All The Vinyl Problems and Solutions
And welcome to the “depressing state of vinyl and what we are gonna do about it” blog.
I am making this post because I find I am answering the same questions repeatedly, so instead of doing that, I can link people to this post and all will be explained nicely!
In a nutshell: Records are delayed because there are not enough pressing plants in the world to meet the current demand for vinyl.
Vinyl has risen in popularity by an insane amount - I cannot offhand remember the figures, but it has been a steady rise in popularity for the last few four or five years, and then late 2020 into 2021 it rose by 400%, or something crazy.
Much of this has been driven by hipsters buying reissues of Fleetwood Mac or whatever hipsters buy. Vinyl is basically the “in” format for music, and has overtaken CD sales for the first time in decades.
The problem is, in the early 2000s, vinyl was deemed dead. Even in our own scene, very few labels still pressed vinyl, and that was the same worldwide for pretty much all the music industry. This meant that many of the record pressing plants simply went out of business. When they died, machines were destroyed, and skilled staff left the industry and did not pass on their skills.
Roll forward to now, and you have unprecedented demand for 12" vinyl, and only 10 major pressing plants in the world. There are smaller plants of course, but when you combine all the plants pressing ability, it is still massively less than is needed to cover the amount of orders.
The major labels have flooded the industry, and are busy ordering 5000 pink Madonna represses and 10,000 Metallica albums, and pressing plants would of course much rather press 10,000 of something than 500 of something. So they accept those big orders and push the smaller orders to the side.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there is also a shortage of PVC used for making vinyl. AND there are shortages on the paper parts.
Oh, and prices have risen by 20%.
The result? Labels such as ours, and the vast majority of smaller independent labels are forced to wait for their orders. Turnaround time - that is, how long it takes from cutting a record to having it released, has risen from 3 months to 9-10 months for many labels. As an example, last week we cut the Nookie Box Set. But we are unlikely to see finished versions of that before Spring 2022.
To sum up: Its harder to get records pressed, it takes much longer, and is much more expensive. This is a problem, and there are no easy solutions.
Let me try and answer the questions that usually follow:
1. So when will the presale records arrive?
The problem is, now smaller labels have to wait for a “gap” in the schedule at pressing plants. Which means, the pressing plants no longer give even estimates. Kniteforce and its subsidiary labels currently has over 50 releases cut and ready to press, and we have NO information about any of them. We have been told “2022 but if there is space earlier, then we will press some of them”. This is, of course, useless. But it is why we cannot tell you when we expect records. Could be next week, next month, or next year, your guess is as good as mine.
*KBOGR46T - Baraka, NRG Box Set, KF153 Jonny L have all been pressed and are on their way. They were meant to arrive last week, but as yet, we still haven’t seen them. But they are at least pressed. Liquids album should meet the deadline. Everything else? See above.
2. Surely there is space at some pressing plants….
Nope. We have looked and asked pretty much everywhere. China will press some fast, but you have to pay upfront and there is no confidence that the end product will of good quality, or even useable.
3. Why don’t the majors set up their own plants?
They don’t need to. This situation is fine for them, they get their records while we wait. Plus they believe the vinyl market to be a fad, so they are not investing in the infrastructure for something they think has no future.
4. Why don’t the independent labels band together and make their own pressing plant?
Because record labels never band together to do anything.
5. Why doesn’t Kniteforce set up their own plant
We are actually investing in one, but it is not easy or fast. It takes a LOT of money, skilled workers, time and patience. We might have something going in 2023. Might.
6. So….what are the options?
Well, there are a few things we can do, but nothing will fix the central problem any time soon, so its a case of adapting as best we can to the current situation.
A1 Pressing More Test Presses
We usually get 5-15 test presses. We can actually get up to 100 should we want to. The machine that does test presses is separate from the machine that does the finished run - I don’t know why. But it means test presses still arrive promptly. And we can up the number we get and start selling them on the store. Its not ideal, but it might be useful for certain projects.
A2 Pressing on 10” Vinyl
The huge delays are only effecting the 12” press right now. 10” and 7” can be done with the usual speed and etc. 7" is mostly useless, and of course, 10” is also not ideal for many things, but, for example, the upcoming Just Another Label represses will be on 10”, because they were single track per side. And we have some other projects that the format will suit.
Our cutting house says they can cut two tracks on one side of a 10” and have it the same volume as a 12”. I am going to test that with something too. And personally, I like 10” vinyl. But we couldn’t do the Nookie Box Set as a 10”, that’s just not going to work, so it is a limited solution for certain releases.
A3 Doing More Digital
We were going to do this anyway, but we are looking at ways to do more digital releases, mainly on USB. We are looking at doing this:
This is as the name suggests, a USB that contains some exclusive new music, but also “promo” tracks from upcoming vinyl releases. We will test this out next month.
This is really what we are going to have to do with the majority of releases. And as a vinyl buying customer, it is what you will have to get used to, unfortunately. You will see this across the entire old skool, jungle and rave vinyl market. Things are going to get slow. Now, what SHOULD happen is after the initial delay taking us into 2022, the records will come out, and to you it will seem like normal. We will have regular releases. Its just, they all took longer to get here. Its the upcoming 4-6 months that are going to be weird. The only small plus side is that its hardly like our releases will go out of date. They did that 25 years ago haha!
A5 What will happen with PreSales?
People have asked me about the presale of Dj Force & The Evolution and The House Crew box sets. But honestly I am very reluctant to put up a pre sale on something that I have no idea of its arrival. I asked you guys a while back if you were okay with waiting, but at that time I was thinking 3-4 months, not “some point in the future”. I may still have to do Pre Sales on things, but the way it will work is that I have put the orders in already. So, I have ALREADY ordered Dj Force & The Evolution, and The House Crew box sets. Represses are out of the question at this time.
So when a presale DOES go live, it will mean “buy it or miss out” - which is exactly what a pre sale is meant to avoid. But what else can be done? The options are simply not there anymore. We are back to "guess how many are needed" but now with an added "nothing we can do about it". Its crap. But thats all there is left to do.
A6 Emergency Re-Cuts
I am considering recutting a few projects to 10” so they get here earlier, but…that is a very expensive solution.
And that is where we are. I very well understand how incredibly frustrating this is for you guys. For us, it is the same, only worse, because as a record label, our survival kind of depends on having records to sell lol. Kniteforce is in a very strong position with a lot of great music and amazing artists, and we have always been very careful on managing what we do and how we do it. Nevertheless, your support over the next few months will be critical. It may be that I will have to open Pre Sales on some things with no definitive release date. I will try to avoid that because its a lame option. It may be that we will have to change some vinyl releases to digital releases. Also lame. But its choppy waters we are navigating, and we are doing our best, so please, support us and other labels where you can, but above all, PLEASE be patient. When we say “there is nothing we can do” about the vinyl delays, we mean that literally. We are totally at the pressing plants mercy, with no options but to wait at this point.
But to leave you on a happy note….we have signed The Criminal Minds for new material and other excites, plus we have two other MAJOR deals on the cards that will blow your mind…2022 might be slow and difficult in some ways, but I can guarantee its also going to be incredible music wise!!!