Category Archives: Musicbiz Resources

Essential Music Industry Websites RSS Feed Collection

People often ask me how I keep in touch with all the music industry news and updates that I post on my hyperactive Buzzsonic Twitter account, the simple answer is using RSS feeds and my Feedly RSS reader (desktop, Android app and iOS).

Weld that together with Pocket (and their various Chrome extensions  and mobile apps) and you have the perfect content curation set up. Not forgetting IFTTT !

The Buzzsonic Music Industry RSS Feed List

I subscribe to way too many feeds TBH, but in answer to a few queries here is my collection of Music Industry websites that I subscribe too. Right click and save as  and you’ll get an OPML file, which to none geeks like me is basically a text format of saving a collection of RSS feeds for import into an RSS feed reader, like Feedly or InoReader.

Download the Buzzsonic Music Industry RSS Feeds (Right click and save as)

To use this stuff grab the Feedly Chrome extension (my weapon of choice). You can sync/sign-in using your Gmail credentials.

Import OPML

When installed go to the Organize link (in the lower left hand column) click and you’ll see an import OPML right at the top there. Import the Buzzsonic OPML and you’ll see the feeds populate the column on the left. Done.

OPML Link

I’ll be posting my other OPML’s in a fuller post in a few days. Let me know how you get on in the  commenting below or via Twitter. Also, do feel free to recommend any feeds or resources you feel I’ve left out, even if they’re your own. Good luck.

 

Musicians, Start Making a YouTube Content Strategy

By Lucy Blair & Caroline Bottomley at Radar Music Videos.

Devising A Content Strategy For YouTube

It’s an inescapable fact that YouTube is now the world’s largest music streaming site, and also its second biggest search engine.

As YouTube continues to mature as a content platform and revenue stream, it’s more important than ever for record labels and artists to have a solid content strategy in place for their YouTube content.

YouTube Content Strategy

“YouTube logo” by Rego Korosi via Creative Commons

But with over 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, how do you optimise content creation and make sure your content stands out? We speak to key music industry figures at record labels and MCNs to put together a two-part best practice guide to devising a content strategy for anyone in the music industry working with YouTube.

Part One

  • What’s Possible on YouTube?
  • Developing A Strategy
  • Content Checklist

Part Two

  • Content Scheduling
  • Content and Channel Optimisation
  • Collaborations
  • Measures of Success

PART ONE

What’s Possible on YouTube? Your first step is to identify your target audience and what you want to achieve on the platform. Building subscribers is the foundation for success, whatever you decide success will be. Jeremy Rosen, The Orchard’s Director of Audience Development, outlines the possibilities:

“Ultimately, building a successful channel gives the artist or label a large marketing platform. It can be a creative outlet, a good way to connect with fans visually, a place to test out material, and even a primary revenue source. As tools like Google+ integration mature, I estimate it will also become an important direct-to-consumer hub for artists.”

That direct connection to fans and the increasing importance of streaming music represent the main opportunities for Laura Bruneau, Anjunabeats’ Label Executive:

“YouTube is one of the main platforms where consumers stream music, especially younger audiences. Having a great content strategy means more people will find your music, play your music, and hopefully buy your music. And while they’re streaming they’re earning you revenue too. With the boom of streaming in 2014 with Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio and of course YouTube Music, this is a key platform you can’t afford to ignore.”

So, marketing possibilities on YouTube relate to:

  • Discovery
  • Revenue
  • Cross-promotion
  • Up-selling / creating a D2C sales hub
  • Artist creativity
  • Fan relationships
  • Developing A Strategy

To develop a content strategy, work on tying in your on-YouTube goals to your off-YouTube goals.

Artists and labels will naturally need to focus on creating different kinds of content, according to Jon Baltz, INDMusic’s co-founder and Vice President:

“An artist that is about to go on tour should release videos that further their tour, reminding the audience where they will be and when they will be there. A label on the other hand is juggling release schedules for several artists and tours. The label should be producing art tracks (videos with still image and audio), lyric videos, and official music videos, with a focus on upcoming releases.”

Should established and new artists create different kinds of content on YouTube? Yes, according to Laura Bruneau:

“The most important distinction between an established artist and a new artist is the size of their current audience. If you have an established artist with a big audience, you can focus on creating more ambitious and interactive YouTube experiences. For example, live-streaming or Google+ Hangouts On Air are examples of content that I would recommend more for established artists than a new artist, as you know you have sufficient numbers for your audience to be engaged in a live event. For a new artist, you need to build their personality on the channel alongside their brand. A good way to do this is to create a fan-led, pre-recorded interview series like our ‘Tea With Anjuna’ series, where fans are encouraged to send in questions for the artist via social media in the run-up to filming, and then the questions are posed to the artist on camera. That way, you’re ensuring that the questions asked are what people really want to know about and it makes your audience feel involved. Interviews are also a great way for artists to put across their personalities in a relaxed and enjoyable environment and plug (in a non-salesy way) what they’ve got coming up.”

Content Checklist

What kind of content do you want to create? The possibilities are endless. Content types span:

  • Documentary: self-shooting, artist POV mobile footage, interviews / pieces to camera
  • Live: gigs / rehearsal footage
  • Promo: lyric videos and full blown promos

Here’s a checklist of content that artists and labels should and could be creating and curating on a regular basis: 

  • Official music videos / release videos
  • Audio uploads of music with a static visual (aka ‘art videos’)
  • Live performances
  • Lyric videos
  • Behind the scenes (which could be anything from a ‘day in the life of’ to a tour video diary or the making of your latest music video)
  • Covers
  • Breaking news announcements (e.g. a new album/single/tour, or a big milestone)
  • Tutorials
  • Interviews including fan led
  • Video press kits promoting your latest album/single/tour
  • Playlists
  • Fan-generated videos
  • Competitions
  • Google+ Hangouts on Air
  • Live-streaming (archive-able streaming may be necessary across different timezones)
  • Episodic events

Cost and complexity range from free and easy to expensive and professional. As Jon Baltz says, “Not every video has to be an official music video with a big budget; syncing your music to what you film with your smartphone out of a train window can be just as effective.”

It’s also worth bearing in mind that building engagement doesn’t always mean having to create new content; curating playlists is a great way to mark yourself out as a tastemaker, and will keep your homepage looking fresh and interesting with regular content. Updating your subscriber feed is also key, as Jeremy Rosen advises:

“It’s possible for your subscribers to see when your channel likes, favourites, adds to playlists, or comments. Scheduling this activity to, say, promote a video from a band you’re touring with or a crazy viral video can help keep you at the top of your audience’s mind.”

YouTube Generation

“YouTube Generation” by jonsson       Creative Commons

PART TWO

  • Content Scheduling
  • Content and Channel Optimisation
  • Collaborations
  • Measures of Success

Content Scheduling

The days of aiming to create a one-hit ‘viral’ on YouTube as a marketing strategy are long gone. These days it’s more helpful to think of YouTube as your own TV channel.  Think of content as programming – and not programming for an album cycle, but a 12-month content cycle.

It’s essential to create a programming schedule and produce regular content to drive subscribers, repeat views and watch time, and to give subscribers a reason to return to your channel. As Zac Vibert, Hospital Records’ Head of Digital, puts it:

“If you look at the traditional TV model, scheduling is a big part of it – and YouTube is no different. Have content that viewers can come to expect and look forward to. It is important to have regular content uploads, but also make sure you prioritise quality over quantity!”

Jeremy Rosen advises: “At a minimum, there should be one piece of video content posted to your channel each month. Try to keep it a consistent day of the month, like every third Thursday, and publicise that fact. For a label these would typically be music videos or lyric videos. An individual artist would probably have a short monthly update or Hangout on Air scheduled. You could also consider publishing music on a regular basis or come up with an episodic concept you’ll be able to pull off consistently (like “My Top 5 Listens This Month).”

Laura Bruneau makes an important point about programming unreleased content: “YouTube is a great way to preview unreleased material to your audience – plus your content is monetised and preview content makes it much easier to automatically remove unauthorised 3rd party use of your content. However, it is important to mix up this regular standard content with things like interviews, behind the scenes content and music videos so that your audience does not get bored. I would suggest at least 1 piece of non-release video content per month, or more if you have the time/budget.”

Different types of artist need to cater to their respective audiences when it comes to content programming, according to Jon Baltz: “More established artists have the luxury of being able to widely space out their content because every time they release something people will jump on it. New artists are in the exact opposite situation; they need to be putting out new content constantly, at least once a week.  The goal of releasing videos for a new artist should be growing an audience organically. Producing a viral hit is great, but a viral hit is most valuable when it generates views on older content – that makes fans.”

At Midem, INDMusic also recommended scheduling 6-8 pieces of content to support an ‘activity’ – be it announcing a tour, releasing a single, planning a hangout etc.

Content and channel optimisation

It’s not just about what kind of content you create or how often you upload it; if you don’t optimise your content properly, it won’t get the views or subscribers that you’re aiming for. Remember that YouTube is one giant search engine and, as Zac Vibert advises, “Never underestimate the importance of good data!”

Keywords are the most important factor in making your content easily searchable, so always ensure that your video titles, descriptions, links, annotations, tags and thumbnails are optimised. In addition, use tools like playlisting and in-video programming in order to link your viewers to related content and keep them viewing videos within your channel.

Laura Bruneau points out that monetisation is another key factor: “Other people will be exploiting your catalogue so it’s essential that you are too! Make sure that you have claims set up on your audio so that you are monetising 3rd party content. You might not realise how valuable this is, but the bulk of our YouTube income at Anjuna comes from other people using our songs, rather than our own uploads.”

Collaborations 

Collaborate with your fans: YouTube is one of the most powerful social networks in the world, so focus on building up and engaging your community on YouTube. Tailor your content around the likes/dislikes/needs of your viewers, engage with them and evolve your content strategy accordingly. Consider creating video content to answer the questions/comments of your fans instead of another blog post, tweet or Facebook post.

Zac Vibert advises: “Make YouTube the central hub for your music/artists, and create a community feel to your channel. If you want to build a good following, try to prioritise your channel and make sure you upload your music to YouTube first.”

Collaborate with your peers: artists and labels should also look into creating collaborations with fellow musicians and music networks in order to reach new audiences and cross-promote content across a wider channel network.  As Jeremy Rosen suggests, “Consider approaching YouTube creators to help you. There may be a vlogger or episodic series on YouTube which fits your fans, your style, or are simply fans themselves. Some of the best videos on YouTube have been collaborations between channels and the value in cross-promotion is a no-brainer. Consider it product placement, with you as the product.”

Measures of success

How will you know if your content strategy is delivering the right results? If you don’t measure it, it’s not marketing. YouTube Analytics gives you a detailed insight into what content is and isn’t helping you achieve your YouTube objectives. Check Analytics regularly and keep an eye on not just numbers of views, but also subscribers, watch time, engagement and so on. You can then adjust your content strategy accordingly.

And as a final note, the YouTube Music Playbook PDF is one of the best guides to the platform that there is, so use it to your advantage.

Time to get creative…your fans are waiting!

Radar is an award-winning network of over 10,000 music video directors worldwide. Radar enables labels, artists and managers to commission great music videos for affordable budgets, between $800 and $8,000.

Radar helps music video directors progress their professional careers. It is a free service for labels, artists and managers. We charge a small subscription fee to directors to access and pitch on briefs.
Radar Music Video

 

Related Reading

YouTube Statistics (YouTube.com)
YouTube Multi-Channel Networks 101 (YouTube.com)
YouTube Creators Hub
PDF-YouTube Playbook Guide:Music (11MB download)
YouTube, BPI and INDMusic talk Online Music Video Strategies (#Midem) (Musically.com)

Music Video Strategies for Promotion and Monetisation

Music Video Strategies for Promotion

“YouTube logo” by Andrew Perry

Caroline from Radar recently chaired a panel at legendary music industry conference, Midem. Top industry professionals discussed strategies for promoting and making money from your videos and here are some of the top tips they shared:

The importance of YouTube
Having your video on YouTube is essential for musicians:

  • availability (YouTube is the primary search tool for music).
  • shareability (it’s easy to share and embed from YouTube).
  • monetisable streams (YouTube LOVE music videos and encourage partnerships with labels and artists).
  • statistics (radio decisions re playlisting are commonly based on YouTube stats).

How to become a YouTube partner

  • YouTube are making it increasingly easy to become a partner, which means you can earn money from your video views. YouTube Partner Programme
  • Partnership also improves search rankings for videos in your channel.
  • There’s a myth you need to have over 100,000 views to become eligible – not true. YouTube want more quality music content in the partnership scheme, so get registered.

A YouTube Don’t

  • Don’t split views. Upload the video to the artist channel and favourite in the label channel. Favouriting means the video will show up on the label channel, but the views all aggregate on the artist’ copy.

Pros and Cons of Monetised Ads

  • You earn money, versus monetised videos can be less viral – artists and sometimes fans hate ads. Sharing is often the most important metric for a video, above and beyond monetisation.
  • Two kinds of ad: 30 sec pre-roll, very intrusive but high earning and 5 sec skippable banners.
  • Infectious Music don’t run ads for the first two weeks of a new artist’s campaign – they consider ads can be THAT off-putting to fans of new acts.
  • Monetised videos become unavailable to German and Chinese fans, due to lack of licensing agreements in those territories.

The Pros of VEVO

  • The biggest global network dedicated to music visuals.
  • Improved recommendation to viewers – who stay longer and watch more.
  • Higher earnings for partners.
  • They will do special promotion projects with the right partners.
  • They like independent artists, there are many ways for independent artists to get onto VEVO, eg via The Orchard.

The Cons of VEVO

  • You have to upload a new master file, so you’re splitting views across Youtube and VEVO.
  • The ads are the more intrusive type ads.
  • You can’t opt out of ad type, eg you can’t opt out of alcohol ads.
  • VEVO works better for some kinds of artists than others.

Packshot and Lyric Videos

  • It’s useful to have all your tracks on Youtube – if you don’t then someone else will.
  • Packshot videos are quickest and cheapest way to do this. If quality content is important, lyric videos are a good solution.
  • Always service a video when you’re going to radio.

UGC User Generated Content

  • Various responses exist for YouTube partners; Don’t allow, which serves up a stern looking message. Allow but monetise, which takes away some creative control.

Video for Promotion and Discovery

  • Channels such as Balcony TV can deliver an audience, but don’t yet deliver monetisation. Very useful for new artists, where growing a fan base is more relevant than monetising views.

Buying Ads for Promotion and Discovery

  • Link your Google adwords account to your YouTube channel and buy re-targeting ads. This allows you to serve relevant ads to people who have already visited your channel. It can be a highly effective way to build views and channel subscribers.
  • Subscribers are extremely valuable – every time you serve a new video you can send a bespoke message to subscribers’ inboxes. 

The Top Industry Professionals are:
Eric McKay, Business Development VEVO
Connie Meade, Label Manager, Infectious Music
Stephen O’Regan, Founder, Balcony TV
Patrick Ross, Label Services, Kobalt.
Caroline Bottomley is Managing Director of Radar.

The Full Midem Panel Video

Radar is an award-winning, global network connecting independent artists and labels to professional music video directors. Post your brief here: Radar Music Videos.

Many thanks to Caroline Bottomley

Originally posted on Bzzzsocial.com

Timeline For Promoting A UK Single Release, A Radar Rough Guide

Buzzsonic_Vinyl_distributio

By Caroline Bottomley, Radar Music Videos.

A lot of promo people we talk to say artists and managers often don’t know what professionals do to promote single releases.

So we asked for help from some real professionals (see credits below).
Then we made up an indie band with an established following and a few previous releases. We made up £5,000 to spend.
Then we wrote this rough guide – enjoy and feel free to add your own tips. 

14 WEEKS OUT FROM RELEASE

* Commission single artwork, even if it’s for download only. Designer £300
* Commission artist photos. Photographer £500

TIP: “Commission nice/weird/cool COLOUR band photos, the brighter the better” David Laurie SiC Records
Start social media engagement. Digital Promotions £500 – £1,000

NOTE: Social media work continues from here up to and after release date.

12 WEEKS OUT FROM RELEASE

* Engage PR £500 – £1,500
* Release advance copies/links to share to monthly press, for review, eg Q, Mojo, Clash, Uncut.

Start with sending out a simple press release announcing the single and put the single into context, eg from an album or a stand-alone track? Will there be associated shows? PR TIP: There are very few print outlets for singles, a couple of dozen really. It’s ALL about online for singles. David Laurie, SiC Records.

NOTE: Press work continues from this point up to and after release date

TIP: “The press release needs to be straightforward and attention-grabbing “artist releases great new song/album” just isn’t enough. What’s your story? What’s special about you/the song/album and why?” Gillian, Million PR and Naked Press.

* Engage Agent 10% of gross
* Engage Radio & Video Plugger £500-£1,500

NOTE: “I would separate Radio & TV costs. Radio Promotions £1000-2000 and TV Plugger £500-1000 per release. They might be able to get it for less, but this is much more realistic of the going rates.” Prudence, Rocket PR

* Commission the official music video, the aim is to create a stand-out, remarkable video. Producer/director (Radar) £2,000

TIP: “The video must be one that compels you to hit SHARE at the end, that is the idea. Not the new Bammers video but the video where the guy turns into a monkey and eats the aeroplane” David Laurie, SiC Records
TIP: “Commission the video now so it can be ready to service at least 6 weeks before release” Prudence, Rocket PR
TIP: “All video people take longer than they say to deliver, so I give at least 2 weeks ahead of my deadline as the actual deadline” David Laurie, SiC Records.

* Create a lyric or packshot video, the point is have this video on the band’s YouTube channel when radio play begins ahead of release date, capturing early views and interest. Producer/director (Radar) or Digital Promotions £0 – £200

8 WEEKS OUT FROM RELEASE

* Track/remix completed.
* Book banner/Facebook/Google advertising. Digital Promotions £500
* Advance copies/links to share released to weekly and daily press, for review. PR
* Release show/s booked. Agent
* Radio promotion begins. Single and album promos are presented to radio producers and presenters with a press release and list of forthcoming live dates. Plugger

TIP: “Almost none of them (radio producers and presenters) listen to albums or anything after the first track on a single promo unless there is some headspinning remix” David Laurie, SiC Records
* Build up support through plays on individual radio shows, working towards playlist consideration. Plugger
* Social media begins to focus on the release campaign. Digital Promotions
* Digital store promotions set up. Digital Promotions

4 – 6 WEEKS OUT FROM RELEASE

* Service video to TV for playlist rotation consideration. Plugger
* Radio playlist consideration. Plugger
* Digital store promotions set up once you have provable ammo from press. Digital Promotions
* Soundcloud stream premiere on a top site followed a day or two later with a blast out to other sites for more embedding, start adding up those NUMBERS to convince radio you are POPULAR. PR

2 WEEKS OUT FROM RELEASE

Securing Music Press

* Secure a video exclusive with a popular music site and general coverage in music media. PR
TIP: “Securing exclusives is PAINFUL and you have to (more or less) only ask one at a time – Pitchfork; Fader; Guardian; Stereogum in that order.

Each one takes at least 24 hrs to get back even if you have a shit hot PR, so running through those top four will take a week and likely they will all pass” David Laurie, SiC Records

* Fan special offers; exclusive tracks, early order discounting etc. Digital Promotions

RELEASE WEEK

* Digital store promotion. Digital Promotions
* Music media coverage. PR
* Paid advertising live. Digital Promotions
* TV rotation. Plugger
* Radio sessions and interviews. Plugger
* Release show. Agent

POST LAUNCH

Post-Launch Promo

* Follow up press campaign to generate further press coverage. PR
* Album and tour news to be associated throughout if appropriate.

NOTE: “It might be an idea to mention that there will be VAT on top of all costs as this seems to come as a surprise to many unsigned acts as they are most likely not VAT registered themselves.” Prudence, Rocket PR

Companies providing these promotion services can be found in Radar’s resources.

This rough guide has been complied with the help of David Laurie at  Something in Construction Records (SiC); Gillian at Million PR & Naked Press**; David Riley at Good Lizard Media**; Prudence at Rocket PR and Caroline Bottomley of Radar Music Videos.

** Willing to advise new artists and labels about promotion strategies.

PS: An important note about paying for services. It’s possible to do just about all these things for free. You do it yourself, get friends to do it, pull in favours. The reason these services are worth paying for is good professionals will do a much quicker and more effective job.

More to the point, people will actually listen to stuff from reputable PRs; press and pluggers are personally connected to press and playlisters; promotions people know which advertising is cost-effective; experienced directors make attractive music videos that get featured on blogs. All that should result in more sales of your single and more tickets sold to your gigs.

Special Thanks to Caroline at Radar Music Video.

This post originally appeared on Bzzzsocial.com

The How, Why & Where To Press Up A Vinyl Record

This is a much needed update of a post that first appeared in Buzzsonic way back in March of 2008!

I’ve updated the links and information  to bring things bang up to date. I thought it was worth reviving, simply because there is a massive renaissance in interest (and sales) in vinyl records, a format virtually killed off by major record labels in their crude attempts to get us to buy everything again on CD.

“Vinyl sales are at their highest level for 15 years, according to figures from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Official Charts Company.
Just over 780,000 vinyl albums were sold in 2013 – the largest number since 817,000 were sold in 1997. The 2013 figure also constitutes a 101 per cent rise on 2012 sales.” (The Telegraph)

Now that we’re swamped by a billion and one MP3 downloads from a bazillion bands, there’s a absence of scarcity, fans with musical ADD and bands are having to get increasingly creative to even get five minutes of attention (let alone that Warholian 15!).

MP3 Marketing Tips, Press Vinyl Records

 

The Ease of Digital Distribution

OK then, its nothing short of amazing that today, theoretically you can easily have your music on sale, Worldwide in the biggest music retail store on the planet. Without a tour, without a manager and even without a record deal. You can be based in Brighton, UK  and someone in Alaska or Australia or Russia (or wherever) can download your music without leaving the house. You don’t have to leave the house to get it on sale either.

Also, if you signed up with a good distributor, you could be keeping around 80% of the retail price too (assuming you’re working as an independent). Compare that to the old school record label deal where you’d be lucky to get 15%.

99th floor elevators 12 inch

99th Floor Elevators

I must admit, when I first saw my music on sale on the iTunes store it was exciting, as it was another ‘career landmark’ for me, but as music career landmarks went it really was no comparison to the day I walked into the Virgin Megastore (RIP) on Oxford Street, London, the day of its release in 1996 when the original version of the 99th Floor Elevators ‘I’ll Be There‘, went on sale.

There it was, prominently displayed in a rack with all the other big 12 inch releases of the week and there it was in the big HMV just up the road too. More importantly to me, there it was in stock and in the top 10 buzz chart in Trax Records in Soho, ten minutes walk away from the hustle of the London’s West End. A few days later ‘I’ll Be There’ had gatecrashed the national UK pop and dance charts.

I used to spend a lot of money in dance music specialist Trax Records back in the days in the late 80s when I had to travel 160 miles by coach from my home in South Yorkshire to seek out those elusive Euro imports and Belgian New Beat gems that only Trax had.

Making A Difference

And that is the point of this article. In a world where you don’t even have to leave the house to get the latest 12 inch remix or latest indie release or even pay for music anymore, how do you as an artist make a difference when everybody is a digital record label and everybody can sit next to Elton John and the Beatles on the virtual record shelf?

“It’s been well documented in recent years that vinyl sales are on the rise, but who is buying the shiny black discs, and can the antiquated format really be sustained in a digital world?” ‘Why Wont Vinyl Die?’ (Sabotage Times)

The New Vinyl Phenomenon

If you’ve more than a just passing interest in the state of the music industry you may have noticed a recent surge of interest and press on the apparent vinyl revival.

“This year’s Record Store Day was the UK’s biggest yet, racking up 30% more album sales than during 2013’s event. 245 British shops participated in the sales bonanza on 19 April, which saw particularly good results for the Pixies, David Bowie and Tame Impala” (The Guardian)

Pie And Vinyl Documentary

So, there’s no vinyl pressing plants left anyway right? Very wrong. There’s a handful of pressing plants across the USA, UK and Europe, manufacturers in Australia, Japan and Russia and others dotted around the rest of the world.

“While sales only account for a small percentage of the overall market, vinyl sales are growing fast as a new generation discovers the magic of 12 inch artwork, liner notes and the unique sound of analogue records, often accompanied by a download code for mp3s.” (Daily Mail Oct 2013)  

Pressing up a release on vinyl is undoubtedly more expensive than CD but as a limited run single or album its more of an event and even a great PR exercise. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding outlets have also proved to an invaluable source of funding for hard up bands planning deluxe vinyl pressing runs.

“On a day-to-day basis, Music Review receives 10 – 30 digital download codes/links a day. That’s in the region of 300 – 900 albums a month. That’s too much music for our small team to meaningfully listen to. With the advent of technology, just about anyone can release an album nowadays, but when it comes to vinyl, the story is very different. Unlike the digital revolution, there are fairly large barriers of entry to get a vinyl pressed, which means that only the most serious and only the most in-demand would consider it as a pursuit.”(MusicReview.co.za)

Sculpting Sound:The Art of Vinyl Mastering

 The Vinyl Pressing Process:From Studio Master to Plastic Disc

Creating a record is a complex process, but essentially breaks down into six separate steps.

1. Mastering: A mastered CD is brought to a vinyl press. Two main changes must occur to begin the process of audio mastering, tonal balancing and level adjustment.

2. Cutting: Once the mastered version is finished, the track will be cut into lacquer. A digitally created track will be converted into an analogue wave for the cutting lathe. Transferred through an amplifier, the wave travels down the arm of a diamond-cutting stylus and onto a rotating lacquer disc.

3. Stampers: The lacquer or vinyl master is delivered to the pressing plant. The plant completes the following steps:

  •  The vinyl master is covered with a thin spray and dipped in a bath of electrolyte. A current is passed through the solution and the silver-sprayed lacquer becomes coated in nickel which creates a negative image of the vinyl.
  •  A second generation negative is created and the nickel plate is peeled from this lacquer to become the stamper. The stamper represents a negative image of one side of the vinyl.
  • Two stampers are needed to press up both an A and B sided record.

4. Test Pressings: With both stampers in place, a “puck” of vinyl is introduced into the press. Two labels are placed above and below the puck and the press is closed. In order to flow seamlessly into the grooves of the stamper, the vinyl is heated up to 200 C.

It is then rapidly cooled so that the vinyl can be immediately lifted out of the press. This whole process takes approximately 25 seconds. Normally, a short pressing of 10 copies is made first. These “test pressings” are sent to the record label for approval.

5. Labels: Many people are under the misconception that a “white label” is much cheaper than producing a professionally designed four-colour label. The real expense, however, comes from having the label incorporated into the vinyl. The colour of the label really makes no difference in this process.

6. Artwork: Image is key in almost every industry, making the music industry no exception. Great consideration should go into the label and its packaging, as well as the marketing accompanying its promotional push.

For a rough guide as to how much music you can fit on a vinyl record Nashville veterans United Record Pressings have a useful FAQ and quick reference.

  • 7″ – 4:30 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 6:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm
  • 10″ – 9:00 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 12:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm
  • 12″ – 12:00 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 18:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm

The Dying Art Of Pressing Vinyl Records

And there’s more record manufacturing tutorials here and here.

Some pressing plants, like United Records Pressings in Nashville are offering vinyl + digital package deals which includes a secure digital music hosting service, custom digital download coupons with unique one-time-use codes, packaged together. With the popularity of new USB turntables kids can plug their vinyl straight into their computer and rip to MP3 anyway.

Jack White’s Third Man Records Tour United Records Pressings Nashville

If you’re looking for a vinyl pressing quote do take into account that there is a huge amount of variables/possibles (quantity, vinyl size, coloured vinyl, artwork) and generally speaking, the more you have pressed the cheaper the amount per unit. Also, if you need a repress then you wont have the expense of having plates to make up. Disc cutting and processing (metalwork) is the biggest single outlay in the whole process.

Also be aware of the difference between an actual vinyl pressing plant and a vinyl broker.

If you know what you’re doing, then dealing directly with the pressing plant of your choice is the way to go. If you’re a complete newbie, then using a third party broker – who may well cost a bit more- but who takes care of every part of the process , including dealing with the pressing plant, makes a lot of sense.

As for vinyl distribution, well for these short runs a band/artist or DJ would be better served selling discs at gigs and via mail order using TopSpin and Bandcamp and using Paypal on their own website. There’s also other mail order options like CDBaby and Hifidelics and mail order behemoth Amazon.

Such is the fragile nature of the vinyl distribution business that many of the once thriving vinyl specialists have disappeared, leaving a narrow selection of niche companies and dance outlets.

If you have a release in Florida you don’t want to be trusting your stock with a distributor thousands of miles away in California. DIY for short runs. Vinyl record mailers you can get here or here in the USA. Here and here in the UK.

“The Nashville-based United Record Pressing will nearly double the volume of records it’s able to create, which it currently does 24 hours a day, six days a week to the tune of 30-40,000 pieces of vinyl per day. The company will bring 16 new presses online, some they had already and some purchased from shuttered competitors, by the end of the year.

The move is illustrates the success of vinyl in recent years — 76.2 million units in overall sales so far this year — which has exploded in the wake of Record Store Day, launched in 2007.” (Billboard May 2014)

If you want to see what your tracks would sound like on vinyl you can get a one off 7″ cut for around $50 from Custom Records (in the US), who’ll even go as far as pressing it in colour vinyl and giving it a picture sleeve for an extra $58. In Europe you can find these ‘lathe cuts’ at Dr Dub in Austria and Dub Studio in Bristol. There are a few more, including legendary lathe cutter Peter King in New Zealand.

Pressing Plants and Vinyl Brokers

With many, many thanks to all at ‘The Secret Society of Lathe Trolls’ which has proven to be an incredible resource for anything to do with vinyl pressings, manufacturing, mastering and anything remotely related!

USA Pressings:

Archer Record Pressing – Detroit, Michigan
Quality Record Pressings – Salina, Kansas
Erika Records – Downey, California
United Record Pressing – Nashville,Tennessee
Morphius – Baltimore, Maryland
Alpha Record Services – Plantation, Florida
RecordPressing.com – San Fransisco, California
Trutone – New Jersey, NJ
Record Tech Inc – Camarillo, California
Bill Smith Custom Records  – El Segundo, California
Musicol Recording – Columbus, Ohio
Furnace MFG – Fairfax, Virginia (Broker)

European Pressings

Phonopress (Italy)
Tail Records – Sweden
DiscWizards – London, UK (Broker)
Vic-Tone Records – Sweden
Key Production – London, UK (Broker)
Curved Pressings – London, UK
Sound Performance – London, UK (Broker)
Phoenix Of Vinyl – London, UK
The Vinyl Factory – London, UK
JTS Studio – London, UK  (Broker)
Vinyl Records – Russia
Magnetic Mastering – France
My45 – Germany
Optimal Media – Germany
Celebrate Records – Germany
Rand Muzik – Germany
Flight 13 Duplication – Germany
MPO – France
Record Industry – Netherlands
Foon Vinyl – Netherlands
GZ Vinyl – Czech Republic

ROTW

Rip-V – Montreal, Canada
Samo Media – Canada (Broker)
Zenith Records – Victoria, Australia
Toyo Kasei – Japan
Tuff Gong – Jamaica
Polysom – Brazil

Related Reading On Vinyl Pressings & the Vinyl Revival

Worldwide Vinyl Pressing Plants (Mono Equipped)
The Truth About Selling Vinyl; Independents React to Amazon’s 745% Rise in Record Sales (TheVinylFactory.com)
Music Industry Survival Guide:Everything You Need to Know About Vinyl (Tunecore) PDF
Vinyl Revival Continues as LP Sales Reach Highest Level In More Than A Decade (BPI)
The Baffling Revival of the Vinyl LP (TheWeek.com)
Vinyl Frontier: The Music-lovers Behind London’s Big Record Revival (London Evening Standard)
The Vinyl Revival:From The Frontline (Clash Music)
75 Percent of Topspin’s Sales Are Physical (DigitalMusicNews)
The Secret Society of Lathe Trolls (Lathe Trolls Forum)
The Rebirth of Cool: The Turntable Strikes Back (DigitalTrends.com)
Your New Favourite Record Company. How Kickstarter is Igniting the Vinyl Revival (Shiny Shiny)
How to Reissue a Record (Classic Records)

Music Industry, Social Media & Tech News Daily

20 Killer WordPress Resources For Bands, Artists & Developers

I’ve been using WordPress since 2005 and I swear by it these days, simply because its so versatile, infinitely customisable, robust, oh, and its free too.

My early experience with content management systems was with PHP-Nuke, then Mambo, Joomla and B2Evolution (B2/Cafelog, was the precursor to WordPress).

But there has been incredible development on WordPress in the following years and I really couldn’t see myself using anything else, such is the support, the plug-ins and the adaptability of the platform.

Its something you never stop learning too, learning about plug-ins, themes (free and paid), how to tweak themes, add text widgets….

There’s also a whole raft of plugins that are aimed at musicians and bands, everything from gig management, to Soundcloud shortcodes, to download monitors (and all points in between). I’ll be covering this subject much deeper with an up to date list of killer WordPress plugins for bands, artists and labels within the next few days here.

Anyway, I’ve collected a whole box load of very useful resources over the years and really that’s the thing, if you’re prepared to read a lot you can turn yourself into something of a WordPress ninja with a little patience.

Remember that old Chinese proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I’m not saying this is the definitive list of WordPress resources but its a great starter kit and will save you a lot of time should you be considering whether to go it alone with your own install, or whether you’d prefer to let someone else do the heavy lifting for you!

Getting Started Resources

Getting started with WordPress

Getting Started With WordPress from Tasty Placement is a great instructional that holds your hand with writing and editing webpages on your WordPress site and shows you the basics on how to manage WordPress, including logging in, posting new articles and pages, uploading images, creating and editing menus and widgets and some more advanced features.

Another good easy to navigate WordPress starters guide with easy to understand instructions is ‘A Simplified Users Guide to WordPress’, which, according to the authors is intended to be a simple guide to using WordPress for those new to managing a WP powered site. In particular those who’ve had their WP site set up for them by a web designer or developer.

And another worthwhile guide,if you had any lingering doubts, is from WPBeginner, called ‘Why You Should Use WordPress?’.

WordPress Mentor has a very handy WordPress setup checklist which runs through five difference stages and checklists to tick off. Install: The basic WordPress installation. Secure: Hardening the WordPress installation. Configure: Adjust WordPress settings. Connect: Connect WordPress to online services.Optimise: Adjust WordPress performance. There’s the HTML version or a much neater PDF download which you can get free for an email address. Worth it.

As if that wasn’t enough to read, Tentblogger has a huge series of blog posts under the umbrella, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog’. Sit yourself down, strap yourself in, there’s 55 posts on everything from WordPress security settings, SEO tips and tools, recommended Plugins,  setting up Google Analytics and all points in between. Brilliant.

Not forgetting the help pages from WordPress themselves, which of course are very detailed. There’s also support forums and a repository of Themes and Plugins.

Serverpress.Wordpress Desktop-Server

Another useful tool that is aimed squarely at developers, is DesktopServer from ServerPress, which basically enables you to have a server on your desktop machine (PC/Mac) so you can test and develop your WordPress install locally without publishing online until you’re quite happy with the results.

There’s a basic free edition which allows you to create up to three websites, or the paid version which has unlimited website projects. There are several other similar tools for Devs, like Bitnami, Instant WordPress and WampServer (and the Mac equivalent MAMP).

Now We’re Up And Running.

Things to consider after your WordPress install is up and running. Content writing tips, SEO and tech tools.

Ready-Set-Write-The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Blogging.Free PDF download

‘Ready, Set, Write: The Ultimate Guide to Blogging’, is a free PDF guide to getting the most from your blogging experience. Put together by the Content Marketing Institute, the 37 page guide runs through everything from developing your blogging voice and strategy, tips for writing really amazing content, getting your content seen and shared, measuring your impact and ensuring success. There’s a host of tips, case studies and tools here you can use to build and maintain a successful blog that benefits you and your business.

Ways To Create Compelling Content:Infographic.

Ways To Create Compelling Content:Infographic.

And, a really handy infographic on finding inspiration for great content, which today, a lot of the time means re-imagining other people’s ideas as infographics, but, seems to work for many. The title of the piece says it all, ’22 Ways to Create Compelling Content (When You Dont Have a Clue)’. 

And more content ideas from the Content Marketing Institute. ‘12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post‘ , ideas that I’m going to have to put into action once I’ve finished writing this blog post! But basically the post delves into ideas on how to spread your content successfully using social media, RSS and forums. Its basic stuff nowadays, but if you need some kind of bullet list you could do worse than start here.

Windows Live Writer

Windows Live Writer. Compose WordPress Posts Offline

You don’t always have WiFi when you’re on the move, despite this utopian dream of always on, everywhere, that’s hardly the case for most unless you have bottomless pockets! So, if I get the urge to write offline, Windows Live Writer is my weapon of choice. Why not just use Open Office, MS Office Word or a text editor?

Well, the advantage of Windows Live Writer is that as long as you sync it up with your WordPress blog (or multiple blogs) when you first set it up, it formats everything just like it would in WordPress and it has a preview function. You might even like it so much you could bypass going into the WordPress admin all together and use Live Writer from your desktop. Excellent tool.

Performance & Plugins

How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance

How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance

Here’s a really cool infographic that lays things out in easy to digest nuggets with instructions on ‘How To Speed Up WordPress And Boost Site Performance’, which kind of speaks for itself and looks into problems and solutions, like database cache and maintenance, javascript and stylesheets. Unashamedly geeky.

More geekiness (I guess!) from DBS Interactive who have an awesome WordPress reference guide, which basically is an online handbook ‘WordPress V3.0+ Template Tag Reference Guide‘, which guides you through the various template tags (obviously!) and is one of the best reference’s I’ve seen of this nature, comprehensive, well laid out and extremely useful. Naturally if you haven’t got to the stage where you want to get your hands dirty with coding then fair enough, but if you do….

And finally a couple of SEO resources.

The first is from Yoast, ‘The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For WordPress Sites‘. Yoast know a thing or two about WordPress SEO, being the people behind the super popular WordPress SEO Plugin and this is one of the most complete SEO guides you’re likely to see. Essential. And if you want a second opinion, DIYThemes have an equally essential, self explanatory guide, ‘WordPress SEO for Everybody’. An ongoing tutorial which the writers say, “in it, you’ll learn how to use ethical, legitimate ways to get your WordPress blog ranking higher in the search engines.” Good enough, and it certainly is.

That should be enough to keep you going for weeks I hope. If you have any further tips and resources I’ve missed out please mention them in the comments and we’ll keep this thing updated.

Related Reading

WordPress Now Powers 22 Percent Of New Active Websites In The U.S. (Techcrunch)
How to install and test WordPress on a local server (CNET)
7 Ways to Build a Business Around WordPress (Mashable)
The Reason You Should Draft Your Blog Posts Outside WordPress (Tentblogger)
WordPress Support Forums (WordPress.org)
The Many Advantages (and Secrets) of WordPress Sites (Blueglass.com)
Manage All Your WordPress Sites From One Dashboard (ManageWP)

Download this article as a PDF.

 

How to Become a News Ninja Using RSS

RSS has been much maligned of late but still remains one of the easiest and most convenient ways of keeping in touch with breaking news and subscribing to new content on your favourite websites and blogs.

My Overworked Google RSS Reader

Social Media Today, summed up RSS very well here: “using RSS in combination with Google Reader can be a very powerful option if you do content curation or disseminate information to a determined audience. I use RSS very actively as my primary channel for receiving information instead of having to remember every site I have to visit every day to get news.”

RSS Still A Killer App

There has been talk that Twitter and Facebook are replacing RSS as a key broadcaster of news, but thats something of an over statement, RSS is still a key app for me as I curate/read an extensive array of news feeds daily and Twitter is still way too ‘noisy’.

Subscribing to a specific RSS feed in Google Reader is still the best way, at least for me, to stay on top of any key developments in my field of  choosing and certainly in the Music Industry, Tech and Social Media field there isn’t a key name out there that isn’t blogging and syndicating that blog with an RSS feed. Fact.

RSS enables me to skim hundreds of article headlines in minutes enabling me to click only on those that are of key interest to me. This would highlight the importance of writing those killer article titles too!

My RSS Toolbox of Choice

I use the Chrome browser pretty much exclusively these days and there’s a couple of browser extensions I use that enhance my usage of RSS and my content curation in general.

RSS Subscription Extension adds one-click subscription to your toolbar and shows the familiar orange RSS subscription icon when a RSS feed is detected on the website you’re browsing making it an easy click and go to subscribe to a feed.

Postponer Manager is a pair of extensions that add extra function to Pocket (aka Read It Later). The Postponer Adder adds an icon next to every article in your Google Reader to add it to your reading list.

So, if you’re short on attention span or time you can simply click on the Adder icon next to the article you’re interested in, in your reader and the post will be saved automagically on your Pocket page for you to return to and read at leisure. Lifesaver! Sign up free here.

Postponer Adder Chrome Extension

Postponer Adder Chrome Extension

Feedly is basically a news curation plugin of sorts and syncs with your Google Reader to become your ‘Social News Reader’. Basically it does what services like Paper.li and Twylah do to your Twitter feed, turns them into personalised newspapers from content you’ve collected yourself (in this case from your collection of RSS feeds).

My Social Media RSS Feeds via Feedly

My Social Media RSS Feeds seen thru Feedly

You can use Reeder iOS app to sync your Google Reader account to your iPhone or iPad too.  For more tips there’s a great post from last month at Lifehacker that digs around for resources to customise your Google Reader experience here: ‘Supercharge Google Reader with Styles and Extensions’.

I’ve kind of moved away from desktop RSS readers simply because my reader is so busy it was using 70% of system resources at times and slowing everything else down! Not everyone is an ‘info freako’ like me and if you do want to read offline too then Feed Demon is about as good as it gets and syncs with Google reader too. Brill.

Your OPML Starter Kit!

Acronyms you’ve never heard of? We got em! OPML is, in laymans terms is a portable data format with  the most common usage being to exchange lists of web feeds between web feed aggregators. So.

Here’s a quick and easy lesson in how you can use it to move your collection of feeds around (or indeed back them up). I try and export my list of feeds from my Google Reader account monthly at least, then if for some (unlikely) reason my reader settings get corrupted I can simply re-import my original list.

To export your OPML list of feeds (which is actually a very small text file so its quite practical to share via email) in Google Reader go to Reader Settings, then the Import/Export tab then right click and download under OPML download (natch!).

Downloading your RSS feeds as an OPML file in G Reader.

If you have a specific category and want to grab just that collection of feeds, you’d click on the subscriptions title then ‘Folder Settings’, scrolling down to ‘Create a Bundle’ then save. You can see my collections below with several sharing options.

You can grab the OPML and download, email to your friends, get the HTML to post your collection as a widget in your blog or simply add the bundle as a link on your website.

RSS Bundles in Google Reader

Getting Started With Stuff to Read!

Lets assume you already have a Google reader account (and if you use GMail then you do). Here’s three OPML (XML) files for you to download from my own RSS reader account.

Search and SEO (right click and save as..) 36 different feeds,
Social Media  30 different feeds
WordPress  21 different feeds

After you’ve saved one or all of the files, fire-up your reader of choice and go to reader settings, then Import/Export and it’ll ask you to import your subscriptions, select an OPML file>Choose File>Upload and done. You’ll now see your categorised folder in your reader and you have more to read now than you can possibly manage!

Do comment below if you use any particular reader, RSS tool or browser extension that hasn’t got a mention here (and there is many!).

 

Related Reading

Supercharge Google Reader with Styles and Extensions (Lifehacker)
RSS is dead… long live RSS! How to replace your Google Reader shared feed (SocialMediaToday)
Replacing your RSS reader with Twitter + Hootsuite (ItsWorthNoting.com)
The War On RSS (Vambenepe.com)
Will Twitter Replace RSS? (Twitip.com)

How to Press Up a Vinyl Record and add Instant Kudos to Your Music

This is a repost from a Buzzsonic post four years ago incredibly, all I’ve done is update the dead links and its all still of relevance, probably even more so now as the vinyl resurgence continues and with it being Record Store Day this weekend. UK and USA.
There’s a more indepth update due later this month.

OK then, its nothing short of amazing that today, theoretically you can have your music on sale, worldwide in one of the biggest music retailers stores on the planet. Without a tour, without a manager and even without a record deal. You can be based in Brighton, UK (for instance) and someone in Alaska or Australia or Russia or wherever can download your music without leaving the house. You don’t have to leave the house to get it on sale either.

Also, if you signed up with a good distributor, you’ll be keeping around 75% of the retail price too.

I must admit, when I first saw my music on sale on the iTunes store it was exciting, as it was another ‘career landmark’ for me. Still, as music career landmarks go it really was no comparison to the day I walked into the Virgin megastore on Oxford Street, London, the day of its original release in 1996 when the original version of the 99th Floor Elevators ‘I’ll Be There’, went on sale.

There it was, prominently displayed in a rack with all the other big 12 inch releases of the week. And there it was in the big HMV just up the road too. More importantly to me, there it was in stock and in the top 10 buzz chart in Trax Records in Soho, ten minutes walk away from the glare of the west end. A few days later ‘I’ll Be There’ had gatecrashed the national pop charts.

I used to spend a lot of money in dance music specialist Trax back in the days in the late 80s when I had to travel 160 miles by coach from my home in South Yorkshire to seek out those elusive Euro imports and Belgian New Beat gems that only Trax had.

And there is the point of this article. In a world where you don’t even have to leave the house to get the latest 12 inch remix or latest indie release or even pay for music anymore, how do you as an artist make a difference when everybody is a digital record label and everybody can sit next to Elton on the virtual record shelf?

“Further hinting at physical music format’s dismal future, a new study shows 48 percent of U.S. teens did not buy a single CD last year. This means not ‘Graduation’, not ‘Kala’ and not even anything from that Soulja Boy guy. It means literally not a single one.” Brock Thiessen from the Exclaim.ca article, ‘Teens Not Buying CDs Anymore?’

“I think the time is not too far off where some releases come out on vinyl and MP3 only — no CD. But who knows.” Josh Maddel, Other Music on Wired.com, Jan 2007

If you’ve more than a just passing interest in the state of the music industry you may have noticed a recent surge of interest and press on the apparent vinyl revival. Recently a representative from Sony BMG, mentioned that his parent company is working on releasing its entire back catalog on vinyl. Even Warners interest in the format has been revived.

“It’s not a significant part of our business, but there is enough there for me to take someone and have half their time devoted to making vinyl a real business,” says John Esposito, president and CEO of WEA Corp., the U.S. distribution company of Warner Music Group, which posted a 30% increase in LP sales last year.


So, there’s no vinyl pressing plants left anyway right? Very wrong. There’s a handful of pressing plants across the USA, UK, Europe and even two active manufacturers in Australia.

“One thing we took away from the talk that I feel is pretty important is pressing size. Some efforts are getting to the point where the records aren’t going to hit store shelves anymore. We‘re past the point where it can be difficult to move 300 copies. You folks making vinyl should strongly consider even a slight increase in the number of copies made available. The demand is there as well as the infrastructure to handle it. In addition, increasing the number of available copies should do well to keep the eBayers off for a while. If you can do 300 copies, you might as well do 500. If you know you can sell 500, it’s very likely you can sell 1000. ” Tonys Tales of Texas BB discuss the Vinyl Revival panel at SXSW.

Pressing up a release on vinyl is undoubtedly more expensive than CD but as a limited run single or album its more of an event and even a great PR exercise. Safely Meeting Record label boss Carlos Wells sums it up best here. ” The vinyl, it’s more of an event. If you throw on a CD, you can almost toss it in from across the room. A record, by contrast, is a process.  In 20 or 25 minutes you’re going to have to go over, take the arm off, flip it over. You wind up paying more attention.”

Creating a record is a complex process, but essentially breaks down into six separate steps.

Taken from the (now defunct) Quick Press website.

1. Mastering: A mastered DAT or CD is brought to a vinyl press. Two main changes must occur to begin the process of audio mastering, tonal balancing and level adjustment.

2. Cutting: Once the mastered version is finished, the track will be cut into lacquer. A digitally created track will be converted into an analogue wave for the cutting lathe. Transferred through an amplifier, the wave travels down the arm of a diamond-cutting stylus and onto a rotating lacquer disc.

3. Stampers: The lacquer or vinyl master is delivered to the pressing plant. The plant completes the following steps:

a) The vinyl master is covered with a thin spray and dipped in a bath of electrolyte. A current is passed through the solution and the silver-sprayed lacquer becomes coated in nickel which creates a negative image of the vinyl.

b) A second generation negative is created and the nickel plate is peeled from this lacquer to become the stamper. The stamper represents a negative image of one side of the vinyl.
c) Two stampers are needed to press up both an A and B sided record.

4. Test Pressings: With both stampers in place, a “puck” of vinyl is introduced into the press. Two labels are placed above and below the puck and the press is closed. In order to flow seamlessly into the grooves of the stamper, the vinyl is heated up to 200 C.

It is then rapidly cooled so that the vinyl can be immediately lifted out of the press. This whole process takes approximately 25 seconds. Normally, a short pressing of 10 copies is made first. These “test pressings” are sent to the record label for approval.

5. Labels: Many people are under the misconception that a “white label” is much cheaper than producing a professionally designed four-colour label. The real expense, however, comes from having the label incorporated into the vinyl. The colour of the label really makes no difference in this process.

6. Artwork: Image is key in almost every industry, making the music industry no exception. Great consideration should go into the label and its packaging, as well as the marketing accompanying its promotional push.

For a rough guide as to how much music you can fit on a vinyl record Nashville veterans UR Pressings have a useful FAQ and quick reference here:

7″ – 4:30 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 6:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm
10″ – 9:00 minutes per side @ 45rpm; 12:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3
12″ – 12:00 minutes per side @ 45 rpm; 18:00 minutes per side @ 33 1/3 rpm

And there’s more record manufacturing tutorials here and here.

California based Rainbo Records have several short run vinyl pressing deals which start at $1329 for 500 12inch singles and $829 for 500 7inch singles. Things like picture sleeves would add to that cost.

Some pressing plants, like United Records Pressings in Nashville are offering vinyl + digital package deals which includes a secure digital music hosting service, custom digital download coupons with unique one-time-use codes, packaged together. With the popularity of new USB turntables kids can plug their vinyl straight into their computer and rip to MP3 anyway.

In the UK (quotes taken from Curved) expect to pay around  £850 for 500 12inch pressings and around £600 for 300 7inch singles (+VAT!). Take into account that there is a huge amount of variables/possibles and generally speaking the more you have pressed the cheaper the amount per unit. Also, if you need a repress then you wont have the expense of having plates to make up, which are the biggest single outlay in the whole process.

As for vinyl distribution, well for these short runs a band or DJ would be better served selling discs at gigs and via mail order using Paypal and publicizing things on their Bandcamp profile and own website.

Such is the fragile nature of the vinyl distribution business that many of the once thriving vinyl specialists have disappeared, leaving a narrow selection of ultra niche companies and major label offshoots.

If you have a release in Florida you don’t want to be trusting your stock with a distributor thousands of miles away in California. DIY for short runs. Vinyl record mailers you can get here or here in the USA. Here and here in the UK.

“In the United Kingdom, where the CD single is basically dead, there is such a resurgence in vinyl that retailers can’t keep up with capacity. In the U.S., figures as high as 22 per cent are being floated about the growth in vinyl record sales.”
(National Post : March 2008)

If you want to see what your tracks would sound like on vinyl you can get a one off 7″ cut for around $50 from Custom Records (in the US), who’ll even go as far as pressing it in colour vinyl and giving it a picture sleeve for an extra $58! In Europe you can find these ‘lathe cuts’ at Dr Dub in Austria and Dub Studio in Bristol. There are a few more, including legendary lathe cutter Peter King in New Zealand.

USA Pressings:

Archer Record Pressing (Detroit, Michigan)
Quality Record Pressings (Salina, Kansas)
Erika Records (Downey, California)
United Record Pressing (Nashville,Tennessee)
Morphius (Baltimore, Maryland)
Alpha Record Services (Plantation, Florida)
RecordPressing.com (San Fransisco, California)
Trutone (New Jersey, NJ)
Record Tech Inc (Camarillo, Califronia)
Bill Smith Custom Records (El Segundo, California)
Musicol Recording (Columbus, Ohio)

European Pressings
Key Production – London, UK
Curved Pressings – London, UK
JTS Studio – London, UK
MPO – France
The Vinyl Factory – London, UK
Record Industry – Netherlands
GZ Vinyl (Czech Republic)

Related Reading

Return of the Record: Vinyl Sales on the Increase (Amoeba.com)
Amazon Vinyl Store (Amazon.com)
Teens Not Buying CD’s Anymore? (Exclam.ca)
Hard to Find Records (HTFR.com)
Vinyl Gets its Groove Back (MIT via Time.com) pdf file. Slashdot response
Vinyl Maybe Final Nail in CD’s Coffin (Wired.com) Digg response IndieHQ response
Putting a New Spin on Vinyl Records (NPR)
How to Reissue a Record (Classic Records)
The Making Of Vinyl (Random Good Stuff)
Vinyl vs. iPod (The Huffington Post)
The CD is Dead… Long Live the New CD ? (LAist)
The End Of the Music Biz As We Know It (Forester Research)
The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free (Techcrunch)

How Vinyl Records Are Made

This post first appeared on Buzzsonic back in 2009 but I thought seeing as its Record Store Day here in the UK and in the USA and elsewhere, it was worth a repost. Seems more topical now than it did back then actually what with all the renewed interest in vinyl and increase in sales and manufacturing, so…

In support of my recent post, ‘It’s Official, Vinyl Not Dead Shock’ and my older more detailed look at getting vinyl records pressed, ‘How To Press Up a Vinyl Single and Add Instant Kudos to Your Release’ , I dug around YouTube and found a bunch of instructional videos that should fill in the blanks for bands and artists looking for the inside look on vinyl pressings, cutting and mastering.

Having said that, Vimeo came up trumps with better quality instructionals but its also worth looking at this YouTube video of Detroit techno cutting engineer and producer legend, Ron Murphy who passed away almost a year ago now.

If you play Detroit techno and have played records with the letters NSC etched into it, you’ve played music that has been mastered by Ron. In fact most of the records that have come out of Detroit have been mastered by him.

Related Research

Vinyl Pressing Plants Listings  (Lathe Trolls Wiki)
Long Live Vinyl (Mastered and Manufactured) In Detroit (LX7.ca)
Vinyl Pressings (YouTube.com)
Everything You Need To Know About Vinyl-PDF (Tunecore.com)