How to record and release a best selling vinyl record

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Let’s face it. Vinyl records are back with a massive bang, with vinyl worth €132M sold in 2012 and with 5,8 million vinyl albums projected to sell in 2013. That’s another increase of 28%.

The chances are high that you have recently been thinking about starting a vinyl label to release your own or your friends music. A Vinyl release equals time and money invested and therefor often contain higher quality music than the digital ones. After all who can find anything good in the ever-noize of Beatport this days? Let this question remain unanswered. :)

Here is you easy 6 step crash course to vinyl success from A to Z.

In june 2013 the WMWL agency released a Folkets Hus EP on limited color vinyl. It sold out twice on Decks and once on Juno. Here is how we did it:

Step one: Get your Distribution set up

First and foremost you need to have a proper distributer who can get your lovely 12″ wax to all the online shops (Decks, Juno, Deejay,de and many more) and the local records stores all over the world, from Berlin to Tokyo. If you don’t get yourself a proper distributer you will end up sitting with 300 vinyls delivered to you door and ending up having the all in your living room. Make sure to have a distributor deal in place before you start mastering, pressing, etc..

Top distributors for house and techno today are Word and Sound, Intergroove and Clone. There are more good ones. Ideally you can negotiate to get between €3,3 and €4 Euros back on every vinyl you sell.

Step Two: Get the artwork right.

Source: Duplication

Let’s break down the terms:

Labels are the small round pieces of paper for artwork just around the center of the vinyl body – basically the ones that have the hole punched through them.

Inner sleeves are those “silkish paper folders” for protection – the ones that often get lost.

Outer sleeves or jackets are those big 12″ “envelopes” – either with holes so you can see the label artwork or full. Jackets can be black or also contain artwork.

Remember to use vector images or graphics with at least DPI 300 for printing. The labels are obviously round and 100 mm x 100 mm wide and tall. The jackets are normally 315mm X 315mm with a 3mm spine connecting front side to the back, plus some 6mm on every side for the glue flaps. If you will use artwork and images on the jackets and sleeves make sure that they are big enough to cover whatever area you want at 300 DPI. Creative Commons catalogues are great for chasing high resolution photos for your artwork. Just make sure to get images the with 3.0 unported  license – i.e. allowance to use the images in a commercial way.

Step three: Get your mastering right.

Got the tracks? They are probably unmastered and they should be. Before sending the tracks for professional mastering, make sure to have proper wav files of 16 bit or 24 bit, 44,100hz or 48,000hz. Nothing less will do. Mastering for vinyl is completely different from mastering to digital formats like MP3. You can literally not listen to the finished mastered file “digitally”, you need to hear it on vinyl. But that were the test pressings come in, make sure they are included in your deal. Your pressing plant or mastering engineer will send you 3-5 copies of test press vinyls with white labels.

Play it on big system (preferably a club) to check if it sounds satisfying. Play around with EQ, killing the low, mid and highs to check if it “sounds right”.

Step Four: Pressing

Mastering is done by a sound engineer. Ideally it the sound engineer is the in-house engineer at your pressing plant. Or he will have to cut out the first alimunium vinyl and send it to your pressing plant.

There are many good pressing plants in Europe – Curved, Mpo International, Rand Muzik, etc etc. The prices vary a lot depending on how fancy you want your vinyl to look – black or colored discs, full color or black and white labels. Full color or plain black jackets etc…

A pressing of 300 vinyl including shipment to the distributor will cost you between €800 – €1500 depending on the details above.

Photo: Simesepuppy

Step 5: Setting the Release date

Allow the pressing plant at least 2 – 4 weeks to press your batch and send them to your distributor. The distributor will want to receive all the vinyls at least one week before the release date. Do your math. Things always take longer than you expect them too.

Step 6: Promotion

As points 1-5 are done in consequent order one after another, promotion is more of an ongoing process that you want to start 3-4 weeks before the release. It’s also the most important part. You might be pressing a killer EP, but without proper marketing it may drown amongst all other releases to be launched on the same week.

A good promotion campaign include:

  • A good release. Please don’t release and promote music you are not 100% satisfied with. :)
  • Making a music video and and prepare to launch on youtube and other video channels.
  • Getting the DJ feedback – start collecting DJ feedback from big names and DJs in your network 4 weeks before the release. Services like Label-Worx and Fatdrop allow you to send promos to a list of emails, where the receiver has to rate the release and leave feedback before downloading the promo tracks.
  • Getting your friends and DJs in your network to chart your release on RA, Juno and other services, preferably just before the release.
  • Getting the music blogs, online- and print magazines to review your release. Most of them will want to listen to the tracks at least two weeks before the release – here the Soundcloud previews come in handy.
  • Keep engaging your fans and other DJs repeatedly after the release. Make sure that all the content you posts about the release on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram etc points towards the “buy url”.
  • You can do the promotion by yourself or hire a PR agency like DJ Voice, Dispersion PR or EPM Music.

P.S. In 2014 we will be launching a Vinyl release promotion service together with Discobelle boys including 300+ hand picked top DJs and 200+ top blogs on our promo list. For interest email: pro@wmwl.org

P.P.S Someday I will write a longer post on music promotion.

For now – Happy Vinyling!!!

About Alex Esser:

DJ, surfer and entrepreneur residing in Malmö, Sweden. I've been DJing since 2004 and started the HMWL blog back in 2007. My music network is always open. Holler @alex_Esser on twitter.


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