Should Independent Labels be pressing Vinyl? « slingslang


I came a cross an interesting statistic yesterday. Nielson Soundscan figures show that vinyl sales went up by 33% in 2009 compared to the year before. And Digital track sales have been catching up on CD sales – leaving Vinyl with its own niche. Even more interesting than increase in Vinyl is the fact, that Radiohead was able to sell more than 45.000 Vinyl records in the US alone, and that’s more than impressive. Also have a look at the Animal Collective or Pearl Jam sales.


At the same time, i’ve been reading about digital sales and what that they mean for small independent labels. iTunes has been increasing its market share, without signs of slowing down, Lady Gaga being the topseller with almost 15 million single track downloads in the US. I believe that this digital sales business is strictly major label territory, the small labels haven’t been able to come up with a real strategy yet, rather giving away mp3s for free via myspace, facebook and bloggers. Why do they do that? How do labels make their money?

Well, even in the music business heydays, let’s say the mid 90s, Vinyl sales couldn’t turn you into a millionaire, the bigger independent labels always  focused on having inhouse publishing, doing active licensing and making their money with the side business. But Vinyl and CD sales were a part of the business model. Not so much today.

So back to my first question, if labels should be releasing vinyl again. It depends what the label is trying to achieve. If the label only serves as an outlet to simply release music under a sort of umbrella, well then you could even argue about the definition of a label per se. If a label is trying to establish itself with a long term vision and be more than a middleman in the digital distribution change  then labels should definitely consider pressing vinyl.

Why, it’s all about Serato now? Yes, of course Serato is the tool of trade now a days, of course Traktor enables you to download tracks directly from Beatport into your Dj Set. True, these are facts, but the question is – are djs buying those digital tracks, are they getting them for free or are they downloading them illegally.
You could easily argue that the quality of music has been on the downside lately. Maybe it’s also due to the fact that many labels have stoppped releasing their music on Vinyl. Maybe even stopped pressing CDs and only focus on the digital MP3 or Wave Format. Of course pressing a minimum of records, f.e. 300 vinyl copies, will cost you approx. 1000 euros, which you would have to invest, but then if you don’t invest that type of money, what do you have at the end of the day? You don’t have much really. A couple of legal MP3 downlaods, a short promo effect if the music hits a nerve and that’s about it. The problem with Digital Only releases is the short timespan to promote the release. And mostly MP3s get lost in a huge iTunes or Serato Playlist, where the hot tunes circulate weekly and some classics, mainly pre Digital Era have a mainstay.
Pressing Vinyl could also mean quality control, because you will not be pressing a track, just because its a track, which is often the case with MP3 releases. You will think twice, before investing 1000 euros in a release you don’t believe in. With the Digital, it’s often just about releasing as much as possible and hoping to crack the jackpot. With Vinyl nowadays you can easily sell 200 to 300 records, as the market isn’t that crowded anymore. And even distribution is easier nowadays, as you will only focus on the big online stores and maybe some mailorders plus a couple of shops. Digital vs. Vinyl, here’s my theory:

“I think it’s easier to sell 300 vinyl records than to sell 300 single track downloads”

If i would be running a label, i would definetely start pressing Vinyl. I wouldn’t want to be another label trying to enter the digital Marketplace, without really knowing how to sell those tracks. Or can you name 3 labels that have been successful by only releasing digital tracks. I can’t. You might name Radiohead for being succesfull with the last download campaign, but then also have a look at the Radiohead vinyl sales. What do you think?

Posted via web from The LP Revival Blog

~ by lprevival on February 22, 2010.

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