It's A Streaming World With Vinyl Only Living In, But It’s Living Much Better These Days [Glenn Peoples]
[UPDATED] Streaming and vinyl are two growth areas helping to return the music industry to profitability. But getting your vinyl pressed hasn't been easy. “You used to not have to worry about manufacturing,” Matthew Johnson, co-founder of Fat Possum Records told Billboard.
Image credit: Will Folsom, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
More vinyl demand = more vinyl pressing
By Glenn Peoples of Pandora
What’s going on with the other growth format, vinyl records? Plenty.
The latest news on vinyl is Third Man Records’ vinyl manufacturing plant will open February 25 in Detroit, according to this Billboard article. It’s hardly a surprise that Third Man or another entity would launch a pressing plant. Strained production capacity has long hampered sales and distribution of vinyl. Retailers have titles on backorder. Delays—”my title got bumped for some superstar’s foray into vinyl”—create unwanted uncertainties. Consumers can’t get the titles they want. There are missed opportunities all around.
It didn’t use to be this way.
“You used to not have to worry about manufacturing,” Matthew Johnson, co-founder of Fat Possum Records and partner in Memphis Record Pressing, told Billboard when the plant opened in late 2014. “Now you do.”
This is textbook economics. Across the world vinyl presses sat idle during much of the CD era. Now these presses are being put to use and helping shift supply to meet the shift in demand. Supply can only shift so much, though, because there is a limited supply of vinyl presses.
Among those helping shift supply to meet demand are familiar names Epitaph Records’ Greg Hansen and Darius Van Arman of Secretly Group. Both are investors in Independent Record Pressing in Bordentown, New Jersey. Other pressing plants launched recently include Cascade Vinyl Pressing (Portland, Oregon), SunPress Vinyl (Miami), Precision Record Pressing (Ontario, Canada) and Hand Drawn Pressing (Dallas). Major players GZ Media in Czech Republic and United Record Pressing, which just moved to a larger facility in a different part of Nashville, have increased their operations to meet the additional demand.
Streaming and vinyl, the only two growth segments of the US recorded music industry, are going to coexist peacefully. There’s little overlap between the two. Compared to the ease and ubiquity of streaming, vinyl is a downright stubborn format that demands a higher investment of time and effort. (And money, too. A copy of a new album on vinyl, to say nothing of reissues, can far exceed the monthly price of a premium streaming service. Read this discussion thread at Discogs for more on that topic). Streaming is an everyday, everywhere experience. Vinyl is a tangible, collectable piece of music. Moreover, in the US, vinyl sales were only $210 million in the first half of 2016—that was actually down about 6 percent year over year—compared to streaming’s revenue of $2.66 billion, according to the RIAA. And it doesn’t hurt that streaming doesn’t come with manufacturing delays.