Making Vinyl Conference Ready to Go Online

A year that began with a devastating fire at a California manufacturing plant and then moved into a pandemic looked like it would be a bleak one for the vinyl industry. But though Covid-19 caused a slowdown of production, and threw Record Store Day into initial disarray, the cursed year 2020 also became one of the biggest for vinyl sales in decades. Even so, continued travel restrictions and mass gathering shutdowns requires that gatherings like the 4th annual Making Vinyl conference December 8-9 is an online event.

“It’s definitely not what we intended to do at the beginning of this year,” says conference president and co-founder Bryan Ekus. Still there are hundreds signed up for the event which will take place on a snazzy, custom designed platform designed in the Netherlands. And plenty to talk about.

“In looking for the correct platform to host the event virtually, I tried to find something that could replicate the experience of what we had physically,” Ekus says. In the past, there has been a main conference center, spaces for workshops, and places to meet with suppliers in the industry.

“On the virtual side, there will be those virtual booths that people can meet with the people that are providing the actual services or products and set appointments, and even meet with them directly on the spot,” he says. “So it’s as close as you can get to a physical event.”

Though not set in Detroit, Hollywood, or Berlin as past conferences have been, the fourth Making Vinyl will again gather experts from the industry in a business-to-business conference “dedicated to the rebirth of the global vinyl manufacturing business.”

Among the panelists will be Duncan Stewart of Deloitte Global who in 2017, during the first Making Vinyl event, called the return of vinyl a billion dollar business. “That has come to pass,” says conference director and co-founder Larry Jaffee. “It’s probably greater than a billion dollars right now in terms of all the associated activities surrounding vinyl. I think we surprised them all in terms of how it’s grown. I think he was thinking it was a bit of a fad and the traction I think has flabbergasted him.”

Stewart will discuss how the Covid-19 lockdowns spurred formerly mobile-minded music fans to stay home and become reacquainted with vinyl and turntables. “The pandemic in a strange way has become a blessing for the industry,” Jaffee says. “Everyone is saying sales have increased dramatically, which was totally unexpected, over last year. Because you’re spending so much time at home, and you can’t go to live performances, they’re looking for something different.”

Another panel will discuss how to make turnarounds for vinyl projects more predictable. Carrie Colliton, co-founder of Record Store Day, will discuss 2020’s fraught event, which was canceled, rescheduled, and eventually broken into three different events including Black Friday.

Harry Weinger, vice president of A&R at Universal Music Enterprises, will discuss the process of selecting which catalog albums are chosen for vinyl or deluxe reissue treatment. Another panel will use Rhino’s recent 15-LP reissue of The Stooges’ Fun House album as a case study of how to craft a deluxe boxed set.

One featured guest will be New York singer/songwriter, comic book author and Rough Trade recording artist Jeffrey Lewis, whose wry, neo-folk output has kept up with the times with his latest 2020 Tapes: Shelter-at-Home Recordings & Pandemos. What makes him perfect for the conference, Jaffee says, is that “he has this fantastic song called “LPs” that really traces the evolution of physical media.” Lewis follows keynote speakers from past conferences that featured Jack White, Bob Mould, and Little Steven Van Zandt.

Although there was some justifiable initial concern about the vinyl industry following the February fire at Apollo Masters in Banning, California, which has provided around 75 percent of the global supply of blank aluminum discs coated in nitrocellulose lacquer that are used for masters, things didn’t turn out as bleak as it seemed, Jaffee says.

“Actually, the fire turned out not to be an issue,” he says. “Everyone said they had enough lacquers to get them through the year and didn’t anticipate a problem.” The remaining company manufacturing lacquers in Japan, MDC, “has apparently stepped up and increased production,” Jaffee says.

In addition, Ekus says, “I think we’re going to see a deluge of new companies coming onto the scene in 2021 that will be providing the lacquers. I know of at least three or four companies that are pretty close right now to being able to provide whatever was being manufactured by the American company. So I think we’re going to be in a pretty good position.”

In fact, he says, “plants are so darned busy now, it’s hard for them to think of registering” for the Making Vinyl conference as they have in the past. “I’m expecting to get a pop in attendance in the next couple of days.”

One thing that won’t be included in this year’s virtual event are the annual Packaging Awards, the submission deadline for which has been extended to December 10 for honors in 16 categories including sustainability, 45 covers, vinyl gatefolds—and even cassettes.

Register for the Making Vinyl Virtual Conference here.

The Vinyl District will be “on site” for the conference. Feel free to pop by for a chat. Literally. Ed.

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