Vinyl records were once the only way that music was stored and heard, but while MP3s and CDs had all but eliminated the medium, vinyl is making a comeback among audiophiles for its superior audio quality, large-scale artwork, and more intimate listening experience. Put in another way, it’s just cooler than listening to music via any other method.
Independent bands often consider whether it would be worth their time and money to have vinyl records pressed, but unfortunately many bands steamroll through the process without thinking through all of the disadvantages of selling vinyl. That’s not to say that it’s not worth it, but records are entirely different animals than CDs, and their purchase and sale must be approached differently.
Here are some things to consider before your band invests in vinyl to sell to your fans.
1. Vinyl Is Expensive. You’re probably looking at a cost of somewhere around $1400 for 500 records–and that’s the cost for a 45 RPM. Before your band has vinyl pressed, figure out how much you’ll have to charge to make up the cost, how many records you’ll have to sell, and seriously evaluate whether your fan base will be able to cover that cost. If not, work on selling CDs and other types of media first, and wait to have albums pressed until your band has the necessary fan base to make LPs a successful business venture.
2. Vinyl is Fragile. You’ve got to be able to store vinyl properly, or you’re going to end up with a lot of expensive paperweights–and not very good paperweights, either. Store records in a dry, cool place (but not cold!) and never keep them in the back of a car or another dangerous location. Only take a small number of LPs to each show, about one and a half times what you think that you’ll sell, and be careful with them. Fans won’t buy damaged merchandise, especially the types of fans that buy records.
3. Vinyl is Cool. Besides these two problems, remember that vinyl is a hot item–sales of vinyl were up across the board in 2008, while CD sales were down. Vinyl is definitely a sellable item for bands at their live shows, especially if a coupon or card is sold with the vinyl that allows the buyer to download high-quality mp3s of the album online (many vinyl companies will take care of this). The mixed digital-analog format appeals to a lot of music fans.
Did your band have vinyl made? Post any tips in our comments section below.