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Record Store Day 2015 | Delays?

Record Store Day 2015 | Delays?

Every year during the lead up to Record Store Day I read about a lot of disgruntled record labels using various pressing plants around the world or other broker companies that are experiencing huge delays.

record store day 2015 | long delays possible

These delays seem unnecessary and much much longer than anything we’ve experienced here. Well Tempered work with three European pressing plants and although one of these suppliers has had up to three of four week delays, we were warned of this in January and advised our customers accordingly.   The other two pressing plants have been experiencing delays of one or two weeks.

So when hear reports around the world of delays of up to eight weeks or having to wait sixteen weeks to press a record, people should realise that this simply isn’t the case with good suppliers and it seems unfair to blame Record Store Day.

In January of this year pressing plants all over the world sent out their annual emails to all customers warning everybody of the fast-approaching ‘Record Store Day’, that time of the year when suppliers are likely to be busy and customers should expect to experience delays.  So it shouldn’t come as a shock when during the months of March and April each year, pressing a record can take maybe three or four weeks longer than at other times of the year.   It’s important to remember that this event is held at the same time each year so we know to prepare for it and schedule our releases accordingly.

While many people are blaming Record Store Day for holdups, if you are experiencing delays of more than three or four weeks then you should really be looking at other supplier options as this could be and probably is the fault of whoever is handling and planning the issue of capacity.

Record Store Day should not be made into an excuse for people’s poor planning and scheduling.  And it seems a shame that it has become a scape-goat for a lot of  frustration globally.

We spoke with Andreas Kohl of Optimal Media in Germany and he share his views on the subject of expectations and capacity around Record Store Day each year:

‘The huge demand we are facing in terms of vinyl manufacturing and the struggle between available capacity and wanted quantity seems to challenge a whole scene and a whole industry, and we are steering into a situation where general setups and rules might need to be overthought. I’m talking about pre-sale periods, distribution schedules and promotional campaigns. Let’s not forget that in the heydays of vinyl (70s and early 80s) there was no such thing as a professional PR and distribution industry around the world, if any press work was done it was handled by the managers of the bands and there was no requirement by distributors to have results at a certain time to start presales, which final figures would give the label an idea for demand and a number to base manufacturing orders on. Or in other words: the whole distribution setup as we are dealing with nowadays has been designed and perfectioned during the years when the CD ruled the music industry and scenes – a format that can be manufactured and reproduced in large quantities in just a few days. The general setup bearing core basics like a 4 weeks presale period, press campaign working towards the release week and stores expecting 80% of sales within the first 6 weeks after release date has been created around the CD format and has been followed more or less painstaikingly by the majors as well as independent record labels.

These basics have been accepted as rules of a market long ago and are now being challenged by a format that simply cannot fulfill the requirements: vinyl. While there seems a constant victim moan to be establishing itself among the indies, blaming RSD and the majors for something A) indies themselves created and promoted for years and B) have been accepting as general market rules instead of trying to find a 3rd way of distributing their music and, pardon, become independent. This subtle moaning seems to make itself up to the surface more and more the closer RSD approaches and seems to become a widely spread topic even in the mainstream media. It is quite impressing to see for me as rep for a pressing plant that most of the features seem to refurbish facts from public sources instead of talking to the manufacturers themselves and find out what the truth is. I can only presume that the answers they might gonna get from sources like us would be less dramatic and thus not make up for what they consider to be a good strory. Truth is: turnaround times in the majority of all pressing plants worldwide have been relatively stable lately. Increased times have been discussed with customers beforehand and some plants even work with capacity planning systems giving customers a clear picture how many records they can do in what time. Of course I can’t vouch or talk for all plants but we are in close touch with our customers and supervise the market and can’t see or feel a significant downfall of general setups being valid throughought the whole year for the pre-RSD period. There is frustration out there, yes but I would go as far as saying that a correct evaluation and analysis of this frustration would yield other results than pressing plants pushing dates back, majors flooding the market with catalogue titles and RSD becoming a comic of its own self – the majority of frustrational hiccups results from expectations that can’t be met due to technical setups, technological reasons and market organisation. I am sure the majority of the problems could be solved if all parts of the music industry would evaluate their setups and expectations for a more vinyl-friendly environment instead of looking for someone to blame.’

If you have had bad experiences pressing records during and around Record Store Day then please make sure that you speak with us next year.  We can help you schedule your releases properly and avoid unnecessary delays by making sure that your product is handled by reputable pressing plants, efficient enough to cope over these busy periods.

The real frustration of Record Store Day surely has to come from the record stores rather than the labels.  With so many RSD releases now coming from labels that simply want to cash in on the annual event, the stores that feel obligated to stock these releases are often left having to transfer them to the bargain bin weeks later.  We spoke to Anouk from Record Industry and asked for her thoughts on RSD:

‘Personally RSD should be about really collectible records, as in, specially compiled releases and not re-issues of releases that have been released previously (and I don’t mean collectible in the sense the quantities are so little, only 500 people world wide can buy it). A great example is the side by side series that Warner release -the same tracks on one 7inch, one version by the original artist and on the other side is a cover of that same track by another artist. Or I remember last year’s Coldplay release with a comic book – now that’s interesting and something completely different from what they normally release.

So there should be a lot less RSD releases, especially the bigger record companies should not put out that much, which should result in less pressure on the pressing plants.

We did not opt out smaller labels for RSD though, we did our best for everybody and we managed to get everything out in time. But in general, we aren’t taking on new customers anymore. But for existing customers, big or small, we did everything within our power to get the stuff out in time.’

Daphne & Celeste – You & I Alone

Daphne & Celeste – You & I Alone

20150331_122906Daphne & Celeste make a come back with ‘You & I Alone’ produced by Max Tundra. The track marks the first release for the ‘Ooh Stick You’ singers in 15 years.

The 7″ release has been manufactured by Well Tempered and pressed on transparent yellow vinyl along with a 4-lug knock out centre. You can read more about the knock out centre here.

“It would have been easier to pick someone really respected like Charlotte Gainsbourg … but this was more of a challenge, taking a band people were chucking bottles of piss at.” – Max Tundra.

Buy your copy here from Boomkat, and for further reading please head over to the website: http://daphneandceleste.tv

Links:
The Guardian
Pitchfork
Metro

 

What causes pre-echo / groove-echo?

What causes pre-echo / groove-echo?

Pre-echo on a record is somewhat of a phenomenon, it is not commonly known what causes a faint audio signal on a record slightly before the main recording.

It is often the result of excessive groove swing and depth changes on the lacquer from stereo width in the bass frequencies.  This is one of the reasons as to why bass frequencies are mono’d on a vinyl record.

ElectronMicroscopeImageOfDirtyVinylRecordGroove
So what actually is pre-echo or ‘groove-echo’? It is a result of the transmission of sound from one record groove to the next.  It is caused during cutting, but can also be made a lot worse during the processing of the lacquers.  A decent lathe will cut a groove that just touches the previous rotation, whereas some of the later lathes actually nestled part of the groove into the previous one.  The cutting engineer would have to use the ‘add land’ button to create more space between the groove artificially.

The acetate or lacquer is pretty much a living thing, and how it electroplates is a result of how well cured it is.  This is determined by the amount of oils used, how long it was cured, and how long it was given to acclimatise at the cutting room.

Once the lacquers are used on a lathe then the pre-echo starts to build up, the first 24-hours are crucial so it’s important to get the lacquers into the electroplating bath as quickly as possible.

It is often thought that the cutting engineer could only be responsible for groove-echo, though galvanic process does have a big part to play, and it’s often this procedure that causes the biggest problem.  To reduce the possibility of this, the plating process needs to be very slow and cold to reduce any effects that could be evident on the lacquer.  Rushing the plating process during busy periods at a pressing or having the bath too hot can result in greatly exaggerating problems evident on the lacquers.

As a vinyl producer trying to get the best possible product out the door the best thing you can do is have the Cutting Engineer post out your lacquers immediately, and make whichever plant you are using aware that they are on the way and you have your order actually in place.

 

 

Record Store Day 2015 – RSD2015

Record Store Day 2015 – RSD2015

recordstoreday2012Although most of you are still thinking about your Christmas and early 2015 schedule, it is wise to start planning your Record Store Day – RSD2015 release for 2015.  For those of you not planning on releasing a record for RSD2015 you should bare in mind that manufacturing times during this period become  longer.

Record Store Day 2015 will take place on April 18th and finished product will need to be with your distributor ideally last week in March.   To ensure this date is met the pressing plants will need lacquers no later than 23rd January.  With this in mind you should really think about getting the mastering session booked in.

Traditionally the months of February through to May become affected so this needs to be taken into account when planning releases in this period.  To ensure release dates are met during this very busy time please speak to us as soon as possible.

Manufacturing Times for the production of Vinyl Records

Manufacturing Times for the production of Vinyl Records

Here at Well Tempered we work with the three best pressing plants in Europe to ensure that your records are pressed to schedule and cost, and also of optimum quality. The standard turnaround time from all three suppliers is seven weeks from receipt of lacquers – this is industry standard.

We hear that a lot of artists and labels elsewhere are getting frustrated with production times of up to twelve weeks. This should not be the case, there is simply no reason to wait this long for your product.

delayed record productionWe understand the need to make the process as quick and easy as possible, and our commitment to looking after the customer means that we have methods in place and capacity at pressing plants to ensure a very smooth and professional service.

If you’re waiting twelve weeks for your records then you should be asking yourself just how long can your business sustain this inefficient relationship.

Releasing a record should not be headache though sadly for many it’s simply too much of a hinderance to their release schedule. Here at Well Tempered we offer you cheaper prices and swifter production times than if you were to go to the manufacturer directly. Releasing a record should be an exciting physical representation of your creative output, and in no way be a chore.

Press & Distribution Deals (P&D) | A Good Idea?

Press & Distribution Deals (P&D) | A Good Idea?

For many new record labels starting out there are three main choices for vinyl manufacturing.  A label may wish to handle the manufacturing themselves, or they may wish to use a broker such as Well Tempered. Though for most records labels the most attractive option is a P&D (press & distribution) deal offered by their distribution partner.

There are a few distributors still offering P&D deals, though it may be required that they manufacture a few releases themselves first, and the sales generated be used to assess whether a P&D is viable.  So that leaves two choices initially for the label; manufacture themselves, or use a broker.

Well Tempered or any other broker would give the customer cheaper prices and faster turnaround times than if the customer were to go to the plant directly. We handle the production process from start to finish meaning far less work for the customer, so there is often little reason for the customer to handle manufacturing themselves. Pressing plants are busier now than ever before so have little time to deal with labels directly, the quality of service and attention to detail is far greater when using a broker service.

the_oneThough when a P&D deal is on offer is it really the best choice for the record label? The main attraction for many is that all production costs are paid for by the distributor and subtracted from the revenue generated from the sale of the product. With the vinyl manufacturing process taking 2 months, and the distributor’s payment terms being 60 days it relieves 4-5 months worth of cash flow which is incredibly attractive for a new business in any industry. Though what many fail to recognise is that it’s only really much like an overdraft facility – it still has to be paid for. And like an overdraft you’re spending money which isn’t yours.

If the distributor is fronting the money for releases then it is their best interest to make sure that the costs aren’t out of control, and caution is taken when deciding on the quantity of records manufactured. These choices will be in the interest of the distributor not the record label, as ultimately it is their money being spent. So obviously this relinquishes some degree of control. Will the customer get the final say on the number of copies pressed and also the specifications of the product? Possibly not.

So for the sake of an overdraft facility the record label is handing over many decisions that perhaps they don’t feel comfortable with. Independent record labels have become very much more empowered over recent years, they’ve taken back control of their business and one of the biggest changes has been the significant rise in direct-to-fan sales. An increase in sales can be seen month on month through the artist or label’s own store. How would this affect the P&D agreement? The distributor’s primary aim is to recoup costs, and as more and more sales are migrated over to direct-to-consumer platforms it makes it increasingly harder for the distributor to recoup their costs from distribution sales.

One advantage of a P&D deal has traditionally been that the distributor will have a dedicated team and production department working closely with the pressing plants so ensure all queries are answered swiftly, deadlines are met, and all projects are to cost. However, how many distributors currently offering this service actually work with the pressing plants directly? The answer is a surprisingly small amount. A lot of the distributors offering P&D cannot get direct deals with pressing plants, or do not have the knowledge and experience to handle the orders themselves – which leaves them having to go through a broker service. The second middle man in this chain can often cause inefficiencies – scheduling becomes harder, prices are subject to an extra margin, questions from the record label could pass to the distributor, to the broker, and then to the pressing plant. And back again.

There are distributors who deal with suppliers directly, though many are so focused on low prices that they confine their supplier list to one cutting engineer and one pressing plant. Well Tempered use the three pressing plants in Europe for the simple reason that one size doesn’t fit all. One pressing plant could be the best choice for coloured vinyl but not for download cards. Another plant might have an extensive range of stock sleeves but doesn’t offer short runs of white labels. If a distributor is working with a range of artists and labels with different needs and ideas then it simply doesn’t make sense to limit the options available.

Before accepting a Press and Distribution it is important to consider all of these factors and decide what is best for you. And could you actually be sacrificing quite a lot for the sake of an overdraft facility. From the distributor’s point of view if they can recoup costs then it benefits them – they make money from the manufacture of your product as well as distributing your product and they gain more control over your record label.

Christmas Vinyl Manufacturing Times

Christmas Vinyl Manufacturing Times

In the run up to Christmas the pressing plants will get very busy with orders from the major record labels with their Beatles reissues and Metallica box sets.  

It is important to plan your release schedule properly and make sure your December releases don’t end up materialising in 2015.

At Well Tempered we work towards our standard production time of seven weeks from receipt of lacquers, with your test pressings being delivered three weeks into that seven week cycle.  It is advisable to factor in an extra one or two weeks for releases being manufactured in the last quarter.

Christmas Vinyl Manufacturing Times If you still have releases scheduled for 2014 then they should be getting mastered now to avoid disappointment. Well Tempered has reserved capacity at three major European pressing plants and can ensure that your records are pressed to schedule and cost.

Please also make sure that you plan your January releases properly.

Most European pressing plants are closed for two weeks over Christmas and New Year, so this must be considered when scheduling early 2015 releases.

If you would like advise on planning and scheduling releases over December and January then please get in touch.

Approving Test Pressings / Checking Test Presses

Approving Test Pressings / Checking Test Presses

Here at Well Tempered we always advise on checking your test pressings thoroughly before the finished run of artwork copies is pressed.  

When Approving Test Pressings you are approving the work that the cutting engineer has done, and also the galvanic process at the plant.  But what exactly are you checking for?

Test PressYears ago an acetate would be cut by the engineer at the time of mastering, so the artist would be able to check the test press against this. However nowadays it is not financially viable for everyone to do this, so for most artists and record labels a test pressing is the first time that they are able to hear how the mastering engineers work sounds on the vinyl format.

Firstly it is important that you listen to a test press on a turntable that is set up correctly with a clean needle, otherwise you might be hearing faults in your setup rather than what is actually on the recording.  The galvanic process from lacquer to test press is a complicated procedure and test pressings are your one opportunity to check this. Your test presses are made from the same stampers as the final run, so will sound exactly the same. More information on this process can be found here

It is important to check that there are no skips or locked grooves in the record, these problems can occur at both mastering stage and during processing. Skips occur more often towards the middle of the record, so make sure you listen to each side from start to finish.

Surface noise can be a problem created during processing. This can be continuous throughout the record or sometimes a short noise sounding like a pop or click – this should not be confused with distortion, as distortion is created during mastering & cutting. If your music is bass-heavy then the cutting engineer could be cutting deeper grooves in the lacquer, making this harder to separate at the plant. The processes used in order to deal with deeper grooves differs from plant to plant but will usually result in a higher chance of surface noise.

Test Pressings pass through a quality control department at the pressing plant and often skips will be detected and resolved prior to them being sent to the customer.  Often when listening to a test press the customer will be so focused on listening for skips and pops, and also to the mastering that they will forget to check for the simplest of mistakes. Are the a & b sides labelled correctly? Is the correct catalogue number etched into the runout groove? Is the running order correct?

If you do detect a problem then it is important that you relay your issues as clearly as possible, with time references. Well Tempered have many years experience in resolving problems at test pressing stage and will always make sure that the source of the problem is identified and rectified as quickly as possible.

 

Vinyl Records & Craft Beer | More similar than you would think. . .

Vinyl Records & Craft Beer | More similar than you would think. . .

As well as an obvious keen interest in vinyl records, I am also into my beer. You wouldn’t think that the two have a link, but they do.

platform 5 brewing company, devon

It is obvious that that the big brands have got the advertising budget to make their beer a big seller. A beer like Heineken ticks all the boxes. It is a good example of its kind as far as flavour and style goes… and obviously they have a huge marketing budget to go with it.

The question is then, how come the craft beer scene is taking away a healthy percentage of the market from the big brewers like Heineken?

“In 2013, craft brewers reached 7.8 percent volume of the total U.S. beer market, up from 6.5 percent the previous year. Additionally, craft dollar share of the total U.S. beer market reached 14.3 percent in 2013, as retail dollar value from craft brewers was estimated at $14.3 billion, up from $11.9 billion in 2012”

BREWERS ASSOCIATION – USA

How can SMALL record labels create this kind of growth? By offering the same kind of bespoke, niche product as the Craft Brewers. Naturally, with the economies of large business it is not viable to hand finish all your products. Small breweries can spend more time over every brew, do small runs of special ales, and quickly tweak the finished product to meet the demands and taste changes of the consumer.

Record Labels can do a similar thing. Hand Stamping records, finishing off their sleeve art themselves, and quickly responding to trends in music tastes are something that a small company can do much more easily than a big one. Also you can charge a premium price if the end consumer is aware they are getting a more bespoke product. The key is to think on your feet, and respond to quickly to any changes that you see approaching that may directly effect you.