Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Making A Record
Full disclosure: I'm not a vinyl nerd. I just like lectures with people who are passionate about their work.
Last night, a crowd of vinyl nerds, fledgling record labels and artists looking to self-produce packed the Grammy Museum for a free panel discussion called From Vision to Vinyl: A Step-by-Step Look At Album Production hosted by Dublab. The panel, selected by Origami Vinyl owner Neil Shield, was composed of people who helped him put out his first record. They included Pete Lyman of Infrasonic Sound, a recording studio and CD/vinyl mastering suite, Kevin Smith of Bill Smith Custom Records, a pressing plant in El Segundo, Jennifer Freund of Dorado Press, that specializes in album covers and jackets, and Peanut Butter Wolf, a DJ and founder of Stones Throw Records.
From the mastering to the pressing to the album art, these were the people to turn to if you wanted to put out a record, and they offered a comprehensive, step by step instruction on how to do it yourself. Each of them was very passionate about their part of the process lovingly describing each step in jargon that I had never heard of. However, from what I did glean I comprised this list.
Here are the Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About Vinyl.
1. Mastering for a record is not the same as mastering for a CD. Apparently there are some sounds that cut too deeply and cause the record to skip if you use the original mastering or just sound awful on an LP. Sometimes a lot of the mastering need to be redone.
2. Analog recording equipment is not necessary for producing a record. Nor is it necessarily superior in sound quality, digital can be just as good.
Frosty McNeill of DubLab spinning before the panel. (Photo: Rowan Byers/LAist)
3. There is a difference in sound quality between clear and colored vinyl compared to the traditional black. The clear or colored vinyl tends to acquire more surface noise (pops and crackles) over time.4. There are trade secrets in the pressing of records. The quality and quantity of materials are constantly being tested to produce a better sound. All pressing plants don't use the same formula.
5. The weight of the record has nearly nothing to do with the sound quality. Unless you have a very expensive stereo, the difference between 140-150g and 180-200g record is pretty small.
6. Giant quantities are not a necessity. Some pressing plants allow you to press 100- 500 records and then come back for more.
7. Art needs to be considered while pressing the record. Apparently, most pressing plants won't begin work until after the sleeves and album art is decided on, so they have somewhere to put the records. Decide on your art while you're mastering.
8. Vinyl now is far more durable than the vinyl that was being made in the 1960s because of the materials being used. They're also trying to go green by taking the lead out of the formulas.
9. There are all sorts of types of vinyl that can be pressed including a record that can be played from the inside out. The needle starts in the middle and then loops endlessly when it reaches the edge of the record.
10. Making records is expensive. 500 records would set you back around $2,000 to $3,000. For a lot of young artists it may be better to put out singles before deciding on a full LP.
To watch the whole panel, Dublab has kindly put it up on their website. For fledgling record labels and artists looking to put out vinyl it's essential. I also highly recommend it for the average music geek. It will give you a new sense of appreciation for your old vinyl collection.