Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘shortage’

I love my vinyl records and can easily understand the renewed demand for them. They’re so popular, there isn’t enough vinyl or pressing equipment to create all the new ones wanted right now. I sympathize, but what should I do with my anti-plastic concerns? Buying vintage is always a good solution for getting products that don’t hurt the environment, but new bands can hardly use vintage vinyl.

Ben Sisario wrote recently at the New York Times about the challenges.

“Within the Indianapolis office of Joyful Noise Recordings, a specialty label that caters to vinyl-loving fans of underground rock, is a corner that employees call the ‘lathe cave.’ There sits a Presto 6N record lathe — a 1940s-vintage machine the size of a microwave that makes records by cutting a groove into a blank vinyl platter. Unlike most standard records, which are pressed by the hundreds or thousands, each lathe-cut disc must be created individually.

‘It’s incredibly laborious,’ said Karl Hofstetter, the label’s founder. ‘If a song is three minutes long, it takes three minutes to make every one.’

“This ancient technology — scuffed and dinged, the lathe looks like something from a World War II submarine — is a key part of Joyful Noise’s strategy to survive the very surge of vinyl popularity the label has helped fuel. Left for dead with the advent of CDs in the 1980s, vinyl records are now the music industry’s most popular and highest-grossing physical format, with fans choosing it for collectibility, sound quality or simply the tactile experience of music in an age of digital ephemerality. After growing steadily for more than a decade, LP sales exploded during the pandemic.

“In the first six months of this year, 17 million vinyl records were sold in the United States, generating $467 million in retail revenue, nearly double the amount from the same period in 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. …

“Yet there are worrying signs that the vinyl bonanza has exceeded the industrial capacity needed to sustain it. Production logjams and a reliance on balky, decades-old pressing machines have led to what executives say are unprecedented delays. A couple of years ago, a new record could be turned around in a few months; now it can take up to a year, wreaking havoc on artists’ release plans.

“Kevin Morby, a singer-songwriter from Kansas City, Kan., said that his latest LP, ‘A Night at the Little Los Angeles,’ barely arrived in time to sell on his fall tour. And he is one of the lucky ones. Artists from the Beach Boys to Tyler, the Creator have seen their vinyl held up recently. …

“For Joyful Noise, the vinyl crunch has also presented a puzzling problem. Up to 500 V.I.P. customers pay the label $200 a year for special editions of every LP it makes. But the production holdups mean the label cannot predict which titles will be ready during 2022. …

“The label’s solution is to make lathe-cut singles for each of the eight albums it intends to release next year, as placeholder bonuses while its customers wait. Doing so will cost Joyful Noise money and time — Hofstetter groaned as we calculated that eight records with five minutes of music per side, cut 500 times each, would take 666 hours of lathe work — but the label sees it as a necessary investment. …

“The pandemic shut down many plants for a time, and problems in the global supply chain have slowed the movement of everything from cardboard and polyvinyl chloride — the ‘vinyl’ that records (and plumbing pipes) are made from — to finished albums. In early 2020, a fire destroyed one of only two plants in the world that made lacquer discs, an essential part of the record-making process.

“But the bigger issue may be simple supply and demand. Consumption of vinyl LPs has grown much faster than the industry’s ability to make records. …

“ ‘What worries me more than anything is that the major labels will dominate and take over all of the capacity, which I don’t think is a good idea,’ said Rick Hashimoto of Record Technology Inc., a midsize plant in Camarillo, Calif., that works with many indie labels. Others say the big labels are just a convenient target. The real problem, they believe, isn’t celebrities jumping on the vinyl bandwagon but that the industrial network simply has not expanded quickly enough to meet growing demand.

“ ‘Am I mad that Olivia Rodrigo sold 76,000 vinyl copies of her album?’ said Ben Blackwell of Third Man, the record label and vinyl empire that counts Jack White of the White Stripes as one of its founders. ‘Not at all! This is what I would have dreamed of when we started Third Man — that the biggest frontline artists are all pushing vinyl, and that young kids are into it. If someone is mad that that prevents some other title from being pressed,’ Blackwell continued, ‘it feels a little bit elitist and gatekeep-y.’ “

More at the Times, here.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: