Open Letter to Bands About Vinyl

posted in: Music News | 6

Look, I get it. You are probably being bombarded with requests to release your music on vinyl. Or it may only be 20 people, but they are really insistent. It seems like all of the bands are successfully re-issuing every thing on vinyl.

But maybe you shouldn’t consider it if you have to jack up prices to insane levels just to break even?

I know that U2’s manager said that you can charge a nice premium for vinyl issues. He was full of it. He was talking about the Achtung Baby deluxe vinyl boxset that originally went on sale for $130-140. It was a limited edition… that is still available today. Years later. I saw it on sale for $60 last week. All of the U2 vinyl re-issues sold horribly. I picked up one for $5. Brand new and sealed.

The idea that you can charge vinyl collector’s extra? Bogus. And questionably moral if you ask me.

Vinyl became popular because it was a way to get music out to the people. It was an “everyman, blue collar” kind of deal. It wasn’t expensive once it went mainstream. It wasn’t cheap. It was just right.

The idea the “if you are going to do it, do it right”? Please. Stop that. You can still do it right for $15-20 final cost to the consumer. Anything higher is just wasteful snobbery. I have talked to very small bands that have put out very high quality small run vinyl releases. I then investigated their vinyl manufacturing sources. So I know it is possible.

And the packages that surround these vinyls? Not everyone is into stickers and posters and t-shirts and prayer shammy towels. If you can’t just offer a straight music package in addition to the one with bells and whistles, then please just don’t do it. Especially if there is bonus content on the vinyl that you can only get in that package. Do you know how many buttons and stickers I have thrown in the trash over the years just because I had to buy the package?

You are basically holding the music hostage. If you can’t work out the shipping logistics without the packages, then just don’t do it. Really. I’m tired of having to decide between wasting big money buying tons of junk that I don’t need (I still want to know what the hell a STEM disc is, anyway) or picking an inferior listening experience. I know its a first world problem, so I will live if I decide to not waste my money. But why do you do that to your fans?

It all just feels a little…. shady.

6 Responses

  1. I agree about the extra swag. I want vinyl because my turntable set up is worth three times my digital system and on my system it sounds better. A well pressed record with great packaging (Like the FIF kickstarter) is worth extra bucks ($25 -$35 is totally reasonable in my mind). A poorly pressed one (heres looking at you united records most of the time) with lots of swag is useless.

    Oh and if you sell a vinyl version please include a download card for a CD quality (FLAC or Apple Lossless) version of the album

    Also I hope that bands are listening to the test pressings on good equipment before approving them. Sometimes it seems like nobody even listened to it (spaces between songs that aren’t on the CD, pressing errors etc…)

    STEMS are fun though if you have garageband and want to sample a cool sound.


  2. I’m also not a big fan of people that only make vinyl available through Kickstarter and then jack up the prices to $40-50. Makes me feel like I have “Bank” stamped on my forehead. I get that KS is a fund raiser and that you have to expect to pay more so the band can have money left over. But at least make sure the main products are available after the whole thins is over. For whatever reason, lots of people miss KS campaigns and come back a year later mad that they can’t get what they wanted. Then there are the people that don’t agree with the Kickstarter model – why force them to choose between “no vinyl” or “support this model I disagree with.” Some how they always manage to have plenty of extra CDs at the end :)

  3. A STEM generally refers to a set of all the individual tracks that make up the finished song. If a band releases a STEM, you might get a collection of 8-64 individual tracks (guitar, bass, vocals, drums, etc.) that you can import into the audio program of your choice and remix, etc. Definitely a niche market of people would be interested in that. I might enjoy it for one of my favorite 100 albums of all time, but I wouldn’t want one just because I want an album on vinyl.

    Out of curiosity Matt, what are some of the resources for vinyl pressing you’ve found that are affordable on a small-scale? Our band researched vinyl pressing and we were looking at $15/copy for 300 copies. Granted it was a double-vinyl, but we were willing to go barebones on the packaging (our artwork is B&W anyway). We ended up doing CD and digital only, but would love to go vinyl if possible next time around.

  4. If you found a place that will do $15 for double, that’s pretty good! We usually found around $7-10 for a single for about a 400 or so run. I think the problem comes when bands feels that they can start adding all the bells and whistles (colored vinyl, 180g, deluxe packaging) because vinyl fans like to pay for premium. Which isn’t true. And then a lot of these bands start complaining that vinyl doesn’t sell.

    The problem we are seeing is when bands want to cover all of the cost of the vinyl upfront, so they raise the prices based on what it would cost to cover the entire 500 run with the first 100 or so pre-orders they will get. You have to look at vinyl as something that you sink money into now knowing that you won’t see it made back until down the road a bit. Its kind of a hard deal, but you could potentially see the number of pre-orders drop by half if the cost is too high, and then eventually you have to slash prices to just get rid of the vinyl… meaning even less money in the long run. A decent priced vinyl will sell slowly but consistently until the market for that particular title dries up or they are all sold.

    The problem now is that the affordable plants are getting booked up waaaay in advance, and the others are jacking up prices knowing that there aren’t many options. So, its getting worse on that angle. I’m not sure we’re going to be seeing many $15 end price vinyls much more because of that.

  5. I was elated when CDs showed up. They sounded great, and didn’t wear out, like vinyl. Still feel that way. Vinyl is a step backwards.