Finding a Pressing Plant
Currently, there’s roughly a couple dozen pressing plants available within the United States, so it’s important to note that once you have an idea of how you want your vinyl pressed, you then should shop around for the best price and turnaround time.
Turnaround time, in particular, is very important. With so many different artists and labels pressing vinyl, you’re going to need to make sure that you adequately time the manufacturing and eventual in-hand receipt of your pressed record properly.
If, for example, you know you want to sell your records at a specific concert or event date, you need to give the pressing plant adequate lead-time to press your record. On top of that, you’re going to want to investigate whether the plant you’re selecting is a one-stop shop for everything (pressing, labeling, jacket printing, etc), or if you’re going to need to contact additional businesses to complete all of your required services.
Gotta Groove Records Pressing Plant, for example, is a Cleveland, Ohio operation that does everything—from lacquer mastering and record electroforming to record pressing and label printing.
Although getting records pressed is an investment, it’s also worth noting that a lot of music fans are willing to pay more for vinyl than they would music on any other medium. While CDs can be found for $9.99 and under, and streaming services range from costing ten dollars to being completely free (albeit supported by ads), many fans are already accustomed to paying anywhere from $15 to $30 for a quality, limited edition vinyl record of their favorite artist or band.
The life of an indie artist is tough. And while streaming music seems to be the most convenient way to consume popular music, fans want to support the independent artists that they love.
So consider getting your music pressed onto vinyl. It may be one of the better choices you make—both in terms of fan engagement and income.
Michael L. Moore is a vinyl enthusiast whose record collection has
eclipsed the century mark. He owns and operates the website Devoted to
Vinyl, which aims to educate readers on how to get started in the hobby of
collecting and playing vinyl records through equipment reviews, opinion
pieces on turntables and music, and news pertaining to the industry at