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Category: 12″

12″ Vinyl Record Pressing

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.

vinyl manufacturing plants are struggling to keep up with demand for records | We got you covered!

vinyl manufacturing plants are struggling to keep up with demand for records | We got you covered!

According to The Independent, Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records” In other words, the vinyl manufacturing industry is having serious difficulty keeping up with demand.

vinyl manufacturing processI’m not sure that the plant owners would agree with The Independent that the machinery they are using is old and creaky, but the message is sound – lead times are increasing, and this is kicking down the supply chain and hitting the labels. What used to be a four week wait for your record to be turned around can now be up to three months.

If YOU don’t fancy getting stuck with long manufacturing delays, speak to Well Tempered – we saw this coming and have capacity reserved at three major European pressing plants to ensure swift turnaround times.

Currently our lead times are 7 weeks from receipt of lacquers.

Self Distribution – A Good Idea?

Self Distribution – A Good Idea?

Those of you not familiar with the traditional music distribution model of the physical format might at some point consider it a good idea to attempt self distribution.

Many labels see growth in their direct-to-consumer sales month on month, hear about store closures, and wonder whether or not distribution could be done themselves. The thought of an extra £1 per unit on every sale is an attractive one, and the idea of being self sufficient in this day and age is certainly something that many people strive towards.

This gives you more money per unit and in turn a more sustainable self-sufficient business model.

Though what are the common problems that record labels face when attempting self distribution?

The first point to understand is just how far and wide your records are distributed.  As well as in UK, major territories for record sales have been for a long time USA, Japan, & Germany. Whilst it may be not logistically impossible to get your new releases into some of the stores in your own continent, many people would find it incredibly tricky if not impossible to get decent coverage in countries on the other side of the world.  For the sake of £1 per copy, many record labels are shrinking their global reach and supplying to a much smaller customer base.

One of the main problems being the freight charges.  Most distributors will ship healthy orders across the world to stores on a weekly basis, selling a range of music and formats to shops.  It would be uneconomical for most stores abroad to buy from a record label directly and have to pay additional shipping charges.  Many stores abroad would have a minimum order quantity of up to one hundred units, just to make the shipping cost economical. Whilst this could be hard with some smaller distribution companies it would seem impossible dealing with record labels directly.

self distribution of vinyl recordsThe export market has always been a lot larger than most independent record labels will realise.  The healthy representation in other countries has always been such a huge factor in growing the profile of a brand and building a decent live event network.  Often record stores are run by a passionate collective of artists and music lovers that are also involved in live events and other areas of the music industry.

Though many believe that the sales lost through the distribution channels will be made up from the same customers buying the releases through their direct-to-consumer platform.  It’s true that some of them might be.  However, many of the stores rely on regular customers, people that come into their store on a weekly basis or trawl through their new releases online.  Whether your release is there or not, they spend their weekly budget on the records in stock, pay one shipping charge and return the next week.  Many record buyers would think twice about buying one single record from an additional outlet, when they can buy 90% of their records from one store.

The idea of gaining an extra 25% profit through self distribution is definitely something that would entice a lot of labels, though would self distribution equate to 75% of distribution sales needed to generate the same profit from a release? No probably not.  Ask yourself are hours spent packing boxes, raising invoices, chasing overdue payments really worth it? I would have to say definitely not.  Not to mention matching the hours spent by the distribution company promoting the product, and scheduling releases, pricing them up, and would you really be able to find out where most of these potential sales are?

From a store’s point of view, they do not want to spend hours dealing with labels directly. They often find self distribution a turn off. The only incentive for them would be a cheaper price, which would surely eliminate the main reason for self distribution.  Shipping charges would be greater from a label without huge freight discounts from courier companies. Stores have to set up additional supplier records for one label and suddenly the work-load increases for both parties on a large scale.

One of the biggest changes for record labels over the past 10 years is collecting monies from many more revenue streams than before; streaming sites, Youtube, Shazam, internet radio. Less people are buying music than ever before, though vinyl is the only format not in decline while CD sales and downloads plummet year on year.   The need for the physical release is now becoming more and more important for promotional purposes and building the brand and profile. So surely this is best managed by someone that can push the product as far and wide as possible.

Exciting Developments in Music Distribution

Exciting Developments in Music Distribution

ST Holdings has folded. Shame.Rarely do we see new music distribution companies instantly making such an impact on the UK music scene as Railbird Digital & Unearthed Sounds. In the modern day with so much emphasis placed on technology driven solutions, often what’s lacking is the personal service and passion for music that independent record labels long for.

Finding a new distribution partner can be a hard task with so many options available these days. With many digital distribution companies more focused on streamlining their daily tasks than concentrating on giving a personal service, and vinyl distributors stuck in the past, it’s often difficult to find a good balance between an efficient slick service and a company that understands the needs of an independent record label.

Searching for the perfect balance between these two essentialities can leave record labels looking at one company for digital distribution and another for vinyl distribution. The obvious problem being that planning release schedules can be ineffective and time consuming between two companies, creating extra work for the label, especially in an age where the demand for vinyl is outweighing the supply.

So when the two most senior members of staff at ST Holdings left to start their own companies, the focus was to devise a strategy that enabled seamless planning and scheduling between the two formats, and services that were both technologically efficient and passionate in maintaining the personal and traditional approach to distribution and music services.

We spoke to Mat Harwood of Unearthed Sounds about his new approach to distribution:

Unearthed Sounds : Vinyl DistributionUnearthed Sounds was born out of the necessity for a fresh approach to physical distribution.
Working closely with Well-Tempered Manufacturing and Railbird Digital, being able to offer the complete music distribution package, we think, is what people want and need and we have all angles now covered.
In this day and age with direct to fan platforms becoming more and more popular there is still the need for labels to be represented in the finest record shops and online stores in the world and with a thorough network of stores and partners across the globe we can certainly help achieve this.
Labels still need to make vinyl sustainable and many still see it as an important product to help push the label forward.
With over 5 years of experience in the industry dealing with all levels of physical distribution we can offer here at Unearthed a service unlike any other, giving every label the time and focus they need for each release individually ensuring that the products land in the correct places worldwide.

And Jon Wilson of Railbird Digital:

Railbird Digitial - Distribute your music digitallyRailbird Digital Commenced at the start of June providing digital distribution solutions for artists and record labels. Railbird works side by side with Well Tempered and Unearthed and operates as a single music distribution entity. Railbird is able to reach literally hundreds of digital stores worldwide, with a dedicated marketing department and personal label representative we are able to offer a direct and personal service.
We have over 7 years experience managing digital music & running record labels and have acted on years worth of feedback from clients to create the best infrastructure in which to distribute digital music on behalf of our labels.

With many distributors ditching the traditional methods of distribution and opting for the time-saving approach of technological solutions, the label manager or sales manager is often replaced with the computer programmer or tech-savvy customer services representative. Though the need for the passionate experienced music lover never disappeared.

Railbird Digital and Unearthed Sounds have been built upon years of experience in working in the music services sector and listening to the record label’s needs, rather than focusing on the technological age and time-saving methods of the impersonal service.

If you’re a record label looking for a fresh approach to distribution, run by lovers of music and experienced professionals then please get in touch:

Railbird Digital: Contact
07766 900304

Unearthed Sounds: Contact
01202 900303