Last night the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles hosted a panel discussion on the process of vinyl production as it pertains to small artists. Among the four panelists on stage at the Clive Davis Theatre was Infrasonic Sound owner/mastering engineer Pete Lyman, who was featured in my recent cover story on the resurgence of records in recent years. The discussion reinforced what people in the business have known for some time--that despite the recent increase in vinyl sales, it's still an indie band's game.
And the consensus at last night's discussion wasn't that any yuck with a garage band should start pressing platters; rather, the goal was to give an idea of what goes into the process and what the options are. Rule number one: It ain't cheap. A quick estimate of the services from cutting the laquer, to pressing the product to manufacturing the jackets yielded a base total just north of $2,000.
Offering a comprehensive of the overall process, Lyman was joined on the stage of the Clive Davis theater by DJ/producer/label owner Peanut Butter Wolf, vinyl pressing plant operator Kevin Smith and Jennifer Freund CEO of Dorado Packaging, which manufactures album covers. The panel was moderated by the owner of Echo Park-based Origami Vinyl, Neil Shield, He explained that though his business is profitable, he doesn't move massive quantities of product. He estimated he sold only 75 copies of Beach House's album last year. "I'm not saying don't do it. I'm saying be smart about the decisions you make," Shield said.
There were several moments throughout the hour-long discussion that tread into heavy tech talk and saw such terms as phase issues, tracing distortion and bit rate being thrown around with abandon, there were plenty of pithy nuggets of wisdom to glean. Here are some things Joe Indie Band might want to consider before embarking on this process:
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Don't be a douchebag - While there are options as to the gram weight of vinyl, last night's panelists don't subscribe to the notion that a record has to be pressed on 180 gram vinyl to sound good. "There are some myths out there," Lyman said about people's conceptions of 180 gram. "(People say) the grooves are cut deeper so it sounds better, which is completely untrue." Added Smith, "We try and stay in the 140, 150 gram range."