Vinyl’s Demand and Slipping Supply

Marc Hogan wrote a piece for Stereogum towards the end of July that got a lot of buzz, and rightfully so.

Vinyl right now is at a point of multiple paradoxes. One of the biggest involves the manufacturing side. For all the headaches caused by pressing delays, the backup at the plants is a sign there’s demand for more records, not fewer. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and the problem is too much demand. While that isn’t economically ideal, it’s surely better than the alternative.

The title of Hogan’s piece, and the main focus of it, is “Have We Reached Peak Vinyl?” The discussion of peak vinyl isn’t as much of an interest to me as the discussion over supply and demand. If the production times for this current “peak” were cut in half, manufacturing times for vinyl would still take two or more months when all is said and done. That’s a frustrating reality for a portion of the industry that is booming.

Vinyl production consists of several steps:

  • Audio turn in
  • Test press approval
  • Artwork preflight
  • Product order
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Shipping and delivery

I took a look at the manufacturing turnaround times that Bad Timing has seen from our start a couple of years ago to the times we’re seeing now. They’re eye-opening.

BTR-005/006: Mansions - New Best Friends + The Biggest Lie b/w Tangerine 7″

  • 01/02/14: Audio turned in
  • 01/23/14: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • 02/19/14: Vinyl shipped and delivered

BTR-008: Knuckle Puck - The Weight That You Buried

  • 01/21/14: Audio turned in
  • 02/24/14: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • 04/17/14: Vinyl shipped and delivered
  • 04/24/14: Repress ordered due to high demand
  • 06/10/14: Second pressing shipped and delivered

BTR-012: Knuckle Puck - While I Stay Secluded

  • 08/27/14: Audio turned in
  • 09/26/14: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • 11/07/14: Vinyl shipped and delivered

BTR-017: Mansions - Dig Up The Dead (Acoustic)

  • 09/08/14: Audio turned in
  • 10/13/14: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • 12/03/14: Vinyl shipped and delivered

BTR-025: Kevin Devine, Meredith Graves - Devinyl Splits No. 3

  • 02/03/15: Audio turned in
  • 02/23/15: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • 06/09/15: Vinyl shipped and delivered

[To Be Completed] BTR-029: Pentimento - I, No Longer 

  • 04/20/15: Audio turned in
  • 05/29/15: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • Expected shipment: 10/07/15

[To Be Completed] BTR-036: To Be Announced

  • 07/28/15: Audio turned in
  • 08/20/15: Test presses and artwork preflight approved
  • Expected shipment: 01/18/16

If you read from top to bottom of the timeline above, it’s a big shift over a small amount of time. It’s very worthwhile to note that at any pressing plant you go through a revolving door of Record Store Day push and pulls, heat / work delays, random acts of annoyances, and just general errors or slippages on all ends.

The experience we’ve had at Bad Timing (that also mirrored my time with Jade Tree) is frustrating because of these timelines. It’s hard to pay for and plan a release while managing cash flow over such a long period of time. And beyond that, it’s difficult for bands as well. Vinyl is often the focal point for online label sales for music and in-person sales for bands at shows as well.

Do we delay bands going out on tour until we can release a new album in all formats at the same time, or do we delay the release of the vinyl format if pressing times continue to slip?

I don’t know the answer, but it’s been on my mind for the past few weeks. If pressing times continue to take a quarter of the year (or more) once you factor in shipping and distribution timelines - do we delay our plans for the vinyl or do we begin to move on without it?