How To Make a Record... Press Your Own Vinyl!

Schooly D did it, Showbiz & AG did it, Wu-Tang did it, a bunch of people have done it. Why can't you? If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm talking about making records. As in making their own records. Recording their tracks and pressing them all by themselves. No record execs, no A&R, no record contract necessary, just a little motivation. And why would you want to do this you might ask? There are many reasons why taking this initiative can be beneficial. One, there are no record label people to deal with. So the excuses of ³the label jerked me,² or (one of my personal favorites) 'the label made me go R&B,' can't be used. The only person to blame for any mistakes would be yourself, because you're in total control. Two, all the money you make (or lose for that matter) is your own. But be warned, you probably won't make much money, in fact breaking even is tough to do, but if you wanna do this for money, sign to a major. No label people need to be paid for their time talking on phones in their offices because like I said before, there are none. Best case scenario being that any money you make goes right back into the second project. Three, if you want to you could use this twelve-inch piece of plastic as a way to get a record deal. Look at what Wu-Tang did, one twelve-inch single right to a platinum record, not very realistic goals but hey, who knows? Having your own vinyl can only help in your quest for shows as well. If the promoters want to hear something in advance, hit them off with the record. Four, records are hip-hop. Demo tapes are wack, plain and simple, and usually wind up in Mr. A&R's trash can without even being listened to. (I've been to labels and have seen this first-hand people, take my word for it.) Radio most of the time does not like demos either. I haven't had the privilege of seeing anyone catch wreck on the double cassette deck recently, have you? Didn't think so. Basically vinyl is where it's at.
>Getting Started

First you obviously need a group that you want to work with. Once you find one, you need a recording. DAT is the best case scenario here, but the reels will work fine also. Don't even try sending some cassette to a mastering plant. That is a waste of your money and time, as well as the person doing the mastering. Which brings me to part two, mastering. You need to find a place to master your stuff. To make it short and to the point, mastering is what makes your stuff sound nice. Without this, who knows what you'll get. It's necessary; don't try to skip this part.
Here are a few places that do mastering: Aardvark, phone: 303.455.1908. (Call for prices here, my friend just used them and said they are pretty cheap.)
Bill Smith Custom Records Inc., phone 310. 322.6386, fax 310.322.1813. 12-inch mastering: $110 per side.
Dixie Record Pressing Inc., phone 615.256. 0922, fax 615.242.8956. 12-inch mastering: $130 per side. Master Cutting Room Inc., phone 212.765. 8496, fax 212.765.8630. Call for prices.
The mastering people will make ³lacquers² with your DAT and can do metal processing also. This is all set up for the record. You can have the people send the lacquers to the pressing plant you want to work with or if they do pressing you can use them. This is totally up to you. I have been told it's better to have the mastering done at one place then press the records somewhere else.


After the mastering has been done the next step is to have the plates made. This is also referred to as metal processing. Some of the mastering places do this and some of the pressing places do also. After the plating is done you need to decide who you want to press up your new masterpiece. Next you need to decide what you want to do, 12-inches, 7-inches, colored vinyl? How many do you want to press? What do you want to do for covers? This is all your call. I would suggest doing a relatively small first press. That way if you can't get rid of them all you won't have thousands of records all over your house. Also if you need more you can always do a repress which should cost you a great deal less than the first press, reason being the setup has already been done and paid for on the first press.
Here's a list of a few possible pressing plants: Dixie Record Pressing Inc., 631 Hamilton Ave., Nashville, TN 37201, phone 615.256. 0922, fax 615.242.8956. Metal processing (plating): 2-Step $135, 3-Step $175. Pressing: 69¢ per record, $25 setup for under 1,000 (minimum of 300). Test Presses: $25 for 4. Labels: $80 for 1,000 sets (one color paper, one color ink, extra colors quoted separately), typesetting of labels $20. Covers: Customer provides (records not pressed until covers are at plant), die cut black 35¢ each, die cut white 30¢ each.
Bill Smith Custom Records Inc., 127 Penn St., El Segundo, CA 90245, phone 310.322. 6386, fax 310.322.1813. Metal processing: $81.50 per side. Pressing: 100-1,000 90¢ each. 1,001+ 85¢ each. Test presses: $35 for 6. Covers: white 32¢ each, black 37¢ each.

Finished Product

Labels: When the record is ready to be pressed. the pressing plant will send you sheets in which you design your own Side A and Side B labels. Be creative, make them stand out and make sure you put an address and/or telephone number where people can get a hold of you (in case they want more).

Distribution: Definitely send as many promo copies to radio stations as you can. This costs money but it gets the music out there, hopefully creating a buzz. Ask your local radio station people for their list of stations and contacts throughout the radio community and hit them off with copies. Also street DJs that do parties and clubs should be given copies. Get to know your local record store people if possible, most of them would be glad to take some records on a consignment basis. Try to get a list of the distributors they buy through and hook them up with copies, this will hopefully get your record out all over the country. Sell them at shows, put ads in various publications (like the Vinyl Exchange!) and do mail order. The punk and hardcore communities have been doing this for years and it works very well. The possibilities are endless. Make it happen.

- Daniel Ladd Get in touch with me: Daniel Ladd, 61 Esker Lane, North Kingstown, RI 02852. E-mail [If you know of other mastering or pressing plants, please share them with us and let us know about your experience with them. Parlay Graphics is available for cover and label design‹call 415.452.8030 for an estimate. - Editor.]

The Vinyl Exchange is a newsletter for deejays and vinyl junkies. Published by Parlay Graphics, 236 West Portal Avenue #402, San Francisco, CA 94127, 415.452.8030, e-mail

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