For several months in 2021, all the large vinyl factories in the world were manufacturing only one by the piece:
Adele's latest album, of which Sony Music had ordered half a million copies in that format to put on sale on the 19th of November.
Only by dedicating themselves to it exclusively could they meet the ambitious request: the growing demand for this format, together with the current shortage of materials, have caused the plants to not be able to cope.
The rest of the artists had to make bobbin lace to sneak into the production chain.
"Adele had booked all the factories, so we had to find a slot for my album," said Ed Sheeran, whose
came out on October 29.
If we only like one song on Adele's new album, do we have to listen to the whole thing?
Music fans are buying more and more vinyl.
In 2020, its sales increased by 29.2% over the previous year, according to a report by the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of the United States).
This past March it was known that for the first time since 1986 the income generated by LPs exceeded that of CDs.
In the first half of 2021, 27% more were sold than in the same period of 2020, according to the same organization.
All in all, it is still a marginal boom: 83% of revenue comes from
But enough so that if the tap of the raw materials is cut, a jam will occur.
It is what has happened. And no, it's not Adele's fault, who has also been a victim of congestion. As published by
the directors of her record company pressured her to finish the album six months ahead of schedule, to weather possible delays in the manufacture of the vinyl.
"Right now the feeling is that everything is lacking," explains Eugenio López, co-owner of Mad Vynil, a small plant located in Algete (Madrid) that began its activity in December 2020 and that had among its partners the former soccer player and sports commentator Michael Robinson. “Vinyl is still PVC that is mixed with a special resin that makes it softer so that a microgroove can be pressed. The problem is not the resins, but the plastic, which, as a derivative of petroleum, is now a limited material”. There is also a shortage of cardboard for the covers. “The printers are constantly delaying our deliveries. There is talk that the market will begin to regularize in April, but people who have been in this the longest talk to you about June. It's a bit scary," he adds.
Adele's latest album, '30', in its vinyl version.
As if that were not enough, the confinement due to covid has revitalized the attachment to this endearing format.
“The public's demand for vinyl was already on an upward trajectory, but having to be confined for so long has made us search for what we had at home and vinyl has emerged.
The magic of sitting attentively and listening has been recovered,” says López, whose clients include both self-managed groups and established artists (
Robe's latest album, was made in this plant).
If Adele herself or another superseller hero like Sheeran has been affected by the limping situation, it is easy to imagine the effects on lesser artists. Independent companies self-designate as main injured parties. "Although I imagine that this situation harms everyone, multinationals, because they produce more, have more power and can demand more from factories," explains Mark Kitcatt, director of Everlasting Records and president of the Independent Phonographic Union (UFI). "The four- or five-month lead time is for everyone, but when a
does a big launch, obviously all the plants are busy with it."
There are companies that give a manufacturing period of one year.
Imagine doing a synchronized digital and physical release.
It's absolutely impossible."
Carlos Galán, SEO of the Subterfuge label
“There is a beastly stopper”, describes Carlos Galán, CEO of Subterfuge Records.
“I no longer tell you about the Adele case.
The problem is that the multinationals, even in Spain, are reissuing on vinyl catalog backings of countless artists, from Isabel Pantoja to Raphael, which contributes to blocking production.
If you add to that Record Store Day, Black Friday, the insufficiency of certain materials, the fact that Amazon seems to have bought all the cardboard in the world and the growth in demand, everything becomes very complicated.”
Galán, whose vinyl releases have an average circulation of 500 copies (in the case of the most successful groups of his team, such as Niña Polaca, they can reach 1,200), considers himself privileged compared to other
“Our orders take a minimum of four months, when before it was normal for a label like ours to wait for two.
But there are companies that give a manufacturing period of one year.
Imagine doing a synchronized digital and physical release.
It is absolutely impossible."
The modest labels must pay a deposit of 50% of the final cost for a product that they do not receive until a year later.
"Starting from scratch with a company that wants to work in a physical format is very complicated and expensive," says the head of Subterfuge.
Collecting vinyl is for cowards
Everyone, in their field, manages the crisis as best they can.
In his factory, Eugenio López collects plastic to get ahead of even skinnier cows.
"We are buying twice what we need," he says.
“When it doesn't arrive, we have to wait, and the only solution is to implement two work shifts when it arrives.
On the other hand, we are working with new types of cardboard that are compatible for the covers”.
Record companies have no choice but to delay their releases.
“The artists already have it clear.
If they give me the master's degree in February, we'll get it out in September”, says Kitcatt.
In between, they promote the digital format.
“It doesn't make sense to release the CD first, because while the demand for vinyl is going up, that for compacts is going down drastically.
So we published the album first on digital platforms and, months later, physically, as a relaunch.
What this is forcing is to work more consistently with the digital format, which is faster, cheaper and more of everything”.
What has been getting oil from where there is none.