PropertyofZack is beyond thrilled to be taking the wraps off of our new editorial section today! Over the years we’ve been happy to provide you with the best news and original content we’ve had to offer, and Perspective is an outlet for us to dig a little deeper into the issues that affect our music scene. Perspective will enable us to provide you with quality you expect and the insight you deserve.
Ever wonder why your vinyl pre-orders don’t arrive on time? And why those delays only get further delayed? In our first Perspective, Editor in Chief Erik van Rheenen tackles those questions and more. In part one of our two part feature, PropertyOfZack reached out to top vinyl outlets such as Triple Crown, Topshelf, Paper + Plastick, Shop Radio Cast, American Dream, Animal Style to get to the bottom of Why Your Vinyl Is Not At Your Doorstep.
Even when stuck in traffic on a bustling Wednesday afternoon, Fred Feldman can’t help but laugh when the subject of vinyl delays comes up.
“My favorite subject,” the founder of Triple Crown Records says with an almost involuntary chuckle.
Fans know the feeling. Feldman knows the feeling. Heck, most label managers know the feeling. From albums getting pushed back a day or two to the now infamous elusive Mightier Than Sword Records Take Off Your Pants And Jacket pressing, vinyl delays have become a footnote in the recent renaissance of the format.
“Vinyl has exploded, and there’s not a lot of new pressing plants setting up shop,” explains Feldman. “We’re really at the mercy of the plants.”
Feldman loves vinyl. The renaissance of artwork the format spearheaded. The warmth that comes from having to sit down and pay attention while a record spins on a turntable. The intricacies of sound.
But manufacturing vinyl, he says, is a big investment. The risk/reward variable is tantamount. Triple Crown tries to battle delays by ensuring parts and masters arrive to the plant on time.
“Once you get a test pressing back, there’s no guarantee it will work,” he says. “Sometimes you have to tweak it two or three times to get the best master possible.”
Thomas Nassiff, label manager for Paper + Plastick Records, half-jokingly considers himself an expert on the topic.
“We’ve had at least a partial vinyl delay for almost every release,” he says. “In an ideal world, we’d be able to control everything and prevent that.”
Nassiff is a vinyl collector. He’s only been working at P+P for the last two years, but he’s grasped the feeling from both sides of the coin, as a fan and, in the past year, as label manager.
“I hate waiting for records myself,” he said. “Our Flatfoot 56 record has been delayed since its release date in July, and I’m still waiting for my copy. The second we get records in, we put everything on hold and get it out to people who preordered.”
Paper + Plastick tinkers with creative packaging, but Nassiff refuses to make excuses for releasing albums on “some crazy color” causing delays. Some, if not most, problems are out of the label’s hands: when Paper + Plastick pressed Anthony Raneri’s EP, New Cathedrals, with coffee grounds, the plant sent 100 fewer records than expected.
99% of records from No Sleep delayed? Jesus.
Hey everyone! I’ll be posting details on the meetup here as well as on twitter. As we get closer to the weekend you can expect to see some of the following:
- Travel Plans and Suggestions: How are people getting from MKE to ORD, where people are getting good deals for lodging, etc., MegaBus, car…
And yet, we’ve gotten to see Cap’n Jazz, Sunny Day Real Estate, Braid, Christie Front Drive, Penfold, and now Promise Ring reunite.
We receive questions every day asking how we feel about such-and-such band. Often the focus is on how we feel about their success. “How do you feel about ________ blowing up?” or “What does it mean that _______ style of music is so big right now?” etc.
I often refrain from answering those questions directly. Partly because not everyone likes their business in the street and I try to respect that. Also, I don’t want to seem like I’m cutting anyone down by being realistic.
So here, I’m going to talk about “blowing up” in general terms and without naming bands.
No one is blowing up. The success people perceive is exactly that: Perception. It’s usually a far cry from reality.
A few days ago, I went out to eat with a friend who works in music. His label has made a couple bands a lot of money. And when I say “a lot,” I mean amounts that balance out to “per member salaries” putting them in an upper-middle class earning bracket. (Note: Those bands played “underground” shows but were never what any thinking person would consider bands tied to a subculture.)
“Everyone is jumping ship on pop-punk,” he told me. “Every band people thought would hit has been a dud. It keeps labels lights on, but no one is breaking through to larger audiences.”
He told me one current tour featuring some of the buzzier pop-punk acts has been doing 40% business on average. That means venues are half-full, which means guarantees are being paid out of pocket by promoters, which means the chances of those bands playing rooms that size again is nil.
And those are the bands people thought they could count on. The tour is underwritten by a large name in that style of music. One that is supposed to know the market.
If pop-punk isn’t a sound investment, think about hardcore and punk and underground metal. Do you believe there is a hardcore band playing in 2011 capable of living adult lives off the money being made? There isn’t. If you’re 18, it’s possible 15k seems like a lot to you. It’s not. And the bulk of bands are making FAR less than that, gross.
And that word “gross” seems to be the thing no one understands. Net income, some bands do alright. But after the bills are paid, the take-home is terrible.
When fans see a band sell “a lot” (there’s that word again) of merch, they don’t seem to understand that merch isn’t free. 1/3 of the money earned is going back to the merch company as payment.
When fans see a band “pack a room” they don’t understand that the room has to be paid for by the promoter. 300 people (a funny number considering most “blowing up bands” are bringing fewer than 100) at $10 a head HAS NEVER equaled 3k in the band’s pocket. Support acts are being paid out of that. Room and security is being paid out from that. Hospitality is being paid out from that. Promoter profit is being paid out from that. And while $1,000 as a final takeaway sounds awesome, I want you to think about 5 adults splitting that money. Then I want you to think about the fact that it’s difficult to maintain that pace in any one country for more than 30 days as a headliner. Want to do a 60 day tour? You could ring the US three times during that period. Trust me, time number three will have significantly fewer humans than time number two.
So the band does support tours to put them in front of a new audience. That way they can continue touring the US without burning out their fans. But support acts make a fraction of what a headliner does. MANY support acts are chosen as a type of lowest-bid contracting. “Band _____ will do the tour for $100 a night,” says the supporting act’s booking agent. He/she is answered with, “Never heard of ‘em. Price is right though,” by the headliner’s booking agent. So that (possible) $1,000 a band was walking away with as a headliner is now a tenth of that as a supporting band.
The idea of a band “getting really big” is usually the product of a narrow field of vision. If you only expose yourself to media (including messageboards and Tumblr pages) that reinforce your expectations, you’ll come to believe they’re absolute. I just went to the Wikipedia page “List of Cognitive Biases” and had a difficult time deciding which one this belief was tied to; it seems rooted in at least six. So-and-so band is huge? They sold 3,000 records. That means fewer people bought their product than went into the Delaware Ave CVS in Delmar, NY today.
You can spot a true idiot when he/she asserts that, “it’s ok, because bands aren’t supposed to care about money or popularity; they should be in it for the music.” No shit. But the reality is that for a band to have instruments that transfer sound they need amps and both those things cost money. For bands to get to the shows they need a van and that van needs gas and both those things cost money. And that’s just the things people think of. Forget a bandmember’s personal bills, band debt, and a place to sleep when not on tour – ALL of which need to be hurdled before a band can consider itself a “functioning” act. And all of which need to be conquered before “blowing up” means anything other than, “Cool. This thing we do because we enjoy it has a few more people enjoying it. Neat, I guess, but as I was doing it for myself I only half care about that.”
People love the idea that the artists they use and dispose of like tampons are sacrificing everything for that privilege.
I didn’t intend for this to be another rant from a broke band about how music doesn’t pay. The point is, WE ALL KNOW IT DOESN’T PAY. IT’S ANNOYING AS SHIT WHEN MUSIC FANS DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT FACT. And I don’t say this for myself. No one accuses us of blowing up. I say this on behalf of my friends in bands that are “blowing up” who have to read on messageboards about how much money they make because they got a write-up in a music magazine with a readership 1/10 of what it was a decade ago. Or because a concentrated effort of 20 people on Tumblr have them looking like everyone talks about them. Meanwhile, these dudes are sleeping on each other’s couches … in their moms’ basements.
Naw, man. There isn’t a single “blowing up” band in “underground.” The ones doing the best are still on life-support with a ramen noodle IV drip.
[Edit: Misspoke on “gross” in initial post. Corrected.]
[Edit 2: Wrong “their.” Holy shit.]
[Edit 3: Failure to pluralize “moms.’” I’m really bad at this.]
(or, A Brief History Of My Experience With Punk)
I’m currently sitting in a basement in Wilmington, Delaware, about thirty miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In a matter of hours, Pennsylvanian emo punks Snowing will play their final show ever, or, as Dan Bassini put it on his…