Everything you need to think about when releasing your music on vinyl
When it comes to vinyl records the quality of sound, art and aesthetic is what makes collectors interested. It’s more about the uniqueness of the vinyl album as a work of art than it’s commercial viability. Vinyl has a dynamic sound and isn’t as loud as digital so the care put into the vinyl master, the press and plating processes is more important than making a super loud or over compressed master. In the age of digital music distribution a vinyl records tangibility is what makes it special so its physical quality is as important as its sound. Remember you will get what you pay for when choosing a pressing plant and the cheapest pressing company may not be the best idea.
Do heavier weight vinyls sound better than lighter flimsy ones?
Contrary to what some audiophiles may think the 180 gram vinyl is not better sounding than, say, 120 gram vinyl because the groove depth is set during mastering. The difference is that 180 gram feels better because it is heavier and will most likely stay flat longer than lighter weight records. It just feels great but it doesn’t really sound better. But it may sound better longer than lighter weight records because over time the vinyl could warp due to temperature and humidity conditions or poor care and you will get a wobbling effect when playing it on your record player. When it comes to selling your vinyl records it’s mostly about look and feel. Playing a vinyl is a hands on experience.
Unless you are already a successful full time touring musician that is selling out large concerts you probably won’t need to make a huge batch of vinyl. If you do, they may end up sitting around in boxes in your basement. As an independent musician it’s better to make small batches of vinyl and sell them for a higher price due to their special limited availability. Most record plants today offer to make small batch packages from 100 to 1000 which may cost an average of 400 Euro to 4000 Euro plus shipping. Remember that vinyl is heavy, so shipping costs will be expensive. Using a local pressing plant might be better in the long run even if it costs more for production you could end up paying more for the shipping if you order from a cheaper plant that is further away geographically.
How long will it take?
Record plants have busy and slow work seasons. Around record store day they are busier than usual as well as during the holiday seasons when new albums are being marketed. Average waiting time can be from around 12 to 25 weeks, but if you pay more, most plants will expedite your order. The manufacturer first needs to make test pressings in order to catch any defects before making a whole order. If they do find defects in the sound you may need to make another master and go through the entire process again. So it’s best not to rush in the first place so that you don’t make any mistakes in your vinyl master.
Planning with Song Lengths and Sides
Tracking distortions get louder towards the inner diameter of the vinyl so it’s best to put softer songs at the ends of each side of the record. For the best sound quality, a full length 33 rpm 12” record should have 17 to 22 minutes of music on each side, if it is 45 rpm it should have 11-12 minutes of music on each side. For an EP length 10” 33 rpm you get 12-14 minutes each side, for a 45 rpm 10” you get 7-9 minutes. And for a Single Length 7” 33 rpm you get 5-6 minutes, if it is 45 rpm you get 3 to 4 minutes. As a general rule it’s better to have the music end about a minute or two under the available time to be sure that you have best sound quality and playback. If you want to have a well conceived vinyl it’s important to keep in mind the song times and side lengths even before you go into the recording studio and record your album.
Now that you are ready to make your vinyl where will you get it done? Here is a list of pressing plants around the world. And if you want to make boutique short runs of 100 x 12” vinyl records or more check out iMusician partner 100VINYL. As an independent musician making quality vinyl records for shows is the best merchandise you can have while at the same time offering a digital download of your music. The two are complimentary and you can create special packages for each unique release such as different colored vinyl or secret songs in the digital download that comes with the vinyl. Vinyl will never go out of style and it is the most aesthetically satisfying format for collecting and listening to music. So if you are going to press a record make sure you put a whole lot of love into it.
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