Should you release a vinyl record in 2016? | Features | MN2S

In November 2014, vinyl record sales hit an 18 year high in the UK. In 2015, vinyl records are thought to have grown by 53% since that record. These statistics came off the back of some major vinyl releases from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Rey and vinyl crusader Jack White. In fact, only four of the top ten best-selling vinyl records of the 2010s are reissues. In light of this, surely 2016 is the perfect time for an artist to release an album on vinyl. But is it really that straightforward?

Even with this massive sales increase, vinyl is still majorly outperformed by digital distribution services across the board. And with streaming still a huge threat to the traditional industry, and vinyl records costing a lot to produce, releasing an album might be more trouble than it’s worth. We take a look at some of the most important things to consider when making a decision.

Who is your audience?

The best-selling LP record in the US this year was Taylor Swift’s 1989, at 34,000 copies. The second biggest-seller was Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, which sold 32,000. These figures seem similar on the surface, but further examination reveals an important consideration when releasing an LP. While Swift sold more records, vinyl sales only account for 2.5 per cent of 1989’s total sales in 2015. For Stevens, it is completely different. Vinyl sales of Carrie & Lowell make up nearly one third of the album’s total 2015 sales.

This reveals something important about Stevens’ audience. For whatever reason, they are the kind of people who want to buy albums on vinyl. Swift’s fanbase, perhaps due to its enormity, includes only a very small proportion of vinyl lovers. An indie artist releasing an album on vinyl ought to bear this in mind. If your fans are likely to listen to music on vinyl, it makes sense to release it in that format. If they would prefer to listen to digital files anyway, there is no reason to do this.

MN2S co-founder and director David Elkabas says, “Vinyl is a format for real fans who are passionate about music.” According to Elkabas, people who buy vinyl are active consumers, dedicated to building a personal music collection, and avoiding being force-fed the watered-down music of the mainstream.

Broadly speaking, fans of certain genres can often be found to have these increased levels of dedication. Elkabas says MN2S is lucky to be working with labels in the electronic genre, because fans of electronic music are still passionate about the music they buy, and therefore interested in purchasing it on vinyl.

The majority of electronic vinyl releases are 12” singles, ready for DJs to play in the clubs. There are countless DJs who only play vinyl in their sets, and thanks to this there will always be a built in audience for electronic music on vinyl. But if your LP or single is not likely to sell 34,000 copies, is vinyl actually worth the cost of production?

The price to pay

Vinyl production packages from pressing plants such as Record Industry can cost upwards of £1,000 for as few as 500 copies – and that doesn’t even include VAT, transport or distribution costs.

MN2S tries to help labels who want to release vinyl in the best way possible. Often, we can secure “P&D” deals for our labels, which mean they don’t have to pay for manufacturing costs at all. If a deal like this can be made, the decision to release vinyl can be a lot easier. But if not, production costs have to be kept in mind.

Why release a record?

The most important thing to think about is why you would want to release your song or album in vinyl format. If you’re trying to sell big, it might not be the best approach. It is much less effort for both the producer and the consumer if a song is distributed digitally. But if your target audience is the kind of listener who wants to put in that extra investment, it is worth going the extra mile, and putting out your music on vinyl this year.

Featured Image: Spinning Vinyl by Bob Clark via Pexels.

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