custom vinyl record pressing, 19 Do’s and Don’ts When Releasing Your Very First Vinyl Record

19 Do’s and Don’ts When Releasing Your Very First Vinyl Record

Every artist you know has released at least one album on vinyl and that’s because it wasn’t just a fad or a glitch in the system…VINYL IS SO DARN BACK. It’s actually not hot news. Vinyl made its comeback in 2006 and last year, despite of or exactly because of the pandemic, vinyl has officially surpassed CD sales and it’s likely not to lose its charm (and sales) in the years to come.

If you want to give it a try, here are some do’s and don’ts when releasing vinyl records for the first time:

#1 GET YOUR TRACKS MASTERED FOR VINYL

Have a different master for vinyl especially if you have tracks that are heavy on stereo bass and  have high sibilance.

The last part of a music’s post production is the mastering. When mastering, engineers ensure that there is a consistency of sound between the different tracks of an album.

You want to get everything right when mastering your vinyl especially  separating the master of your tracks. It’s because the usual master you have of your music is for digital formats like CDs, and vinyl records with masters for a digital format would sound terrible.

Is there even a difference between masters for vinyl and masters for digital releases? There surely is. Unlike mastering for CDs, mastering your tracks for vinyl will have limitations when it comes to mastering tracks with songs that are heavy on stereo bass and high sibilance.

#2 DON’T OVER-COMPRESS THE MUSIC

An overly compressed track would badly affect the music produced when it is pressed on vinyl records.

Dynamic range compression, or simply called compression, is a very useful tool for music production. However, over-compressed tracks on vinyl records would really affect the sound it  produces because a vinyl record is an analog audio format where a contact needs to occur to produce music. The contact I’m talking about is the contact between the vinyl record and the needle of the turntable. If the music is too loud, similar to what we have in CDs, the needle may jump off the groove and ruin the listening party.

#3 DO MAKE THE BASS MONO

custom vinyl record pressing, 19 Do’s and Don’ts When Releasing Your Very First Vinyl Record

Low frequencies like bass tend to create big vertical grooves on the vinyl record, which could make records skip.

Mixing in mono means to have all your music played in one single channel or the center channel, hence the name mono. When mixing for vinyl, you have to make the bass mono. Do not do it only for the bassline but also all low frequencies of the track like the low end of a percussion or any bass effect. This has to be done because low frequencies tend to create big vertical grooves on the vinyl record. The long vertical grooves will make it hard for the needle to follow and will eventually result in skipping records.

#4 AVOID HIGH SIBILANCE

If high sibilance exists and is not corrected during the recording or mixing stage, it may cause tracking and a distortion of the sibilance when played.

The sibilance I’m talking about here is the vocal sibilance which refers to the sound produced by vocalists when they emphasize letters like “s”, “f” and “t” in words they sing. So before going into the process of vinyl manufacturing, sibilance should be checked. It would be better if there are no high sibilance during the recording phase itself. If there are high sibilances during the mixing then the engineer has no choice but to de-ess the whole track instead, which can affect the overall sound of the track.

#5 GIVE IMPORTANCE TO TRACK SEQUENCING

If you put all your information-heavy tracks on one side, these distortions would be very noticeable.

Track sequencing is a very important part in releasing a vinyl record. As you may have already known, vinyl records have physical limitations since it is a medium that needs contact with its player to produce music. It is highly advised that songs or tracks with more frequency information should not be put together in one side of the record. Take note that the inner grooves of a vinyl record are much more prone to distortions. If you put all your information-heavy tracks on one side, these distortions would be very noticeable. In order to minimize these, you’ll have to put your mellower songs on the last parts of side A and side B of the record.

#6 MAKE UP A REALISTIC TIMELINE

custom vinyl record pressing, 19 Do’s and Don’ts When Releasing Your Very First Vinyl Record

Manufacturing vinyl records requires a lot of time. Make sure you have a realistic schedule and stick to it. Make sure you factor in possible delays in production.

Most custom vinyl record pressing manufacturing companies offer around 6-8 weeks turnaround time, which can still increase depending on the circumstances. For one, manufacturing a vinyl requires several steps that need time and may not even be done by the manufacturer you’ve hired. Instead, they use other people or companies to make them such as the cutting of the lacquer with the master for vinyl, the electroplating of the cut lacquer, the pressing of the vinyl, and the packaging or the vinyl records.

Another is if you’re an indie artist. You would have to expect your order to be pushed back, especially if you’re working with manufacturers that also work with big record companies. They will surely prioritize them, so yours will have to be pushed back.

#7 MIND THE PLAYBACK TIME

Vinyl records are limited physical audio mediums and ,therefore, has limited playback time or songs it can hold.

Different vinyl record sizes have different playback lengths depending on the revolution per minute or rpm. There are three standard sizes for vinyl records, these are the 7”, 10” and 12” records. Below is a table that summarizes the different playback time of each size depending on the record’s rpm.

33 rpm 45 rpm
7” 7 min per side 4-6 min per side
10” 12-15 minutes per side 9-12 minutes per side
12” 15-22 minutes per side 12-15 minutes per side

From: @ScatRecords.com (https://www.scatrecords.com/what-is-size-of-vinyl-record/)

You need to also bear in mind that these are all theoretical and must not be tested to its limit. I suggest you cut around one or two minutes from each side to allow some space for your songs. If not, your engineer for mastering will have to compress your music and in turn create distortions.

#8 DO MAKE YOUR RECORD PRETTY

Don’t just release a record, release a record that really grabs attention.

There’s no doubt that designing your vinyl album beautifully is one of the do’s when releasing, not just your first ever vinyl record, but also for every record you release. There are many different designs for your vinyl records you can choose from when you decide to release an album. There are mono-colored ones, multi-colored, transparent, splattered, differently shaped, ones incorporated or pressed with materials like glitter, blood, hair, etc., and even ones that are made out of other materials such as chocolate and ice.

Another thing you should focus on is the artworks you’ll be having for your jacket, inserts (if you decide to have one), and sleeves. The dimensions of a vinyl jacket is maybe thrice, if not more, than the dimensions of a CD’s j-card. Printed sleeves are also very popular to most, if not all, modern vinyl albums being released today, so you may want to take advantage of those.

#9 PREPARE SOME MONEY

Remember that vinyl record is a very expensive format, and it’s not only because pressing vinyl is costly.

This is the most important do’s of all, if I may say so myself. Without the money, you’ll have to throw that dream of releasing your first vinyl record because vinyl manufacturing can’t be paid with mere change. You’ll have to save up if you really want that vinyl album release.

Well, let me justify its expensiveness for you.

One, vinyl requires a lot of time to be manufactured and it comes hand in hand with the need of greater manpower. Two, materials for vinyl pressing are not cheap, as I’ve also said earlier, it needs a lacquer and electroplated lacquer, so yeah, not cheap. And three, materials for vinyl packaging are bigger in dimension and, thus, costs more than usual CD packaging.

#10 DON’T ORDER OVER A THOUSAND

Vinyl records are costly and, as such, are costly when sold to fans and listeners.

With how much a vinyl album costs we do not know how many units will be sold. It is very uncertain, especially when you’re going to release your first ever vinyl album. It would be best to order less rather than having more. In addition to this, you have to deal with music stores for you to distribute your vinyl albums. And when they’re dealing with vinyl albums, stores tend to be more apprehensive since when they buy it from you, unlike CDs, they cannot return the units to you and have to pray they sell all of them off.

#11 PLAN YOUR RELEASE DATE WELL

Don’t rush and make false promises. Plan your release date well since this can make or break your sales.

This tip is closely knitted to tip #6 because the laid-out timeline will be the basis of the length of your preparation time. Let’s say you planned on releasing in December, then you will have to start preparing now.

The songs, the artworks, the vinyl record design, the manufacturing company you’ll order from, the engineer you’ll hire to master your tracks, etc. Not to mention the time you’ll have to reserve for the actual manufacturing of your vinyl records which greatly depends on the manufacturing company.

Setting those aside, there is also the fact that different months and seasons can affect the sales of your vinyl record release. In the winter season, when Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays set in, “Christmasy” songs are much more preferred. So it’s a big NO to release your first vinyl record in these months (November and December).

You may be asking what’s the best, so let me answer that with “January and February”.These months are the starting months of a new year and in these months, people are very welcoming to new releases and songs.

#12 FIRST TRACK SHOULD BE THE BEST

The first track is not required to be the best technically, but the one that sets the mood of the whole album.

The “best” i’m talking about here is not what you might be thinking. I’m not thinking of the first track having the best mixing or the best vocals and such. What I’m talking about is its representation of the whole album. The first track is the mood setter and the opening chapter. You definitely need to choose the track that is the best in describing and representing the whole album and in setting and making the listener’s mind ready for a long journey into your album.

#13 CAREFULLY REVIEW YOUR TEST PRESSING

 

It is very important that you get extremely meticulous with the test pressing sent to you by your manufacturer.

Test pressings are initial pressings that will aid in checking the sound quality of your tracks and in discovering problems or errors that may be present in the initial pressing. You must carefully review this because this is the last chance you have before the actual, serious pressing starts. If you do not review it well, then your final pressings may be faulty. This will obviously occur because of the unaddressed errors in the test pressing, so check them well.

 

#14 MAKE A REALISTIC TIMELINE

Manufacturing vinyl records requires a lot of time so make sure you don’t give false promises to your fans.

Most vinyl record manufacturing companies offer around 6-8 weeks turnaround time, which can still increase depending on the circumstances. For one, manufacturing a vinyl requires several steps that need time and may not even be done by the manufacturer you’ve hired. Instead, they use other people or companies to make them such as the cutting of the lacquer with the master for vinyl, the electroplating of the cut lacquer, the pressing of the vinyl, and the packaging or the vinyl records.

Another is if you’re an indie artist. You would have to expect your order to be pushed back, especially if you’re working with manufacturers that also work with big record companies. They will surely prioritize them, so yours will have to be pushed back.

#15 PATIENCE IS A MUST

Paired with its expensiveness is its love for taking its time. You gotta deal with it.

As I have said, the reason why having vinyl pressings is expensive is because of its need for time and greater manpower. Time is very much needed in vinyl manufacturing and it’s because of the many steps it undergoes. If I am to focus on one step, it would be the actual pressing of the vinyl pellets on the electroplate which takes 30 seconds to complete one vinyl record. And when we add the packaging of the record that may or may not be done in the same place as the pressing, then you’ll understand that patience is very much needed. You will also have to prepare to be pushed back, that is if you are an indie artist and don’t have a big record label.

#16 PLAN YOUR RELEASE DATE WELL

Now that you know vinyl pressing takes time, plan your release date well since this can make or break your sales.

This tip is closely knitted to tip #14 because the laid out timeline will be the basis of the length of your preparation time. Let’s say you planned on releasing in December, then you will have to start preparing maybe for six or more months.

The songs, the artworks, the vinyl record design, the manufacturing company you’ll order from, the engineer you’ll hire to master your tracks, etc. Not to mention the time you’ll have to reserve for the actual manufacturing of your vinyl records which greatly depends on the manufacturing company.

Setting those aside, there is also the fact that different months and seasons can affect the sales of your vinyl record release. So choose your release date wisely.

#17 NEVER RELEASE IN NOVEMBER OR DECEMBER

You have to avoid releasing your first vinyl record in the months of November and December.

November and December are months in the winter season. It is the time when Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays set in. And this is a bad time to release your first vinyl because “Christmasy” songs are much more preferred in these times. So it’s a very big NO to release your first vinyl record in these months.

#18 IT’S OKAY TO RELEASE IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY 

It’s the New Year and new year means new cool things.

These months are the starting months of a new year and in these months, people are very welcoming to new releases and songs. It’s not just the new songs, but also new trends and products. It basically is a welcoming party for something new, so why not release your first vinyl record in these months? It would be something new for you and your fans. If you have an awesome release, your album may even make it to any blog’s list of “top best new vinyl record releases” or something along those lines.

#19 RELEASE A LIMITED EDITION

If you think you have the money, then please do so.

I think we all want to own something unique and rare. Releasing limited edition LPs is a great vinyl marketing trick because as much as vinyl records are treated as a collectible, something like a limited edition of the original album would push fans to buy that limited one.

You cannot, of course, just name a release as a limited edition without it having a factor that makes it different from the others. What you can add to the original release to make it limited can be a bonus track only for that limited edition vinyl record. It can also be a more special design or color on the vinyl record, or maybe a photocard, photo book, or custom stickers that’s for that edition only.

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James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD, custom vinyl records and merch company in LA.

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