Back in the vinyl records business after 15 years!

by Tony van Veen on June 12, 2014 · 8 comments

in Business Forum,Fast Forward,Featured,Manufacturing & Printing

It’s one of the more improbable music industry stories in the last decade, but vinyl records are back, and Disc Makers says you can call it a comeback.

It was a muggy mid-morning on July 27th, 1987, when I walked up to the imposing 7-story building on Poplar Street in Philadelphia. Every window was boarded up. The faded sign said “925 Diskmakers.” I was there, a young pup fresh out of college, for my job interview, sweating in my interview suit under the sweltering sun.

Hamilton Press making vinyl recordsWalking down the steps into the basement where the office was located, I could smell it, the slightly acrid, unmistakable smell of vinyl records being pressed. It was a smell that would end up being steadily with me for the next 13 years.

Ah, vinyl. It sounds so romantic as I write this in June of 2014. So hip. So retro cool yet modern. Back then it wasn’t exactly so.

Being in the vinyl business in the mid ’80s was a constant struggle for survival. The format was already on the decline when I started my first job at Diskmakers (as we used to spell Disc Makers back then), but 70% of our revenues were still from vinyl, mostly pressing records for independent labels (the other 30% came from cassettes). Pricing was low, margins were tight, and vinyl was a tough product to make.

Boilers, hydraulics, it was hot in that basement where we had our presses, almost unbearably so during the summer. And even when 1,000 perfectly flat vinyl platters left our loading dock one day in August, by the time they arrived at the client’s location in California after five days baking in a tractor trailer, we couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be warped or dished.

On top of that, record labels are notoriously difficult customers. Highly focused on price, needing extended credit terms, and very demanding about turn times and quality. Yes, we had started marketing our services directly to artists who wanted to make their own records, but that business was still relatively small.

And yet there was a unique pleasure in seeing a vinyl record getting pressed. The hockey-puck like glob of vinyl between the stampers, the press closing and squishing the vinyl out the sides, trimming the edge, pulling out a beautiful black, flat, shiny disc, bursting with the latest hip hop, punk rock, or Latin grooves. Legendary artists like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Celia Cruz, Big Black, Salt-N-Pepa, Wu Tang Clan, Butthole Surfers, Tito Puente, Sun Ra, Frankie Knuckles, and too many other luminaries to mention – all of them came off our Hamilton presses. We might have been sweating in a basement in North Philly, but these records were our connection to “the biz.”

Things have changed a lot at Disc Makers since that day 27 years ago when I first set foot in that plant at 925 North Poplar street. We now work almost exclusively with independent artists. As CDs exploded onto the scene in the early ’90s vinyl gradually declined to less than 1% of our sales, and we stopped selling vinyl in 2000. Last year we manufactured 43 million compact discs. Our sister company, CD Baby, distributes a catalog of five million songs to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Beats, and almost 100 other digital stores. Yup, things are different.

But one thing is taking us forward to the past:

we're back in the vinyl records businessWe’re back in the vinyl game!
As of this week, Disc Makers is back selling vinyl record pressing services to independent artists. The rise of vinyl is one of the most improbable stories of the past several years, but it’s real. For each of the past five years, we’ve contemplated whether to get back into the vinyl biz. Every year we thought it was a passing fad. But now, after five years of 35% annual vinyl record sales growth (every year), we’re back to being believers!

Whether it’s nostalgia, or hipsters, or that warm analog sound, vinyl is back with a vengeance! And I think it’s here to stay for a while.

We’re back in the vinyl records business, baby! It’s good to be here.

Disc Makers 
Reintroduces Vinyl Manufacturing

Read More
Vinyl record sales are on the rise
An independent musician needs to make CDs
Is Your Project Ready For CD Manufacturing? A DIY Album Release Checklist
Audio Mastering – The Mysterious Post-Production Art Form
Running your own indie record label

Share this articleShare on Facebook1,094Tweet about this on Twitter135Share on Google+5Share on StumbleUpon0Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn19Share on Reddit35Digg this

{ 6 trackbacks }

Disc Makers: Back in the vinyl business after 15 years | The Key
June 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm
Philebrity.com » Blog Archive » And Now, Today’s GOOD NEWS: VINYL, Once Again Being Made In The Philly Area!
June 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm
Why do you love vinyl records? | theMusicBiz.org
June 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm
ISRC, Gracenote, and CD-Text explained (and provided) here! | theMusicBiz.org
July 3, 2014 at 11:04 am
Vakseen LLC » #TeamVakseen, Music, Art and the Entertainment Business » 10 Big Things That Have Changed About the Music Industry Over the Last 15 Years
July 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm
Disc Makers is the official vinyl pressing sponsor of Record Store Day! | theMusicBiz.org
September 24, 2014 at 10:07 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Fabares September 19, 2014 at 5:54 am

Like Disc Makers I got the impression that renewed interest in vinyl was a bit of a fad. I grew up with vinyl and had fond memories of it but like a lot of people during the 80’s I gradually moved over to CD. It wasn’t until I carried out a number of tests comparing vinyl with CD that I discovered why younger generations are getting so excited with vinyl.

After reading the above article, I managed to pull out my old Garrard 401 turntable with an SME arm using a Shure 140E cartridge. Once done, I then used a pristine 7inch 45rpm single of “Hounds Of Love” by Kate Bush, along with a CD version of the same song just to compare the two…

When using a good pair of headphones, I was stunned to learn the vast difference between the vinyl version and the CD edition of the same song. The first thing I noticed just how big the sound was when listening to it on vinyl. Secondly the famous cellos riff used in the song literally jumps out of the left hand side of the mix…

When I switched to the CD version of Hounds Of Love, the cellos were not only motionless, but were completely devoid of any dynamic range whatsoever. In fact the overall CD mix sounded small in comparison to vinyl, a characteristic I found in every other CD track I used when comparing it with the vinyl equivalent. The conclusion was; vinyl sounded much bigger than digital…

Moving on, I next tried a fifty-year old vinyl single of Leader Of The Pack recorded by the Shangri-las. From memory I knew this record sounded huge on vinyl, and was anxious to compare it to the re-mastered version on CD. Once again, and despite it been recorded in Mono, I was astonished by the sheer depth of sound that the vinyl version produced, something that was totally missing from the CD copy of it.

The other characteristic I discovered about vinyl is when an instrument is played louder; vinyl does not compress the sound but replicates the dynamic range of same fairly accurately. A perfect example of this is Flock Of Seagulls 12inch single called “Wishing”, where the synths are gradually increased in level for the song’s climax…

This artificially created loudness technique as demonstrated in “Wishing”, will literally knock your socks off when heard on vinyl, and had a powerful effect on me. The evidence would suggest that digital seems to struggle replicating this kind of technique, which you don’t hear very often in modern productions…

Last but not least, there is one vital ingredient that makes vinyl sound larger than life, and that is the combination of analogue tape, (particularly Ampex 456), and the forgotten heroes of the vinyl age; the cutting engineer!!!

Reply

jhon jara October 30, 2014 at 7:21 am

necesito me de haciendo 200 copias en vinylo, y si me pueden dar su numero de telefono para llamarles. estoy muy interesado

gracias jhon jara f

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: