Why are vinyl records so expensive?

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Vinyl is so popular again and if you’re a musician today, I’m sure you thought about releasing a few records yourself. It has been making more sales in recent years and in fact, one custom vinyl pressing manufacturer in Los Angeles said that it’s the only thing that’s selling these days. It might be an exaggeration but the fact remains– musicians can certainly get more money from vinyl than Spotify if you sell it well. That is why many musicians are eager to release their albums in vinyl. However, when they find out how much it costs to press vinyl, they nope out in an instant. We get it. You don’t want to make a record that can be included in the most expensive vinyl records list, you just want a simple one in a simple jacket…so why are vinyl records expensive to make even today?

Vinyl records
Photo by Eric Krull on Unsplash

Here are some of the reasons why vinyl isn’t the cheapest thing to make (and why it’s definitely worth it!):

Expensive production cost

Vinyl records are very expensive to produce as the production has multiple steps that are all expensive, both in labor and materials. They need to use expensive materials like master lacquer, nickel solution, etc which adds up. Plus, you will have a lot of trial and error (and rejects) in the process to ensure you get your vinyl record right.

It takes a long time to make

You can’t rush vinyl. The production time of such a format is very long (7-8 weeks), and would need tons of manpower and effort to manufacture one order. They would need people to press the vinyl record, to put record labels on the vinyl record, to put vinyl records in sleeves, and to put them on record jackets.

The first step in producing the vinyl is the cutting of an expensive master lacquer in a mastering studio. This means that if a manufacturer does not have its own people who master their customers’ music, they have to send it to a mastering studio which adds to your expense. After the master lacquer is cut with grooves, it is dipped in a nickel solution that is electroplated, This makes the nickel solution adhere to the lacquer. After drying the nickel is then separated from the master lacquer. This dried nickel is a negative image of the lacquer and now becomes the vinyl stamper. After the creation of the stamper, they are then mounted on the vinyl record press one on top and one at the bottom. In the middle, a vinyl puck, which is a chunk of melted pellet vinyls, is placed. It is then pressed for around thirty to forty seconds to accomplish one slim and beautiful vinyl.

There are only few vinyl pressing plants

It’s the law of supply and demand. Many vinyl pressing plants are saying no to orders because they’re booked for the whole year. Because of this, you can’t really expect them to offer at a lower price. It’s also their way to ensure they are taking the time they need to press good vinyl records.

Quite expensive add-ons

Vinyl record accessories such as vinyl record jackets, inner sleeves, record labels, and more are expensive. Vinyl record pressing plants produce record jackets that are big and bulky. In addition to this, record jackets and the others need to be produced with durability and printed in high quality. If you want to add more inclusions, like posters and inserts, then I’m sure you already know that you’ll have added expenses. They also need to be poly wrapped which adds to the cost you will be paying.

Small quantity orders

Vinyl record pressing plants are very cautious when they press records. This is due to the expensive production cost. In addition, not many fans do buy these vinyl records, especially when they are too expensive to buy. With this reason, musicians will not order more than 300 or 400 pieces. If musicians do order them in smaller quantities, they will have to pay more per unit. An ideal quantity for a single order would be 1000 pieces, this would surely lessen the price per unit. But, as I have already said, you have to have calculated risk. Buying 100 pieces that are more expensive per unit is wiser than buying a thousand at a cheaper price per unit that will leave you with 500 unsold units left lying around in the basement.

Yes, vinyl is not cheap but it really isn’t that expensive. It is a collector’s item, a prized possession for music lovers, it shouldn’t be too cheap! If you were a music lover and was gifted with a Spotify premium or download card, would you have liked it better than having a vinyl? Hell no! Where’s the fun, enjoyment and thrill in having a file?

This is quite a long explanation but the real reason why vinyl is expensive is quite simple. It’s this: things of great value cost more and take more time to make.


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