Why Independent Artist Should Use Vinyl As An Alternative Distribution (Article)


While major streaming companies like Spotify, ITunes & Amazon Prime have been dominating the music world with singles driven artist and top 40 music that is quite questionable. Even though, the music industry and music fans have embraced the world of digital, vinyl has maintained itself as a viable distribution outlet for musicians that still create and record timeless music.  Mainstream musicians like Adele and Ed Sheeran are not the only benefactors of pressing their music on vinyl, today indie or DIY musicians can also benefit from pressing their music to vinyl especially if their music is worth the price consumers pay for vinyl today. Glen Park a contributor from Music Think Tank stated in his article, “Why DIY Musicians Need To Be Pressing Vinyl” that  “If you’re a DIY musician you are throwing your money down the drain, if you are not pressing records. Although, Park statement has some validity that DIY musician should press records, I was hoping that the author would have expanding his theory and shared his thoughts on what type of DIY musician he feels should be pressing vinyl. Hopefully by the end of this article you will understand why I’m passionate about certain types of musicians and genres selling records.

In the past 10 years, vinyl sales has been rising at such a steady pace that it has triggered record companies to start pressing vinyl again for their popular artists such as: Adele, Bjork, Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, War On Drugs; whom all do well in today’s streaming market. Labels have also been are releasing upgraded 180gram vinyl for its  catalog titles like Bob Marley, Bowie, and Miles Davis. Today’s industry insiders have also been paying very close attention to a new shifting trend in the record consumer, Amazon Prime announced that they have witnessed a shift in the record buyer profile; as the millennials 18 – 25 have now joined the vinyl community and are purchasing vinyl right along with their boomer counterparts 45- 54.  The music industry’s gamble on vinyl appears to have paid off because by the end of 2017, 14 billion dollars has been generated in overall music sales with vinyl generating 8.7% of that overall revenue.  Just recently Keith Caulfield wrote an article for Billboard Magazine on January 3, 2018 entitled, “U.S. Vinyl Album Sales Hit Nielsen Music-Era Record High in 2017” stated “vinyl LP sales represented 8.5 percent of all album sales in 2017 – up from 6.5 percent for the configurations share in 2016. Further, LP sales were 14 percent of all physical album sales in 2017 (a Nielsen-era record share for the format) – up from 11 percent in 2016.” Many report stated that they haven’t seen vinyl generate high sales numbers since 1985, which coincides with the CD emerging as the new leading music format. This has exes at the major labors ecstatic because now they can play in their catalog to discover what is worth the reissue. I suspect that music from the nineties will soon become available on vinyl for the first time at least in the United States. In a article by Alec Macfarlane and Chie Kobayashi called “Sony To Produce Records Again After 28-year break” stated “Sony said it will resume vinyl production by March next year in a factory southwest of Tokyo that’s run by one of its subsidiaries. It still hasn’t yet decided which genres of music it will produce.”


As a result of increased vinyl sales, musicians are benefiting from the resurgence of vinyl. However, independent artist should pay close attention to some of the mainstream artist because they are not the only ones that have the opportunity to benefit from pressing  music to vinyl.  As an independent musician it is vital that you take advantage of vinyl especially if you consider yourself having something of quality to say.  The first argument that most indie musicians will state is the obvious go to response, “We decided to make our music available only in the digital format because pressing vinyl is too expensive. Musicians who share this ideology alienate potential customers like the boomers and millennials who prefer to purchase their music on vinyl. The second argument indie musicians will use is “Oh my fan base only uses the digital format and any other format is a waste of money and time.” The indie musician, on the surface brings up a great argument, although the indie musicians with a strong live show, and loyal fan base, vinyl can be an excellent merchandising item to sell at your live gigs and/or website. If a fan will invest in going to your shows, it’s a good chance they will invest in your vinyl, especially if you feature cool bonus tracks or a live track.


To put it another way, any indie musicians that creates real, passionate, and intellectual music from genres like:  jazz, electronica, rock, r&b or anything bubbling from the underground should also have their music available on vinyl. Young and old  music collectors constantly have their ears to the ground on the lookout for the next hot thing bubbling from the underground: something that is not being represented on Top 40, definitely enjoy their new discoveries on vinyl. Furthermore, the indie musician that is an outstanding live performer should re-examine vinyl as a viable format, As a live performer your interaction with your fans is more intimate and a great opportunity to sell items of more intimate value to your fans like a physical Vinyl or Limited Edition item.
Having said that, I can also understand the financial restraints DIY musicians feel when thinking about the expense and the time involved with pressing vinyl because honestly vinyl can be expensive if you are not knowledgeable about how much one should print or where to locate qualified pressing plant. In view of the concerns of indie musicians I have compiled a list of three tips to help indie musicians help determine the cost involved with pressing test copies and the distribution of your music: How many copies to press.

  1. Be aware of the turnaround time! Vinyl takes longer than CD to produce, it’s estimated that the turnaround time for receiving the test pressing and test components such as: jackets & inserts; can be as long as a month and a half depending on which plant you choice and how busy they may be at the time you want to press your music.
  2. Pay close attention to recording times and the number of songs you want to release because unlike the CD which can hold 80 minute worth of music, vinyl limits you to approximately 18 – 22 minutes per side.
  3. After approving the test pressing and test components the next major expensive is the process of cutting the record, this is where quantity copies are determined. Keep in mind that if you want a really low number of copies it might be a little difficult because most pressing plants are most likely going to require that you press a minimum numbers of copies.

In essence, If you’re a indie musician that is confident about the quality of your music and are sure that the value of your music will pay for itself; and has an enthusiast team that can help you sell at least 500 vinyl pressing, then vinyl is definitely the way to go. Believe me, your fans will love you for it. Michael Moore from Tunecore shared an article with Hypebot.com called “Why Indie Artists Should Invest In Vinyl” in which he states, “ If you’re an independent artist, vinyl is your medium. Whether you want to create a beautiful gatefold for your fans, include a life-size poster of your band within the jacket, or add a holographic image directly onto your record, vinyl is one of the few remaining mediums that allows an artist to connect directly to his or her audience in a physical, engaging, intimate, and highly creative manner.”

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