The Mess Of The Record Press - Please Read

Hello everyone,

A slight departure from my usual blogging, in that I want to talk to you about the current (and general) state of the vinyl pressing industry.

Its fucked.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

 

Haha, I kid...well...sort of...But there are significant changes (problems) going on and it is an industrywide issue. So I am writing this so that you know what is going on when it comes to pressing records and how it affects Kniteforce, but also our dear friends at Liftin' and Blue Badger and Time Tunnel and MPS and Cantina and, well, everyone.

In a nutshell - demand for vinyl massively outstrips the availability within the pressing plants, and it has come to a fairly alarming head in recent weeks. A little history:

Vinyl is an OLD medium. We are talking everyone wearing a hat in a sepia toned world where leeches were used as medicine old. The actual making of a record is a long drawn out multistep process that has changed very little from its inception, but involves cutting the music into an acetate, “growing” the A/B side stampers in vats of chemicals, heating up plastic with a huge boiler then splatting it between two stampers, having a label stick itself to the hot plastic, leaving it to cool, and then putting it in a sleeve and selling it to everyone.
This is why, when CDs were invented, the entire music industry (other than Djs) farted itself happy with the speed and ease of music reproduction. Less hassle, less expensive, easier to manufacture - perfect. Hoorah!
And because of that massive shift to CD sales in the 1990's, the vinyl selling side of the industry died very quickly, except for niche markets like records for Djs and the odd big act that still wanted to do vinyl. 
And because of that change, many pressing plants died, so by the year 2000, there were very few clinging to life.

Roll on to the last 6-10 years, and the vinyl market has had a steady increase in popularity with no sign of it decreasing. Only now, there are only about ten major pressing plants left in the world, and a bunch of smaller ones, and very few new ones because, as noted before, it is a horrendous format in many respects, a lot of work and hard to make a profit.

The situation has finally reached a fairly critical point in that the major labels are now pressing so many new Micheal Jackson or $FaceRapper22 records (fuck knows) that they are squeezing out smaller labels like myself and others. And by squeezing out, I mean that quite literally. I am hearing of labels struggling to find anywhere to press anything.

Many plants have closed their doors entirely - if you email asking to press a record or eve for a quote, you get ignored, or told that they are not taking on any new customers.

Almost all that are “allowing” you to press with them are now quoting 6 months or longer turnaround.

This means that anything I cut today is likely going to be arriving in January 2022, and I know other labels are being told the same thing.

The pressing plants are also not allowing people to increase previously made orders. Always before, if you ordered 300, you could ask to up it to 500 and they would accommodate you if they could. Now? Not so much. They are likely to tell you to do a new order and those records will be with you in 6-8 months. This has resulted in a weird situation for us, and I am sure for other labels too. Record sales have exploded recently, yet we cannot get enough pressed.

I flatter myself I suppose when I say that KF is one of the larger record labels in our scene - we press a LOT of records, some smaller runs, some larger, from multiple labels. So we have some “power” I suppose? But still, we remain very small compared to Universal or whoever, so when one of the big labels comes in with orders for 100,000 units, we get shoved aside.

And of course, there is not much any of us smaller labels can do. We cannot move to another plant for reasons mentioned above. Either no one is taking new people, or they are charging extraordinary amounts of money to press a record - we have been quoted DOUBLE what we now pay from the few plants willing to consider taking us on, making it pointless to do.

A little side note here: Another effect of this huge demand is that sometimes the standard of the pressings have gone down. There are more and more cases of warped or dished records and it doesnt matter which plant you are talking about. This is due, we suspect, to less care being taken at some places, as well as changes in the base plastic.
From most pressing plants perspective, if the record plays the music fine, it is fine, and they won’t take it back or refund you. If you say its no good for scratching or mixing or whatever, their answer is “that’s not what you are meant to be doing with the record - its for playing music.” They view it like a car - it gets you from A to B. If you wanna use the car to go round a rally race track, that’s your business, but its not designed for that so if it doesn’t work well for it, then…”eh”. Anyway....

So we are now in a situation where you cannot argue about pressing turnaround times or dished records very much because the demand is so heavy they literally dont need your business and know you have nowhere else to go. If you threaten to leave they happily show you the door. Ask for a refund and they happily show you the door. Supply and demand - they don’t need us, and they know it, basically.

It is a problem.

Now, I have painted a fairly bleak picture, so here is the good news. Despite all this, many pressing plants DO care about their customers, they remember loyalty, and they do want you to have the best product you can get. We work with Curved, who are stunning, and who press via MPO (one of the major plants), and I know other plants and factors are also very good. BUT no matter where they fall on the “nice” scale - they all have the same problem. They are overwhelmed, overworked, and floundering in a sea of orders they are trying to complete.

I will also say, my pressing plant has said “its gonna be a 6 month turnaround” before, and then it has been basically the same as normal. This is because they HAVE to look at the worse case scenario and pressing times. A machine breaking down, a lack of plastic, a sudden increase in the need for $FaceRapper22s debut album (he is so hot right now), any of that happening is a major problem that disrupts everything. So while we have to prepare for drawn out deliveries etc, it may not be as bad as I have made it out to be.

Even if it is, records will still arrive, the vast majority will be flat, and everything will be fine. KF has a LOT of things on the go, so they will come in bunches here and there over the coming months. There might be some longer gaps is all. Some of the labels that usually press less will have bigger gaps though, and in either case, we will all need your support.

Still, all of this is to say to you: If you are buying records regularly, you are going to need to get used to things being slower, and I ask you to try and be forgiving of unexpected delays and issues that we cannot predict until they happen.

Please be patient with all of the underground record labels releasing music right now. I know the vast majority of the owners, and they are good people who are doing their very best to get you your music. But they are in an industry that is in a total mess. If you are feeling frustration about delays or whatever, know that we are too, and know we are doing all we can to get the music to you, but much of it is quite literally outside of our control. So your understanding is really appreciated!

Nice one,

Chris

 

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djDMS

I can do patience. Massive respect and a big thank you for all you do. I'm sure the majority of people understand and are right behind you.

Commented 26th May 2021 12:55

hseiken

As much as my total amount of expertise in this matter could be written in one word ('nothing'), might I offer completely uninformed suggestions as a solution to this problem: 1.) Tell Universal and other big labels to open their own pressing plant cause fuck them, they can afford it. Or at the very least, fund existing ones to set up an expansion that handles their stupidly large orders that will sit in the back of Best Buy and American Eagle Outfitters for years before being sold because their requests in general are fucking rude. No one wants New Kids on the Block on vinyl, not even back then. 2.) I suppose inventing a smaller, less intensive, cheaper-without-sacrificing-quality-or-requiring-new-gear-to-use alternative is out of the question? 3.) Enjoy the digital version until the existing plants get to your order. Be sure to set aside a special day to enjoy the record upon delivery in what will surely be a rare item going forward. Surely, one of these solutions will work, right? :(

Commented 26th May 2021 01:01

Leemcuk

Thanks buddy. That was very informative insight. Now wheres my vinyl. πŸ‘πŸ˜‚πŸŽ΅

Commented 26th May 2021 01:19

JamieS23

The service has always been excellent, big up for all the information above.

Commented 26th May 2021 01:36

AndyD75

Thanks for the heads up!! πŸ˜‰πŸ‘ŠπŸ»

Commented 26th May 2021 01:40

djyt

Clearly it's time for Jimmy J and Cru-L-T to get signed to Universal and release an endless torrent of 1995 style remixes of Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen.

Commented 26th May 2021 01:50

Malcolmpaine

Big big respect to you Chris, all the KF crew and the smaller labels, for persisting and suffering people’s frustrations with delays. Not being a dj who relies on vinyl for sets, I’m always happy to wait, with most releases accompanied by the digitals that I can use to play out, and then have time to savour the black crack itself whenever it may arrive, as it is then a lovely permanent physical medium. Respect and long may the awesome music continue. ✊🏻πŸ”₯πŸ”ŠπŸ™πŸ»

Commented 26th May 2021 03:09

Raw10

Thanks for everything you do, especially explaining stuff like this it helps understand what your up against!

Commented 26th May 2021 04:04

DazW

I'm sure, as others have stated, we are totally grateful, for what you all, are doing. Just seeing what releases are on the horizon makes it all worth waiting for. Nothing but respect to you all and looking forward to what the future holds!!

Commented 26th May 2021 04:54

F_Dippert

As always, wow. So much information, that's what i wish from so many shops. I can just speak for myself, i think i have patience with orders. Keep up your good work, i'm with you ✊

Commented 26th May 2021 05:13

BassForceOne1

Since the demand is so mental, why don’t you get together with likeminded people, put the proposal on paper go to the bank, take out a business loan and build the plant yourself.? Plant that only caters to small independent labels, corner that market! If what you’re saying is true, there’s a bunch of moniz to be made. And banks like moniz.

Commented 26th May 2021 05:38

charlie_eon

I am here for the music and to support those making it, I can wait however long is needed! Thank you!!!

Commented 26th May 2021 06:50

Tr0uble

I have heard of these issues and I fully understand your issues so thanks for being open and honest :D <3

Commented 27th May 2021 06:12

Tizwarz

Keep up the good work, looking forward to the boxsets and further 12" drops. I can wait , we will not be defeated by the big guns.

Commented 27th May 2021 08:07

Tinglefinger

I would rather wait for my vinyl than not have it at all. Keep up the good work.

Commented 28th May 2021 11:45

Hyper-Trax

The big labels will ditch the vinyl medium again before long, but we’ll all still be here. last week I found out that a record I was waiting for these last two years had just been cancelled (I received a refund at least). KF and family just keep on doing what you do πŸ‘.

Commented 28th May 2021 12:30

Sintel

Thanks for the insight respect ✊🏻

Commented 3rd June 2021 12:26

yahooeny

I'm gonna be odd man out and make everyone including likely you angry by saying this: If vinyl manufacturing availability is such a problem, why is your digital distribution so neglected? Ok ok ok! I get it, I am not the average Kniteforce customer. I still love the music but I have not a single crevice in my heart for vinyl. For the all the reasons you stated, it is an outdated, unreliable, and frankly pollutant recording format that I don't need more of in my house. Ok ok ok, but I concede most of your other customers want to buy vinyl. But in these trying times why push back releases by six months or even more when you could be releasing digital today and introduce vinyl later? Or perhaps more conservatively, why keep punishing those who want to purchase digital? I think I've complained before here about how bad the digital experience is on this store. Clearly the introduction of FLAC as a downloadable format is lost on you but it's really annoying that the WAV files have no metadata whatsoever and has to be manually copied over from the MP3s. Metadata IS supported in through extensions like BWF which are recognized by every daw, music player, and digital DJing mixing software. Or, AIFF has native support for metadata and since it is basically WAV with metadata it is also near-universally supported. That along with decoupling the download of lossless from MP3 would go a long way towards improving the download experience. Also I am very frustrated that time and time again really neat bonus stuff is often limited to first pressings, it feels very hostile to anyone who is either waiting for digital downloads or just miss the first run. I think I've said before, the JAKAZiD remix to Ruffneck is priceless to me, if I could've gotten it and the rest of the Acen Trip II The Moon remix CD in lossless like the rest of the boxset (instead of just mere MP3 which is how it is presented in the digital download) I would've gladly paid the same price as the full boxset and I wouldn't have been nearly as impatient about the wait for the boxsets would be pressed.... because I wouldn't be waiting for the boxset I would've already had everything I wanted. I'm gonna come back to the point that I LOVE the music that Kniteforce releases and reissues. In our last email conversation you insinuated that because I have no love for vinyl I am not a prospective customer of Kniteforce and that is clearly not true. I AM a customer of Kniteforce in SPITE of my disdain for vinyl and I would be buying a whole lot more if digital downloads were more convenient, and if getting bonus content wasn't tied up in attempts to drive FOMO buys. Oh I guess the Thrilla vinyls have sold out which means I'll never get to buy it... That makes me feel great about buying from Kniteforce. That's all I have to say, I'm not gonna smear the comments any further from here on out.

Commented 4th June 2021 05:48 | Updated 4th June 2021 05:50

DazW

I'm happy for pre-sale. It took me 28 years to get a copy of the Champion Sound Alliance Remix, I can wait a few month for new/repress vinyl 😁 Respect and keep up the fantastic work πŸ‘πŸ»

Commented 15th June 2021 04:15

REMANISS

I'll be patient mate I've followed you from day dot and will continue to do so Chris!! Maybe all u labels chip in and build ur own plant lool

Commented 31st July 2021 05:59