Monday, March 09, 2015

Small techno vinyl labels share same fate as punk vinyl labels

Check out this very interesting piece that appeared in Groove Magazine in February. Sorry, it's all in German. But if you have been to Germany and drove in a car, for example while touring, you know what Stau or Vinylstau is. 

This article deals with "Techno in the times of a vinyl comeback" and analyses the current state of affairs, especially major labels reissuing back titles on vinyl like crazy. The article's angle is from a small techno label’s point of view. I think the analysis is really spot-on, and the discussion below is interesting, too. I agree with most points being made.
I remember that in the 90s, the few remaining vinyl pressing plants survived to a large extent because of techno – or dance vinyl maxis in general. They had a considerable volume of 12” and pretty decent vinyl runs. In this environment, small punk vinyl labels like HeartFirst could get their releases done efficiently – at good quality and fair prices within a reasonable time. So it was mainly dance music and indie labels that kept the pressing plants in operation in the 90s. Besides cross-financing by CD production I guess.
Also mastering studios were keeping busy cutting dance vinyl, or even dubplates. Generally, it makes little difference if you produce a small run of vinyl, of 100 or 5000 – you need to cut a lacquer as the first step of the production process. I remember going to my mastering studio in the 90s (Studio-Nord-Bremen) and the last client before me had been the rather famous DJ Sven Väth.
We have come a long way since these days, and most dance DJs have switched from vinyl to digital. The much commented Laptop DJ, in private circles even the dreaded Youtube DJ. But some techno labels today still want to release vinyl because they stick to their roots.
The Groove magazine article points out:
  • Today only the most dedicated techno underground labels are still doing vinyl
  • They are competing with the majors for pressing plant capacities for their reissues
  • The print runs for techno vinyl are way down – the same as for most punk vinyl labels
  • The sound quality of record pressing has gone down, or is, at best, much less predictable than before
  • The delivery times, even for small press runs, is extremely long – three months is no exception, sometimes more if it is around Record Store Day or Christmas
So I guess the harsh market realities for small labels today are the same, independent of musical genre. And all this in the times of the much commented "vinyl comeback".

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