In this interview, I had the opportunity to ask Izaak de Bruin, owner of Memoria Vinyl distribution some questions about distribution and label work.
Memoria distributes many labels, for example, Ilario Liburni’s “Invade”, Nima Gorji’s “NG Trax”, IO’s and Tish’s “Mulen” and also MOi just to name a few.
I think it’s essential that you understand the industry. I see that a lot of young producers start with vinyl labels and think they will get very rich. ;-)
How is the exact process of distributing music from the producer to the end consumer?
When the producer finished an EP, he needs to find a record label who wants to release it.
If that record label is a member of our distribution group and wants the EP to be released on vinyl, they will send it to us. We check the releases and give our feedback. When the quality is good enough, and all agree this can work out on vinyl, we send the premasters to our mastering engineer. He will master the tracks for vinyl. (this is a different kind of mastering then regular).
In the meantime, the label should take care of artwork. When both maters and artwork are ready, we start up the process with the pressing plant.
First test pressings will be ordered. When they are checked and ok, we order the finished copies and start the pre-sales in the record shops.
After some weeks the records arrive, stores will send us their final orders, and the records are shipped to them. That’s how it works in a nutshell.
If someone would start a vinyl label, which five steps would you suggest first to take?
I think it’s essential that you understand the industry. I see that a lot of young producers start with vinyl labels and think they will get very rich. Do your research.
First try to find out everything you can about pressing plants, marketing options, distribution services, mechanical rights, etc. There are so many factors to think about.
First, know what you are talking about before starting a record label. Back in the days when we did not have so many record labels, it was usual to sell 500 to 2000 copies from each release.
Nowadays we have too many record labels in my opinion. I think we can say we sell more vinyl now than a couple of years ago BUT we sell lower quantities per EP. Just because there are too many releases. There is too much quantity over quality IMO.
So my advice is: First make sure you have at least 2 or 3 excellent EP’s ready before you start thinking about releasing on vinyl. It’s better to wait until you have a high standard then releasing just because you want to have a vinyl release out!
How many tracks do you suggest should a label have ready in advance before they release their first EP?
Funny… look at my previous answer… More than one release at least. So you can guarantee the quality of your label for a longer period.
How long are the waiting lists of pressing plants in Europe on average?
It’s really depending on so many factors. Like the weather for instance. The weather is of significant influence. (especially in the summer). This is because when the temperature is too high, the presses can’t work at full capacity.
Pressing plants still work with equipment from 20/30 years ago. You can compare it to an oldtimer car. You can perfectly drive it sometimes, but when you drive in your oldtimer 24/7 each day, it will get in trouble.
Also, vinyl records get warped when the temperature is too high. So when it’s hot outside, the pressing plants slow down the capacity and there will be delays.
In general, it’s in between 10 and 14 weeks now.
Where are the pressing plants located that you are working together?
We work with multiple pressing plants. But for now, most of our releases are pressed in Holland at Record Industry. It’s easier for us to communicate since we are from Holland as well. The quality is always good there.
Why did you start a distribution service?
The main reason: I was not 100% satisfied with the distribution service I was receiving at that time. Looking back… I think now it was more my fault.
My expectations from what a distributor needs to do were not correct. I expected to make money when I didn’t. I expected to sell more copies.
But in the end, the distributor is only the middleman. The record labels need to make sure that records are being sold by creating great EP’s, working with great artists, doing a good promo campaign, creating a big group of followers etc.
This is basically what I experience now myself as a distributor.
The expectations from record labels are not correct, the same as my expectations at the time.
Do you accept every new label?
No! We are very strict on the labels we bring in.
We used to be a lot easier back in the days, but I strongly feel the responsibility to filter to good from the bad. Especially when I say labels to always choose for quality over quantity.
We should give the right example!
When we accept a new label, always at least two people from our staff should agree independently fromeach other.
When one of the two is not 100% convinced, we don’t sign.
What were the three most challenging obstacles that you had to build a label and distribution service?
So many times I hesitated to quit over the years… Especially in the early years because it was working long hours without getting the reward of a good salary.
When you are in your 20’s, it’s all ok, because you don’t need that much. But when you get older, you also need some safety.
My strongest advice is: Think really good if you want to make your living in the music industry or you see it as a hobby, and you have a daytime job next to it. If you choose for the first one, be prepared to give all of your time, love and energy and accept that you will not make a lot of money in the first years.
Building a strong brand takes time. But in the end (see Memoria..) It’s all worth it!
For example, when you see someone you don’t know walking around in a Memoria t-shirt when you are on holiday in Ibiza, that’s so cool! It gives me all the energy I need.
What are some difficulties about your daily work with pressing plants or clients?
We do so many releases every week; it’s a battle every time again to make sure the deadlines will be reached. Like I said before, it depends on so many external factors, it can be very frustrating at some points.
What I feel is the most challenging thing nowadays is fighting against the high expectations. All the labels expect to sell very high quantities. And if they don’t they feel it’s our fault or the shops. But the reality is different.
There are way too many releases every week. This affects the sales. Besides that, labels should think twice before signing a vinyl release…
They should think: Is this the best we can or should we wait a couple of weeks to make it better.
How looks like a “normal” workday in your office?
We start at 8.30AM and usually work until 6 PM. My days always look different. Skype meetings with label owners, sales meetings with the sales department. Talking to shop owners. Some accounting…
A lot of people say to me: Wow… you have made your work from your hobby! But in reality, 80% if the time I’m having meetings and doing accounting! The best part is that 20%: listening to new demos or new labels.
That is what makes it still fun to do!