Vinyl's Not Dead: Here's How Small Bands Can Make Their Own
When I was in eighth grade, I asked for a record player. It was a little before the time that Urban Outfitters started shoving the new albums down your throat as soon as you walked through the doors. It’s the most nostalgic way to listen to music at home (next to the adorably outdated Walkman). Playing a vinyl album all the way through is a true form of appreciating music, and one Alec Boyd understands that too.
A young Chicago native, Boyd started collecting records after his uncle gave him more than 100 vinyl albums and a turntable. He started hanging out at the record store down the street from his home, popping in to check out the $3 records on display more than four times a week.
Boyd is certainly on-trend. In 2015 alone, vinyl sales spiked 30 percent, going up 260 percent since 2009. Steve Sheldon, the president of Rainbo Records—the oldest vinyl pressing plant in the U.S.—told Forbes the increase in interest has to do with the experience of taking a vinyl “out of the jacket, and dropping that needle down, looking at the artwork; any artist that is anyone today is putting their product on vinyl.”
So, after years of chasing down and collecting originally pressed records, in addition to being a member of many small bands, Boyd is starting Being There Records, a company that’s using crowdfunding to allow lesser-known bands to manufacture their own records (shit is expensive). The current manufacturers haven’t received new equipment for a few decades, so getting on this train is harder for smaller bands to do. This company is a new resource for bands to press their records in a way they couldn’t before. We spoke to Boyd to get the low-down on the project.
You’re currently studying at University of Texas right?
I am withdrawn actually as of right now. I took the last semester off, the spring, and it is looking like we will not be re-enrolling in the fall, but there might be some last minute changes.
Is there a specific reason?
To pursue this! And kind of see where it goes.
What were you studying?
I was studying economics and math.
Were you looking more into the business side? Is that how you got into [Being There Records]?
I was actually trying to steer away from that. I started out being a finance guy and then I ended up switching to economics because it really spoke to me and that’s something I’ve always kind of had a knack for. I was kind of looking to do that stuff, but this was kind of staring at me.
As far as vinyl goes, it’s really interesting because all the machines in the 80s and 90s were scrapped when CDs started coming around. These machines kind of sat dormant, and then we had a fixed supply during these last eight years while this resurgence of vinyls coming through. So we had a fixed supply while things were growing and growing and growing; they’re starting to take off right now but now we’re going to get new machines and I expect the supply to alleviate and make things easier.
I kind of used the combination of all my skills: You have to look at trends and math and stats and music and try to combine them into this effort.
From band to vinyl, how does the process work?
To get the stuff put onto records is kind of complicated. There’s not a whole lot of people that know how to do it, and there are plenty of more people now that know how to record on a laptop than they do this. It’s a very complicated process, and not every band is as savvy or can make those phone calls to figure out exactly what needs to be done. We want to take that process out of the hands of the band so that they’re focused on making music. The only thing that the band has to give up is their own artwork and the content for the music or whatever they’re doing. That’s the only thing the band has to fly on there and they get to pick the price for it.
We have a couple of different manufacturers, we’ll get a couple quotes and we’ll see which one. A big thing for records is turnaround time—that’s how fast someone can get it done—that’s usually our biggest decider, because all of the costs come in pretty close. We get that quote and the band thinks that’s all good, we decide on a price and royalties then they can start a campaign. The campaign is almost essentially pre-order. The only difference is the band has a finished record at this point, or they will by the time they’re expecting record turnaround. Then the band hands in a completed project and that’s what we’re putting on the crowd-funding page. It’s up to the band to get the word of mouth out because it’s their baby, but once it hits the goal we can go ahead and start the whole process for them and the band has nothing else to worry about from that point. And since they’re all crowd-funded and pre-ordered we do direct shipping to the consumer/whoever pre-ordered it and then the band has an option to buy a couple if they want to sell them at shows or something like that.
So it’s a pretty personal experience then, right? They’d be working with you the whole time?
Yeah! So right now this is the beta; the beta means I’m doing all the backhand work. I’m sending out all the emails, I’m handling all the quotes and moving all of those pieces along. So once we have the validated metrics then we can raise some money like a traditional tech-startup and then try to automate the entire process. A band would be able to click through and instantly get a quote.
What do you want people to really know about Being There Records?
Bands through the streaming model don’t get paid enough, and I want to help the bands get money in their pockets because they’re not making enough on that. And then we get to do it in this great way which I think is music’s best format, and we get to sell it and help them. But being music’s best format, it can be a bit expensive to front. We’re glad to start helping bands who would really like to have this done but it was never a possibility for them. We want to make it a possibility for them.
Stay tuned to Milk for more musical innovations.
Images courtesy of Being There Records.