Independent Record Labels Need To Be Counted

Independent Record Labels Need To Be Counted

By Robert Benson

With vinyl record sales up more than fifteen percent over last year’s totals (858,000 ‘units’ bought in 2006 versus 990,000 in 2007, according to Nielsen Soundscan), has the comeback of this historical audio medium reached its pinnacle? No one can say for sure, but one thing is certain, these sales figures are not a full indication of just what is happening in the ‘vinyl world’ and how many records have truly been sold.

These sales figures may be underestimated and under represent the exact sales figures because they don’t always include the sales at the smaller ‘indie’ record shops where vinyl does the best. I spoke with Virgil Dickerson, owner of one of these ‘indie’ record shops, SuburbanHomeRecords.com and Vinyl Collective (based in Denver, Colorado) about what he is noticing about the trend to go back to vinyl records.

“Certainly, my CD sales have dropped off, and I have seen an increase in the sales of our vinyl records. People want a tangible product to go along with their music. The record album artwork and the great sound of vinyl are also factors in the resurgence,” detailed Virgil. “Digital music lacks the ‘soul’ of a record and there is almost a therapeutic ritual when you experience playing vinyl, the act of physically playing the record, the smell, turning the record over to hear the other side- are all factors as to why people are in love with the format.”

But, is the vinyl resurgence just a passing fad, what do you see for the future of the vinyl record?

“Some of our customers are what I term as ‘lifers,’ people who will buy records whether they are popular or not and may even have an extensive collection of records. And then there may be some that are just jumping on the ‘vinyl bandwagon,’ buying records to be cool or because they are popular now, but there will always be a place for vinyl within the music community,” said Virgil.

As previously noted, Virgil is the owner and operates Suburban Home Records, a record label that signs and releases music from bands from all over the world as well as Vinyl Collective, a unique vinyl friendly web store. And with such an eclectic array of musical genres to choose from including punk, alternative country, heavy metal, rock and roll and just about anything in between, his customer base is as varied as the musical styles that they offer.

We discussed some of the vinyl record formats that are being manufactured, including audiophile vinyl, picture discs, limited releases and colored vinyl.

“With regard to colored vinyl, we do it because we want each pressing to be distinctive. Colored vinyl is more prevalent now than, lets say, ten years ago and is highly sought after; people want it, so we appease our customers by releasing it,” explained Virgil. “We have some that are just one color, clear vinyl and we have added some with speckles and swirls.”

“Picture discs are also highly sought after as well, but are much more expensive per unit to manufacture. They are usually released with no jacket (they are kept in a clear re-sealable package) so that helps to reduce the cost. And the sound quality can fluctuate from good to bad depending on the pressing plant that is used. Audiophile records are more expensive as well, manufactured as 180-200 gram records instead of our norm, which is 140-160 grams,” said Virgil.

We also discussed the difference in sound quality between audiophile records and the normal standard vinyl releases.

“Audiophile records have a better sound quality because a higher grade of vinyl is used and the grooves are cut deeper into the vinyl, producing a much clearer sound. I would think that they are also less susceptible to scratching and scuffing and withstand the normal wear and tear that a record gets form use, because of their thickness,” related Virgil.

We talked about ‘limited releases’ and why these are not only popular, but profitable as well.

“Well, instead of pressing, let’s say, 5,000 copies of a particular recording, we may only press 500. This helps to keep our costs down and collectors love this type of release; they will own an uncommon or rare record, which can affect the resale value of the record, depending on various factors such as the artist, condition etc.”

What other marketing ploys are utilized in the record business?

“We are starting to sign up bands for a 7” ‘split’ series. We will do a pre-order for each 7” and have several artists already committed to the project including Chuck Ragan/Tim Barry, William Elliott Whitmore/Josh Small, Fake Problems/Look Mexico, Rocky Votolato/Chad Price (of Drag the River), just to name a few. The artists will do a cover of a song that has influenced what they do today. We not only have our own artists from Suburban Home Records, but other record labels and artists as well. And this is not so much a marketing ploy, as it is a unique opportunity for artists to be heard by other fan bases that may have not heard of the artist before the split and may also introduce the listener to another kind of musical genre that they may not listen to. With luck, we hope to have customers be interested enough to collect the whole series,” detailed Virgil.

We have just met the man behind the scenes at Suburban Home Records/Vinyl Collective, one of hundreds of independent record labels that produce quality vinyl records and allow independent musicians to be heard by the masses. Why these sales are not tabulated with the ‘big box’ record stores or major labels is food for thought. But if Suburban Home Records/Vinyl Collective keeps releasing quality vinyl records, it is just a matter of time, before they too, will become a “major label” and be counted, as the sale of vinyl records continues to move upward.

Author Robert Benson writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com, where you can pick up a copy of his ebook called

"The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting."

The Vinyl Revival: Records Are Cool Again

The Vinyl Revival: Records Are Cool Again

Had the vinyl record finally met its match? In 1982, the compact disc was introduced to the music world and the record album was supposed to fade away like the dreaded eight track tapes that you may have heard your grandfather talk about.

But audiophiles, collectors, DJs and the artists who make the music had kept up the demand for vinyl records throughout the years. Then, came another challenge for the vinyl record: the music downloads…MP3 mania…the digital phenomenon, or whatever you choose to call it.

But something revolutionary is happening. Vinyl is cool again. Teenagers, who once scoffed at their parent's record collections, now wait in line to get the latest releases. In fact, according to the British Phonograph Industry (BPI), sales of 7" singles (45 rpm) surpassed the one million mark recently.

Now will this "revival" migrate across the Atlantic and push vinyl sales up in America? Will this be the next "British Invasion," albeit a different format? Time will tell, but if popular bands like the White Stripes, Primal Scream, Keane and indie favorites the Arctic Monkeys keep insisting their material is released via the seven-inch single, the teens who buy this music will keep responding and sales will continue to grow and so will the format.

Furthermore, it is not just the alternative bands or indie bands that release their material on vinyl. Mainstream artists like Neil Young, Madonna, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and many more have continued to utilize this format and there is excitement about Beck's new album. Beck is taking a unique approach to album cover design, selling a blank cover with a choice of four sticker sheets individually designed by artists Jasper Goodall and Han Lee. Fans can make their own album covers.

What is the allure, the attraction to the clumsy, hard to handle records? As recent research suggests, some people are drawn in by the physical nature of the record, the actual handling of the music, the interaction between the person, the record and the phonograph. There is almost a ritual to the handling and playing of a phonograph record.

Young people have heard that records sound better than their sterile cd counterparts and digital downloads, now they are experiencing the true sound that vinyl records bring to the music. There is a certain warmth, an ambience that a vinyl record brings to the music. And since the human ear hears in analog sound, and not digital format, vinyl naturally sounds better. So this is the secret that all the audiophiles knew all along!

However, it isn't just teens who are buying vinyl records. People are also picking up the hobby of collecting records and baby boomers are buying albums they used to own when they were in high school. But it is not only the music that intrigues the masses. Album cover art has long been highly collectible and now you can have your favorite album framed into a beautiful piece of art! It is the best and the only way to preserve these wonderful treasures of musical history.

With this new interest in vinyl, the online community has responded. Besides the online auction sites, from mom and pop sites to major retailers, buying records online has become an irresistible source for record collectors or anyone interested in buying vinyl. Rare vinyl, once thought to be gone forever, is now resurfacing in online shops all over the Internet.

Will this trend continue? One can only guess, but the vinyl record, as prehistoric as it is; will never go out of style.


Robert Benson is an avid record collector and is the author of the ebook “The Fascinating Hobby Of Vinyl Record Collecting” which is available at his web site
http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com

The Allure of vinyl records

The Allure Of Vinyl Records

The demise of the vinyl record has become a statement all to common in the music industry. Vinyl records were supposed to be a dead music format a long time ago, but have persevered through the many technological changes in the music industry.

In this day and age of ipods and digital downloads, where people can fit thousands of songs in such a neat little package, how has the vinyl record managed to compete; what is the allure?

Recent research reveals that teens enjoy the physical experience they get with a vinyl record and the interaction between themselves and the record. There is a certain ritual one must rely on to play a vinyl record, and much to the dismay of the digital world, the youth of the world is receptive to this type of interaction.

For some, collecting vinyl records is an obsession, a life long journey to obtain hidden masterpieces locked away in the attics and basements around the globe. For others, just owning a few selected gems from their favorite band or recording artist is enough to satisfy their collecting palate.

Then there is the thrill of the hunt, scouring the online web sites and auctions looking for a rare or collectible record for their collection. For the adventurous, there are the numerous garage sales, rummage sales, flea markets and the like, that dot the countryside in every town in America. There, they can search through the dusty boxes and bins for their the next special addition to their already growing vinyl record collection. There is almost a sense of pride, self-worth, if you will, in finding what you are looking for, if only to be satisfied for a moment, until you realize you must find another rare treasure to add to your collection.

Ever since Alex Steinweiss designed the first album cover for Columbia Records in 1939, album cover art has been highly collectible and is a part of music history. Classic album covers like the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, Janis Joplin's Cheap Thrills (designed by Robert Crumb) and Led Zeppelins' Physical Graffiti are iconic. Some bands enlisted the aid of world renowned artists to design the album covers and concepts for their latest releases, including the Rolling Stones, who used Andy Warhol's idea for their record album Sticky Fingers.

For some, collecting vinyl is an investment. Not only a monetary investment but a cultural one as well. Vinyl records are part of pop culture as we know it and certainly part of the rock and roll era. Preserving vinyl records, the art, the music, is a very important part of this phenomenon.

But the one thing that sets vinyl apart from all other musical formats is that vinyl records just sound the best. There is no substitute for the sound reproduction that vinyl brings to music, no digital counterpart. And for that, the vinyl record will continue to survive, if not thrive.


Robert Benson has written articles on many subjects and operates two web sites. Learn about the hobby of vinyl record collecting or shop for your unique home decor at his online shopping site:
http://www.collectingvinylrecords.com
http://www.ezshoppinghere.com