Vinyl records have made a steady comeback these past years. The ongoing pandemic has given the people the time to appreciate these records and the high sales of vinyl records for the year of 2020 will show you how much they have appreciated it. As a musician, I’m sure you also want to release your own vinyl record album. However, the fact that releasing an album in this format can be costly has driven away most indies. As an indie musician you can do this with ease if you find a record label you can sign in to and is willing to release your songs. This way you’ll be able to focus on making your music the best it can be without thinking of your album release and will it cost you a fortune.
However we’re talking about making your own vinyl record, releasing it on your own. This is very possible and feasible. You don’t have to run away from the big cost now because I’ll give you steps on how to release your very own vinyl record album. I’ll also give some tips to bear in mind which might help lower costs or help you ready yourself for the big costs.
What to expect?
Before anything else, let me tell you what to expect if you are releasing your own vinyl record. As I’ve said earlier, the advantage of having yourself signed to a record label is that you don’t have any other problem other than making good music. With you releasing your own vinyl record, expect that you have to do almost everything on your own. You have to work your butt off for this to be a successful release. Even if you do your best, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be successful since there is a lot of competition in this industry with release of new songs everyday. Also expect that you might lose money on your first release (unless your music is a hit), especially with releasing vinyl records.
HERE ARE THE STEPS TO MAKE YOUR OWN VINYL RECORD:
#1 First, get signed or start a record label
If you’re not signed under a label, you have to create your own record label. Why? Because you have to deal with potential distributors of your vinyl records and these distributors deal with labels. You need to sign contracts and get payments and all of the things related to business so you have no choice but to make your own label. Register the business and make sure you get proper guidance because the music industry could be tricky. But if you want to sell directly to your fans and not through distributors, go ahead and just sell to them through your website. DIY everything from manufacturing to marketing.
#2 Come up with an album, of course!
This seems like a no-brainer but it’s not that easy. You have to choose the best tracks you have with a more or less uniform theme and arrange them in a way that would make the album feel whole. And since you will make your own vinyl record, you have to make sure the technical stuff is correct. For example, loud high frequency sounds are dangerous to the cutting equipment. They may also not play correctly due to physical limitations of the system.
Now that you’ve chosen your tracks, you need to make them sound the best as possible. You have two choices in this, you can master them yourself or have a professional master them for you (we highly recommend the latter!).
If you can afford to have it mastered by professionals, then please have it done by them. This is a good thing because you need to have fresh ears to listen to your tracks. When you master it by yourself, the fact that you’ve listened to it a thousand times will be a great hindrance to making them sound better.
The cost of having it mastered for you would be around $200 – $500 for an EP. To find a good mastering studio, listen to CDs that you think sound good and find out who mastered them. That info can be seen printed on the CD case or vinyl record jacket or it needs to be searched in Google. Make a list of these mastering studios and contact them all. You have to negotiate with them, and do it well. After choosing the best mastering studio, don’t let them master your tracks first. Hold them off until you decide whether you’ll send the distributors a CD or a test pressing of your record.
#4 Send materials to your vinyl manufacturing plant
Once you have your masters, send them to your plant to make your own vinyl record. Usually, it takes 3 months for vinyl to be made from start to finish. This is mainly because vinyl is meticulous to make but also because there are only very few vinyl record pressing plants so musicians have to fall in line to have records pressed. They will print your vinyl record sleeve and make test pressings for you approval.
#5 Check and approve your pressings
Once you get a sample of your vinyl record, test it and check the printing of the vinyl sleeves. Make sure everything is 100% how you want it to be. Make small corrections and alterations if you want but nothing too big or it would reset your 3-month timeline.
#6 Wait for your records to be pressed
It would take another week or two for your records to be pressed after you approved your test pressing. All you have to do is wait. Well….not really. You have to market your album and vinyl records like crazy!
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/vinyl and merch company in LA.