Vinyl's comeback more than spin
Beatles-era technology makes for a cool sound … Andy Cuddihy of Vinyl Factory Australia.
Photo: Steven Siewert
July 23, 2007
LONG, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the vast plains of the local music store, vinyl ruled. But far from facing extinction amid discounted CDs and online downloads, vinyl is reclaiming ground in the digital era.
Last week, Vinyl Factory Australia, the country's only vinyl record manufacturer capable of automated pressings, produced 600 copies of Powderfinger's latest album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence.
The records were stamped on a Beatles-era EMI 1400 machine and are among an estimated 500,000 records expected to emerge from the company's Marrickville factory this year.
"We've got the capacity to make 1.5 million records a year," said Andy Cuddihy, managing director of the prospering business. "This month is already double what last month was."
In partnership with two sister plants in Britain, the company expects to produce 13 million records this year, although Mr Cuddihy said European plants could pump out millions of CDs a day.
"Vinyl's not very big in the overall scheme of things, but it's definitely growing," he said. "HMV stores and Virgin Megastores [in Britain] are ripping out CD racks and putting in vinyl racks – huge amounts of it."
Although Mr Cuddihy jokes that he may be a "flat Earther", vinyl records have advanced with the times. Exchanges of music are now done electronically.
"We can get a music master [recording] and have it in Abbey Road in two hours," he said.
Vinyl Factory feeds four discrete audiences: collectors who adore the large format, audiophiles who rave about the superior sound (particularly in the bass range), indie and punk bands who like the retro feel, and DJs who want vinyl records for their shows.
Mr Cuddihy, a former DJ himself, said vinyl suited the performance aspect of the role in a way that digital music could not. "If you go to hear a DJ, you don't want to see them waving a mouse over their head and going, 'This is the best download I've ever played'.
"We have pressed for most of the major Australian record labels."
Powderfinger, Ministry of Sound and the John Butler Trio were among the bigger names, but Vinyl Factory has also pressed for virtual unknowns, such as Mindsnare, a local punk band.
The motivation for music companies, particularly with dance music, was to build demand, Mr Cuddihy said.
"They'll spend $2000 on having the vinyl pressed and have it in the stores so DJs can buy it and then they use it to build a buzz in the clubs."
The music industry has begun bundling CDs with vinyl records, which can cost $30 to $40. This strategy has been used for a new release by Liam Finn (son of Neil Finn, of Crowded House) and his latest work, I'll Be Lightning.