9 times out of 10, anything satan related probably won't be on vinyl. Why? Is it some kind of protest, some sort of ethical choice? No, not really- it just costs a fucking fortune and takes an age to get sorted, so I don't really bother.
So here I wanted to be as transparent as possible about it all, as a lot of you ask me why certain albums aren't on the format and how it's a shame. Agreed, it's a real shame, but unless major labels suddenly stop pressing up copies of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (that's not happening any time soon, trust me), a lot of satan records will be CD/ tape/ download only. Well, the ones I release myself will be, anyway.
So first off, once I've decided on a record - I've finished the recording and mixing, I've arranged, sequenced and pre-mastered it all, I sit there and figure out if it's worth contacting some labels about it, or if I'd like to do it myself through This Is It Forever. Sometimes the former is better, sometimes the latter - it's a fairly fluid thing, and I'm not militant about it. Say I decide, like Bloodsport for example, that my own label is a better fit this time around, so I'd better start thinking about how it'll come out. So let's say, hypothetically, that this album will be on vinyl - what does that entail and how much will it cost me?
Straight from the get go, I know there's a good 6-12 month wait at pressing plants for vinyl (with thanks to Fleetwood Mac), so that'll push the release date back a lot from my initial impulse (I'm very impatient when it comes to these things), which is to get it out as soon as possible. But before all that fun starts, what do I need to do to make sure this thing will end up on wax?
Well, there's mastering for a start - that's not cheap, and unless you're au-fait with vinyl mastering (that's different from normal mastering) and confident the finished product will sound up to scratch, you'll have to pay someone to do it. Cheap out on it, and it could be crap, pay mega bucks and you're already down a good few hundred quid. So what do you do? Try and find a balance? Ask around for some favours? It's up to you really, but lets say we try and strike a balance and I pay someone £20 a track to do it (that's still very cheap by the way) - that's instantly £200 on an album that's 10 songs long. And this is only vinyl mastering too btw - if you want to go the whole hog, you'll have to get someone to do a CD/ download master on top of that. That could be anywhere between £100-300 depending on where you go.
So anyway, you've paid the money and you've got yourself a master. So what next? well my friend, you'll have to find a broker/ intermediary to handle the pressing side of things. There are also a few things you have to take into consideration in this next part: do you want a quality product? Or do you just want any old shit, as long as it's on vinyl? Obviously quality costs more, so it's always about what you can afford to do. Do you want a gatefold cover? Fancy artwork? Do you want a colour varient? Will it fit on one slab of the stuff, or is it a triple vinyl monster? All things you have to consider.
So say we have a nice 10 track album, which is easily split between two 20-or so minute sides. That in and of itself is pretty rare too: you'll have to edit tracks down so they fit on the format more often than not, and that can be tiresome/ effort/ irritating before you've even sent the files off. There is a near-legendary test press of the Ghosting Season album on vinyl stored away at a mastering place somewhere, with some of the tracks sped up so they'd finish quicker and could fit on the album. The label didn't have the money to press it in the end, but the master is still around I think.
Anyway, these companies will handle shit with the pressing plants, which is good for you - but also they'll charge for their time (obviously). When satan did Even Temper, it was roughly £1k for 250 pieces in pretty rudimentary sleeves, with no inserts or any fancy shit. That was in 2014, so the prices will no doubt have gone up considerably since then. When we did Blank Tape on CD a year later, we decided against vinyl as the album was too long to comfortably fit on one record, and to be honest, doing a double vinyl album didn't really appeal. I talked to the distro, and they wanted a few hundred of these things, so I had to press up a lot more than I normally would. Bloodsport was 100 tins, Blank Tape ended up being 500 digifiles, all shrinkwrapped at a later date, because someone at the distro didn't tell me it needed wrapping, so there went my profit margin. Anyway, they got a few hundred copies and they went into the marketplace. A few years later, I got an email from the distro asking if I'd like to have the remaining copies (I think at this point, it was 150 or so) destroyed as it was cheaper to do that then send them back to me. Thankfully I got them sent back and we eventually sold off the remaining lot. Lol.
Anyway, we did 250 pieces of Even Temper because that's the lowest amount the broker/ plant would let us do in one go - it's the cheapest option, basically. It's not viable for them to do like 50 pieces so you can be assured you'll sell out and you won't have endless boxes of the things under your bed for years. So 250 it is. If you want to get more in, it's more money. If you want to work with a distributor, so they can stock stores all over the world with your latest masterpiece - that's more money. You can't just walk into stores and ask them to stock your album - that would take absolutely fucking years to do, and they just wouldn't.
So let's say you've decided on your broker of choice, you've set some money aside for that, and you have an idea of how many you want, if you're working with any distro (obviously that's massively recommended unless you think you can shift these copies on your own), and you've edited down your album so it fits.
Next up: artwork. Who's gonna do that then? You? Someone else? Let's say you can do it yourself as you know your way around Photoshop pretty well, and it's not that hard. Cool, so that's front and back covers, inlays/ inserts/ and stickers for the actual records themselves. Are the distro cool about that arty cover that doesn't mention the album or band name? Or are you cool with shrinkwrapping every piece and putting a sticker on the front? Because yes, you've guessed it- that's more money. Oh, and don't forget barcodes! You'll need one if you're working with distro. Thankfully it's fairly easy and not too expensive to get one.
Right, so artwork now done after a few back and forths with the broker and the distro, and you're set. You've the album, the artwork, and the metadata. Yes, you'll have to tell them how long each track is, and what time the track ends before the next one starts, so the pressing plant can insert the groove, so punters know where song breaks are when they look at your lovely wax disc.
All that done, you send it off and wait. And there's a lot of waiting. Months and months later, you get your boxes, but not before you've approved of the pressing with a test press - if you've paid for one, that is. If you're doing it on the cheap, forget that - your first pressing is exactly that, and there's no going back. If you've paid for a test press, that needs to be approved, and any faults ironed out. I know of some pretty big artists that whip through tens of these things before they're happy. That's a lot of money for nothing.
Anyway, you have all your boxes of your lovely vinyl. Hopefully it's all survived the shipping and the packing process, as you'll now have to send some to your distro. So you'll have to fire up UPS or DHL or Parcel Force or something, and arrange movement of stock that you have to their warehouse(s). Again, that's a pain in the arse and another cost.
Once all that's done, you have to sell some of these things. Did you hire a PR to help with that? Or are you betting on your fanbase to instantly pick one of these things up? Because the price point to break even is now roughly about £20 a throw. Not all your fans will have the money or the time to invest in that, so you might end up doing bundles, or incentives to get them to part with cash - special colour editions, signed copies, t-shirt bundles, etc. Oh, and postage now is also ridiculous. That on it's own is a serious reason why I don't bother with vinyl much these days. It's an absolute fucking fortune, and on top of that, you have to pack it correctly, lest it arrive damaged. That's heavy duty mailers, bubble wrap, etc. for each unit sold. Again, more cost and more headaches. Oh, and where are you keeping these things? I live in a terrace in Saltaire, not exactly known for their lavish amounts of free space to store boxes of vinyl records. You could stash them at your parents' house, or a mates garage, or whatever, but that's a lot of hassle and maybe in some cases: more money.
Yeah, so PR isn't cheap either, and doesn't always click - sometimes a PR won't be able to swing everything they want, sometimes the timing just isn't right, or sometimes the stars don't align, and you don't get things you thought you would: interviews, reviews, features, etc. Oh, and what if you get a shit review for this album too? That's just added to the amount of unsold units leftover after all this madness calms down. Having said that, a lot of the time it's ok and you'll be able to gather together at least some decent stuff.
So get out on tour and sell some, right? OK cool - where you playing and how you getting there? A few local shows are always good, but if you can't rope in a promoter to do it, you guessed it - you have to do it yourself, which is more money. And time. And effort. And the rest. If you don't have an agent, you won't be playing large shows, which means you have to do a lot of smaller ones - that's more time, effort and money driving, playing, promoting, etc.
So after all this, you sit down and you take stock, and realise you've finally done something that not a lot of people actually do, so that's well worth a pat on the back and a celebratory pint: this shit is not easy, so if you manage to get through all that unscathed - fucking congrats, and I mean that wholeheartedly: don't forget to big yourself up. But, oh shit - that's just the first album of the year, and you have another 3 releases planned for the rest of it. So... will those be on vinyl?
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