by Eric Franklin Shook
What we know…
- Nielsen Music show sales down significantly in all formats except for vinyl, which still surges.
- Audio streaming surpassed video streaming for the first time ever in 2016.
- As of last month, 2016 vinyl sales are up 1 2% over last year.
The idea that vinyl is post peak, dying, or having jumped the shark is as my friend Stephen Judge would say “complete bollocks!” Stephen Judge, a native of England and owner of Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, NC recently wrote a long and passionate article about the vinyl industry, if you are into that sort of thing you should definitely get your fill by reading his article in Blurt, titled “NEVERMIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE VINYL RECORD INDUSTRY”, it’s a masterpiece rant if I’ve ever read one.
My reason for mentioning Stephen and Schoolkids Records is that his store is the backdrop of my current interview location with South African-born and North Carolina-based singer/songwriter, and multiinstrumentalist, Laura Reed. If you are into indie “neosoul” artists who attended the school of the powerful political voices like that of Nina Simone, and even more recently in style and rhythmic flare to that of the late Amy Winehouse, then Laura Reed is probably already on your musical radar screen. Laura recently released her solo debut album, The Awakening, on her label Five Five Giant Records. Since the release of The Awakening, Reed has won three Nashville Industry Music Awards; two times for Best R&B/Soul Female Artist, and once Best Live R&B/Soul Performer.
In our interview recorded at Schoolkids Records, we discuss the choices that her fans make when considering vinyl, but also the choices artist must make when releasing their work on vinyl. WARNING: What you may hear in this interview may shock you, and may also change some of your previously held misconceptions about the vinyl resurgence. Listener beware!
Laura’s debut album The Awakening, was pressed at United Record Pressing in Nashville, TN – a record pressing plant that has been in operation since 1949. United has pressed records for such artists as The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Jack White, Adele, Mumford & Sons, Hank Williams Jr., Lady Antebellum, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Fall Out Boy, Kendrick Lamar, The Black Keys, The Roots, and Radiohead. Today, it is the largest vinyl record pressing plant in the United States.
Reed’s revolutionary idea that I hope many vinyl recording artists will take on, is to release two packaged versions of the same album. In Laura’s case a “fulldeluxe” copy that includes liner notes, photos, and lyrics; along with a “DJ version” which is a Spartanly-packaged version in the sense of packaging only that offers consumers the same vinyl copy as the former “fulldeluxe” album but at a lower price point, making it competitive with current CD prices. Enabling her fans to make the decision to go vinyl is a challenge that Laura Reed accepted. Laura herself is an avid vinyl collector. Most notable in her collection is a large swath of rare ‘70s dancehall albums, and ultra-rare Edison Records that she obtained when buying a hand crank Victrola player to go along with her standard Sony ES based vinyl system. In our conversation, we covered the Crosley-made turntables that empower young people seeking to enter the vinyl hobby, and to do so at a price that “student budgets” will allow. Despite all the hatred for Crosley components, everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone had training wheels on their first bicycle, right?
Now, don’t get it wrong, Laura still capitalizes on the overall value of having a strong web presence, streaming her music on Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes. As for YouTube, the future of social networks, she is definitely not a stranger. Her song titled “Struggle” is a fresh track off the highly anticipated debut album, which not only captures Laura’s distinct voice but also her prowess as a songwriter who can manufacture impact at will.