John Peets and Paul Roper Discuss Vinyl Revival

vinyl

Pictured (L-R): Dualtone’s Paul Roper and Q Prime’s John Peets

By: Laura Hostelley

In the digital age where streaming music services put entire musical libraries at your fingertips, it comes as a surprise that vinyl sales are on the rise across all genres. According to Nielsen Soundscan, vinyl sales jumped from 4.5 million in 2012 to 6 million in 2013, an increase of 32 percent.

“We’re in this wild, wild west period right now where digital and vinyl sales will change over the next few years,” said Paul Roper, Pres. of Dualtone Music Group, which is home to The Lumineers and Shovels and Rope. “It is still a small percentage of the population that even knows what Spotify is. Physical sales account for 30-35 percent of our business and vinyl is 10 percent of that, which is turning way up. Five years ago it was under three percent.”

Other Nashville artists such as The Black Keys and Jack White have supported this trend by releasing vinyl editions of their recent albums. In the debut week of White’s album Lazaretto, released June 10, nearly 30 percent of the 138,000 physical copies sold were vinyl. The Black Keys pressed 100,000 vinyl copies of their latest Turn Blue because about 10 percent of their past album sales have been vinyl.

“There’s a lot more subtexts to it than just the numbers,” said their manager John Peets at Q Prime South. “Even though the world doesn’t mainly consume music on vinyl records anymore, it’s still important in the creation process. These bodies of work are more than a set of singles, it’s a marker of where recording artists are in their career. They want their audience to not invest in only one album, but a series of albums.” He believes vinyl gives the artist the ability to distribute music as a whole project, whereas listening to only singles has the potential to diminish the impact of the body of work.

Untitled-2Though rock artists traditionally have higher vinyl sales than any other genre, Country artists are starting to embrace the trend as well. Kellie Pickler released The Woman I Am as a limited-edition vinyl and Kacey Musgraves has copies of her 2013 album Same Trailer Different Park available on vinyl. Dolly Parton released a blue, limited-edition of two tracks from her album Blue Smoke to celebrate Record Store Day (RSD) in April. Eric Church, also managed by Peets, put out a special edition of The Outsiders including two bonus tracks on vinyl in honor of RSD this year.

Peets reported that Church’s RSD release accounted for around one percent of sales of the project, which exceed 600,000 to date. Even though the vinyl sales are minuscule, Church and his team wanted to celebrate mom-and-pop record stores and offer the exclusive edition to their audiophile fans.

“[This release] is a statement to say independent record stores are important,” said Peets. “Not only valuing the culture of music but being engulfed in a store that does nothing but music is important. The people who work in these local economies are educated and can teach you what you didn’t know about music. That’s what it’s all about.”

RSD has traditionally appealed to millennials. The artists releasing their records on vinyl have strong fan bases from this demographic, perhaps because these modern-day vinyl connoisseurs weren’t even born in time for the first vinyl trend.

“With paid streaming growing, if fans want something tangible that’s already on your phone, there’s no reason to buy a compact disc,” said Roper. “So if you’re going to buy something physical you might as well buy the vinyl, that’s a bigger piece of art.”

Peets added: “By buying the physical album and displaying it, fans are making a higher investment in the artist, like a badge of honor. I think vinyl makes a real obvious outgoing statement about who you are and what you think is important.”

With the demand for vinyl increasing, record pressing plants are working to keep up. The volume is starting to overwhelm these plants, noted Peets. If artists want to release a vinyl, they have to plan well in advance. The demand is so high that Nashville’s own United Record Pressing, the largest pressing plant in the country, is planning to expand with a second location near Nolensville Pike in Nashville.

“Vinyls are being bought heavily on the road and on preorder,” said Roper. “Backup at record plants is about 12 weeks because of how in-demand they are.” Peets added that artwork for the album poses a time-crunch more than the actual pressing of the record.

So, even in a time where there is almost unlimited access to music, fans have shown they will still financially support their favorite artists.

“There is appeal to the physical piece and the artwork,” said Peets. “By owning vinyl, fans have something that very forwardly says music, and that artist in particular, is important to me.”

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