We often hear artists talk about pressing their latest projects to vinyl. It’s no myth that pressing vinyl records is expensive, especially when compared to the (essentially) free digital distribution possibilities that the internet provides.
We decided to break down vinyl costs to get a better idea of when it makes sense from a business standpoint for an artist to press vinyl.
Note: There are a ton of factors that go into pressing an album (quantity, weight, colour, packaging, labels, etc.), and costs vary widely depending on individual orders. For the sake of analysis we took a few averages and made a few pricing generalizations.
How Much Does Vinyl Cost?
Rates usually depend on the length of the record per side. This can range from $150 – $230 per side ($300 – $460 per record) with the average being around $200 per side ($400 per record).
We looked around at a few different pressing plants to get a ballpark figure of what a vinyl run costs. A standard 500 pc. run of 12″ LP’s with colour jacket, seems to range around $2,300 – $2,600 depending on weight, shipping rates, etc.
A similar run of 100 pieces will float between $1,200 – $1,600.
With a lacquer master and the order pressing, the total cost might look something like:
500 pcs. = $2,600 – $3,000
100 pcs. = $1,500 – $2,000
What Does Vinyl Sell For?
An artist can of course charge whatever they want when selling their records, but the industry standard seems to be around $15 – $20 for a standard 12″ LP.
The 500 Piece Breakdown
Lets say a 500 pc. run costs $2,800. That works out to around $5.60/unit. At that price here’s what you would need to sell to break even.
At $15 = 187 units
At $18 = 155 units
At $20 = 140 units
In today’s physical music market, that’s a lot of sales just to break even. At $20 a piece, if you can sell 10 off the stage at every show, it would take 14 shows to break even. If it’s more realistic that you could sell 5 every show, you’re looking at 28 gigs to get your money back.
Of course, that doesn’t take into account online or record shop sales, but it does lend some perspective. If you aren’t confident you could sell a minimum of 5 LP’s every show, you might be looking at a long road to recouping your costs.
500 pieces is a LOT of vinyl to sell yourself, and unless you have a distribution deal in place, or a large and loyal fanbase, it likely doesn’t make sense to press that many. Let’s look at a smaller run:
The 100 Piece Breakdown
A smaller run of 100 pcs. costs $1,600. That works out to around $16.00/unit, as the per-unit cost gets pricier the fewer you press. To break even:
At $15 = 106 units
At $18 = 88 units
At $20 = 80 units
That’s an easier number to sell, but at $15 you wouldn’t even make your money back. After breaking even, here’s what your profits would look like on the remaining album sales:
At $18 = $216
At $20 = $400
At that point you need to ask yourself what your selling it for, and if it’s worth it.
To clarify: In no way am I anti-vinyl, nor am I trying to discourage anyone from getting vinyl pressed. There’s a lot to be said for having physical records, and there’s a long list of reasons -beyond money- why a band might want to sell vinyl.
What these numbers show however, is that before you spend a hefty sum pressing records, it’s important that you figure out an answer to the following questions:
1) WHY Do You Want To Press Vinyl?
2) Can You Sell It?
If It’s For The Sales…
Figure out how many you would need to sell to get a profit you’d be happy with. Going back to our 500 pc. example. At $20 an LP, once you’ve broken even at 140 units, you could net $7,200 off the remaining albums. Maybe that’s great? Maybe not enough?
Either way, if you’re thinking of going this route you might want to look into partnering with a label or distributor who can help sell the records or get them into retail outlets, as selling that many on your own might be difficult.
If you aren’t confident that you can sell a large quantity or if selling a full 100 pc. run only nets you $400 you might want to reconsider vinyl strictly as a source of revenue.
If It’s For The Fans or Band Image…
Can you at least break even? If so, great!
If you can’t sell it or break even, ask yourself this: “Will the value added to your band by having vinyl offset the financial loss?”
For example, if you press $2,500 worth of vinyl and only sell $1,500 worth, will the added value to your image make up at least $1,000 in some other way? Look at it as an investment. If your fans appreciate vinyl, and offering records builds fan loyalty -even if you can’t sell all of it- then maybe you’ll make up the $1,000 in growing ticket sales or other merch.
At the end of the day, it’s tough to grow a career if the budget isn’t balancing. If you can’t make up the costs directly from sales, be sure you’ll recoup it elsewhere, otherwise you’re taking an unnecessary financial hit.
If It’s For Yourself…
Cause you’ve just finished a record, you’re flying high, and it’s been your life dream to have it on vinyl (which is totally valid!), then like anything else you buy for yourself, just ask how much it’s worth to you.
If you don’t sell your full run, but it’s worth it anyways, then all power to you!
Vinyl is awesome, but it’s expensive. If you’re confident that you can sell the amount you press, or that the value will make itself up in some other way, it’s a great item to have. Otherwise it may be difficult to make the numbers add up, and you might consider investing that money in area that will grow your fan-base or career more directly.
Know why you’re pressing vinyl. Be realistic about what what you can sell, and only press what you’re confident you can move.
We’d love to get some insight from artists who have had experience with vinyl. Is it a valuable tool? More hassle than it’s worth? Post your comments below!
If you’re looking at getting vinyl pressed, Mojito offers vinyl pre-mastering. We suggest checking out the following Canadian companies for vinyl pressing:
RIP-V – Montreal
Standard Vinyl – Ottawa