Over the last ten years, the numbers behind the resurgence of vinyl have looked incredibly promising for an industry that is increasingly moving towards giving its content away for free.
We’re seeing year-on-year growth of the format of over 50% and current sales levels back to where they were in the early 90’s. The format’s being embraced by a younger generation who’ve never purchased physical music before in spite of the cheap availability of streamed content and digital download.
Last year supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s began embracing these trends by selling vinyl in-store, something which heavily divided opinion, and in the opening months, Sainsbury’s found it to be their most successful non-food product.
But the records stocked in supermarkets vastly skewed towards legacy artists such as AC/DC and reissues. This could be construed as a telling look at the overall landscape of the resurgence and who’s actually profiting from the format.
It was estimated that in 2015, Universal reissued 1,500 different titles on vinyl despite many of these records being readily available on the second-hand market and charity shops for a pittance.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if records were produced using modern techniques and consumer demand is what it is, give the people what they want and all that. But the result is becoming increasingly damaging for emerging artists in desperate need of a product that allows them to make some money from their music to fund touring and further recording.
Streaming pays pennies to these artists, as does digital download and without substantial investment into grassroots music, it’s becoming harder for younger bands to pay their recording and touring costs. Vinyl has enough profit margin in it and enough customer demand to really change that.
But the limited number of vinyl production facilities worldwide can’t get records out-the-door quickly enough. Demand far outweighs supply and this has led to some changes in the way that the format’s produced.
Firstly, it’s incredibly difficult to get an order into a factory to purchase 100 records. It simply isn’t worth their time when a major label will come along and order a few thousand units. Plants that do offer short runs hike the prices to a point at which the artist is then making only a few quid profit on each unit.
This means that the artists who are most in need of a format that they can sell with a bit of profit margin to power touring are being edged out of being able to produce it without putting forward a heavy investment.
For an average young indie band, it’s a big ask to demand payment up-front, an order of 500 records (that’s probably beyond their selling capabilities and will end up gathering dust in a garage somewhere) and a turnaround time on that product of often up to three months.
As an industry we are doing a terrible job of breaking new artists on a scale that we have traditionally, you only have to look at the last ten years of major festival headliners to see that and it seems that vinyl is, despite its popularity among and important demographic, not helping this situation in the way it could be.
At Flying Vinyl we’ve now put out over 100 artists on vinyl who otherwise simply wouldn’t have been able to self-fund their releases, whilst also working with major and indie labels to release their more emerging talent.
For us, we want to encourage people to try something new and invest in new music. Not out of charity but because doing-so adds so much more to the experience of vinyl. Putting a record on the turntable from a band on the cusp is gratifying and adds a connection to that band that most digital music simply can’t fulfil.
Flying Vinyl Festival takes place on Saturday 8 April @ Oval Space. Find out more HERE