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13 September 2022

"Vinyl has a distinct sound as opposed to streaming or to CD. I believe that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to sound quality, whether you're talking CD or whether you're talking high quality stream or whether you're talking vinyl. Vinyl's just a different sound." - Neil Wilson

About the 


Neil Wilson runs Suitcase Records, a family-run vinyl pressing plant in Brisbane that is passionate about supporting artists to keep making music. Neil is a specialist in anything related to vinyl-records.

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music

In this episode:

  • The long path from the idea to a fully functional vinyl pressing plant

  • About mothers and stampers: The many steps of the vinyl production process 

  • Neil's take on why vinyl records sound better

  • Neil's tips for bands and musicians who'd like to release vinyl records

  • Neil's advice for marketing and selling vinyl records to your fans


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Extra Content:

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.


Jan 'Yarn' Muths or, in the studio


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Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 60. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. At the beginning of this episode, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that this following interview is recorded on, the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung nation. And I'd like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: With me today is Mr. Neil Wilson of suitcase records. Welcome to the podcast. How are you? Neil Wilson: I'm good. How are you going? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I'm really good. It's a sunny morning. I've got a cup of coffee going and yeah, it looks like the beginning of a fantastic day. Neil, you are in the business of producing vinyl. Fill us in place. What are you up to? Neil Wilson: Well, we're, we're literally just starting up. Well, not, sorry, not starting up our business. We've started our business, but we're about to start pressing, which is great. So we we're the first pressing plant in Brisbane in about 30 years. And with a third pressing plant in Australia, there's already two down in Melbourne. Neil Wilson: So it's a journey that we've been on for probably almost two years now. Since the day I kind of said to my wife, Hey, we could start a record pressing plant. And she said, yeah, sure. Thinking I was joking until about, you know, two weeks later I said, okay, well these are the machines we could get. Neil Wilson: And she thought, oh, you're serious. so It's it's sort of been born out of a few things. I, my background is, is varied. Most recently I'm I'm an architect by, by background and also many years ago. So I did urban planning and, and landscape architecture and have, you know, worked in other things I've worked in hospitality, like most of us you know, I've done everything from landscape gardening to to picking fruit, to sort of you name it. Neil Wilson: But when I was 30, I went and studied architecture and worked in architecture for a long time. Up until about eight, nine years ago, when I sort of transitioned across into large construction firms doing design and project management. And. I suppose I got to a point a couple of years ago where I really wasn't happy in what I was doing. Neil Wilson: Wasn't enjoying it at all. And started to think about, well, what could I do? And I suppose that string had been stretched a bit too far to think about going back to pure architecture. And I was ready for a change. I've always been a fairly creative person. And I found that I really wasn't doing anything creative anymore. Neil Wilson: And I started to look around at some various ideas and some were okay and, but nothing was really sort of exciting me. I've always loved music from a very young age. Music's been something very special to me. We. Unfortunately, I'm fairly average at playing music. I played tuba as a child. Neil Wilson: It didn't sound much like a tuber. It probably sounded like someone had had a bad breakfast to be honest. And in sort of my late years, I I've tried to learn guitar and I know half a dozen chords fairly badly. But but it's always been this, you know, this sort of, this constant part of my life. Neil Wilson: And probably about 15 years ago, started getting back into vinyl, odds into vinyl in a big ways, you know, as, as a child and in my sort of team years, but then obviously CDs took over and music. Sort of moved and, and I moved with it, but about 15 years ago started getting back into it. And this is a long way of getting around to when about a couple years ago, I saw an article about the, the undersupply of, of final and the demand for final you know, the, there was such a growth in the industry and, and supply wasn't keeping up. Neil Wilson: And I thought that was really interesting, but didn't think too much about it until only a couple of weeks after that I saw an article about some people starting up a new pressing plant. And the thing that sort of caught my attention was, was two things. Firstly, the people starting the plan didn't come from a music background. Neil Wilson: So I thought, okay, that's interesting. And then the second thing was the machines they were using. So they were starting with a Canadian machine called it's a company called viral and the machine is a warm. And so I started to think, well, you know, these people who don't have a music background and, and really don't have a manufacturing background can do this, well, maybe this is something I can do. Neil Wilson: So I got in touch with that company and started to, I suppose, really dig into, well, what what's involved in making records and VI were very good, very helpful. They gave me some great information. But I suppose the, the project management background in me said, well, you know, do more research. So I started looking at all the various options and all the various machines and there's, there's sort of four main suppliers out there of I suppose you know, for. Neil Wilson: Best term, but for an off the shelf solution the major pressing plants in the world, a lot of them have their own designs and they actually get their own machines fabricated, but there's about four companies that will make a machine that come with a set of specifications that you can, you know, purchase. Neil Wilson: And after doing quite a bit of research, we settled on the machine that we've now got. It's a machine called an Allegro two it's designed and manufactured by a company based outta Hong Kong called Mtech. And it's actually a joint venture between Mtech and a company out of Italy called Ms. Neil Wilson: Ceroni. Now the company outta Hong Kong, They were making or have been making CD manufacturing and DVD manufacturing equipment for probably 25 years. But you know, like a lot of people they saw that that was saying to ease off and vinyl was becoming something, and there are some similarities in, in the processes making both CD and vinyl. Neil Wilson: So they pivoted it across and started to look at final machines. And then the Italian company, Ms. Orone is owned by gentleman Francos who ran EMI's production in Europe for probably 20 years in both final and CD. And he had an existing relationship with the company, Hong Kong Mtech. So they developed this machine. Neil Wilson: This is the second generation. All the machines operate in similar in a similar fashion. And they all have pluses and minuses. The thing we loved about this machine was it came from, it came out of a manufacturing background as opposed to. Looking at, you know, what Mach, how machines had always produced finals. Neil Wilson: So there was some new design, you know, there was some new design elements within it that I thought were interesting. And the other good thing is it has a very good manual function, which means that down the track, we can look at doing other types of pressing, such as PI picture disks or splatters, which are obviously very popular. Neil Wilson: It's not something we're gonna do straight off, but we've got that capacity. So we, we sort of, you know, discussed with them you know, how we would go about it. They offered great support in terms of how we might set up the, you know, the, the factory. And then we pushed the button. So we sent a deposit off for the machine in. Neil Wilson: Oh, actually, it was just before my birthday in October last year. So sending an amount of money off to Italy and we had this terrifying moment that potentially there's this gentleman in Italy, Franco jumping in a brand new Maserati, driving away, laughing as he went But but no, the money went towards our machine, which was great. Neil Wilson: In January we actually went over to England. There's a new pressing plant in Middlebrook. That's started up called press on. And we went over and spent about three weeks in their factory watching two of the machines that. We now have been commissioned, which was look a fantastic experience for so many reasons. Neil Wilson: Great people have set up that factory. David and Danny and you know, they, we just connected similar ideas to us. They had more of the music background weren't working in music, but they had their own part-time label and had played in bands for years. So they had a passion like I did for music but were also coming into manufacturing new. Neil Wilson: So I got to see how they approached it. And obviously there was a lot of pluses and a lot of lessons learned there as well. But the really good thing was that we, we saw the machines firsthand before our machine showed up. So we had that panic moment before our machine showed up because they're very they're very technical machines. Neil Wilson: They're, you know, they're, the machine we've got is, is effectively a fully automatic machine robotic driven by a CPU or computer, essentially. There's a number of computer driven servo motors. And when you open up the cabinet under the press and have a look in, it looks like you're looking under the bonnet of a space shuttle. Neil Wilson: So I had that moment when I opened that cabinet and just thought, oh my God, what have I done? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. Okay. Neil Wilson: this is crazy. So I got to have that panic moment, you know, outta the country. So my wife didn't see me have that panic moment, which was really good. And and then got to actually understand it. Neil Wilson: And so by the time we left, we had a really good understanding of, of that machine, of how it operated and really, you know, what we needed to know to enable us to have, you know, a much smoother setup and commissioning process, which was great. So that was that was really beneficial. And that was in January. Neil Wilson: And then from there we've really been I suppose, hammer and Tong, getting the business set up. There's a lot of there's a lot of other elements that go into a pressing factory. So obviously you need a press, but to drive a press, you need you need high pressure steam, you need chilled border, you need compressed air. Neil Wilson: And the way those components go together to drive the machine is, is unique. And so there was a lot of design work working with engineers, working with M tech in terms of making sure we got that system. Right. And we did, which is good so that when our machine, you know, finally arrived, we we literally. Neil Wilson: You know, sort of took about two, three days to, to assemble all the components. And then we fired it up and did a bit more tuning and then started pressing I think we pressed our first record, fived days after the machine showed up, it looked incredibly ugly. It was like a first pancake. But it played and it played really well. Neil Wilson: And that was this moment where we just thought, oh my God, this might actually work. So that was great. The, the business itself is it's, I'm co-owner with my wife where we're both working in the business and, and that wasn't the original idea. The original idea was that she would keep working the sensible day job so that we had, you know, some income coming in and I would do this business, but. Neil Wilson: I've I've been, you know, dropping little crumbs along the path, cuz it sort of dawned on me probably four months ago that she would be a fantastic, you know, sort of you know, co-owner and, and cooperator in the business. Her background is in which is a writer. Sort of trade a very good writer. Neil Wilson: And but the last of 10 years she's been working for a company producing content for major travel companies, which sounds a long way for impressing records. But what she's effectively been doing is running a very complex pipeline. So she's come into the business and she runs essentially the front end. Neil Wilson: So she, she deals with clients. She deals with customers. She she drives the production of the business in terms of, you know, how we take orders, how we, how we then go back to supplies, get the various elements that we need. And she looks after that and does it very, very well. And. You know yeah. Neil Wilson: She had that moment probably three, or it was only probably three to four months ago where she suddenly thought, oh, this is, this looks like fun. I could be a part of this. And that was a great moment because, you know to have someone that you absolutely trust and, and believe in sort of beside you is, is so it's such a relief. Neil Wilson: It just means that, you know, I can really focus on making records. And I know that you know, that the business is, is being managed, you know, much better than I could manage it. Which is great. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah. Excellent. Neil Wilson: yeah. So a bit of a, a long winded sort of story about how we got there, I suppose. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: okay. So how long ago did you start pressing the first records? When did it officially open? Neil Wilson: so we're officially open now. We've taken orders. We've got probably. I think off the top of my head, we've got about 20 confirmed orders, which is great. We'll be pressing our first pressing for a customer next week. But we've been pressing test pressings for probably three weeks now. And and look, we're over the moon with them. Neil Wilson: We've had a couple of clients come in and listen to those test pressings and they're equally excited by them. We've sent a number of them back to our lack of cutter who was also a mastering engineer over the states. And I'll talk about him because he's really interesting and, and incredibly talented. Neil Wilson: And they're gonna do an assessment of them as well, but but look, we're, we're producing fantastic quality. And, and that's, that's what we're about. We can't compete with the major plants on price. It's just a reality. And so what we want to compete on is, is quality and, and looking after our, our customers looking after musicians and that's really where our business will sit. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: fantastic. So it's all fairly fresh, so fairly new. Neil Wilson: It is. Yeah. Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Let's let's talk about musicians for a moment. Look, vinyl was pronounced dead decades ago and it came back, you know, and I didn't see that coming. It hit me by surprise, but I'm, you know, definitely owner of, of a record player. And I, you know, have, have my little collection that I'm constantly growing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I, I love it. How come that, you know, vinyl came back? What is your explanation? Why do musicians went back to releasing music on, on vinyl and on that same note, do you prefer vinyl or are you strictly on records instead of vinyl? Neil Wilson: In terms of a term. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: in terms of term? Yeah, I know that's a hot topic. Neil Wilson: I'm agnostic. I'll, I'll call it records, discs vinyl. Yeah. I'm not, I'm not particularly particular about that. Look, it's a really good question. It's something that we get asked a lot and, and it's definitely back. I mean, it never went away. That's the thing is that, you know, vinyl was continued to be pressed, but, but when, when CDs came in, that was, I suppose, the start of, of the hibernation for vinyl and CDs promised a lot, some of which they delivered and some of which they didn't you know, CDs are a very precise. Neil Wilson: Medium you know, you're dealing in ones and zeros. They're very exact, you can contain a lot of information on a CD, so you can, you know, you can get a lot of detail into a CD. And so, you know, but they were also, you know, touted as being infrastructure, but I still remember when first CDs, when CDs first came out, you know, you were told you could drive over them and that'd still play. Neil Wilson: And I remember getting it. Yeah. I remember getting a very early CD and getting my mum to drive over it. And it was like, oh, that wasn't a good idea. You know, but regardless look, so CDs came in and, and that was I suppose, the beginning. But the real, I suppose nail on the coffin of the vinyl was streaming that's. Neil Wilson: That's where vinyl really kind of, you know, basically went to sleep. Because streaming did a couple of things. One, it was, it was incredibly convenient. You didn't have to carry a record play. You didn't even have to carry a Disman, you could just carry your phone. And then the other thing of course, was was platforms like Napster where you effectively got free music. Neil Wilson: And I like everyone ended up with this hard drive with, you know, a hundred thousand tracks on it. And you'd burn CDs and, you know, it was all just so easy and selling music was just everywhere. And that, you know, and then obviously there was a bit of a reaction against that and it deserved reaction in that artist were just absolutely getting exploited and ripped off. Neil Wilson: And so then platforms like Spotify came in where you know, sensibly artists were getting remunerated for their music. And they are getting remunerated, but, but very badly you know, I mean it, look, the figures are, you know, depends on who you talk to, but, you know, roughly an artist needs to have about a million streams to make probably around four and a half to 6,000 Australian dollars. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: around. Neil Wilson: And I saw a stat recently, that was, that said that really only the top 5% of, of artists on Spotify making a living out of, of revenue. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Neil Wilson: So look, you know, that's, that's where music got to, I suppose, or, or had, you know, and it still is to a point. So from, from the business of music, if you're a musician you know, the medium for selling music really wasn't in a musician's favor. Neil Wilson: You know, it, it's a, it's a bit of a telling tale when the person who's getting absolutely rich outta music is the person who owns the streaming platform. And if you're a, you know, if you're a solo artist or heaven help you, if you're you four piece and you get half a million strengths of a track, which is fantastic. Neil Wilson: And, you know, each member of the band is getting 500 bucks in their pocket. And the other thing about streaming I suppose, is that you know, the, the traditional medium, whether it's right or wrong of music, when it comes to vinyl, was artists release an album. and an album isn't just a collection of tracks. Neil Wilson: An album is a story. You know, I saw a saying recently that was fantastic and that, you know, vinyl album allows an artist to, you know, present three acts on two sides. And, and there's something about an album, but telling a story as a complete collection of songs, you know, there's a beginning, there's a middle, there's an end. Neil Wilson: And the thing about streaming is that you don't typically do that. You play a track, you play another track. And if you're like me often, you wouldn't even get to the end of the track. You'd skip you next song, next song, next song. So you never really stop in it and listen to it. What an artist was trying to present you. Neil Wilson: So, you know, so there, I suppose the things that start to build from an artist's perspective from from a fan's perspective, the thing, you know, there's. There's the things that we all know about vinyl, you know, the reality of vinyl is that it's tangible, you know, you pick up an album, it's got a size to it. Neil Wilson: That's lovely to hold. It's not a little CD. It's not your phone. It's this piece of art, you know, and it's exciting, you know, you get that album, you know, you just got this great artwork, you open it up. It might be a gate bulb where there's even more of a story on the inside. Or even if it's not, you know, there's that active, sliding this record out, looking at it, holding it. Neil Wilson: And even the, the, the fact that you've gotta handle on the care, add. Something to the experience. So there's that physical experience and there's this physical experience of playing a record, you know, it's the taking it out, it's the placing it on the turntable. It's the, you know, giving it clean, checking the needles, you know, clean and then dropping that needle. Neil Wilson: And that moment of, of waiting, you know, there's, you know, if you drop the needle in the right place, there's a pause. And then this music comes through and, and that act in itself is it's something that's engaging and, and talking to a lot of, you know, vinyl fans, myself included it makes you feel a connection. Neil Wilson: There's a connection there that you get to an artist and you get to a piece of music that you just don't get with streaming. And you just Jan 'Yarn' Muths: right. It's, it's a deliberate act. You need to set time aside and attention, and that doesn't happen with the streaming. Yeah. It's more of a background thing. Yeah. Neil Wilson: and I think streaming's still got a place. I mean, you can't play your violent in the car. You can't play the violent at the gym, you know, it's, it's, there's a place for streaming. It would be great if artists were actually remunerated in the way they deserve for their music. And there are some platforms that are better than others, but the reality is is that artists just aren't making money outta streaming. Neil Wilson: You know, but, but yes, as a medium, it has a place. But you know, vinyl is that act also of, of, of choosing what you're going to play, you know, flicking through your records. What, what do I feel like? And it actually makes you think a bit more about what you're going to play as opposed to you know, streaming, oh, if you don't like this song, you skip it. Neil Wilson: And, and also that, that overwhelming, you know, supply of music with streaming, like there's, you know, everything is available. and, and too much choice is sometimes a bit of a difficult thing. It's like, oh, you, you get overwhelmed and you, and you kind of feel like you've gotta make the perfect choice. And then no, that's not the right song. Neil Wilson: That's not the right song. You know, I find that that with vinyl you know, going through your collection, choosing what you're going to play, that physical act of, of selecting that album, taking it out, taking the record out and, and putting it on the player at that point, I'm committed, you know, I'm not gonna simply, you know, it's very unusual that I would then just know, go, that's the wrong one, lift a needle, put away. Neil Wilson: I'm, I'm committed at that point. And I'm committed that a a as a minimum, I'm going to listen to that side. You know, I'm gonna listen to that collection of tracks and, and, and I suppose, experience that music in the way in which the artists intended that music to be experienced. And then there's obviously the, the sound thing as well. Neil Wilson: You know, vinyl has a distinct sound as opposed to to streaming or to CD. And it's a bit like the the speaker cable conversation about audio, you know, with audio files as to what cable makes it sound better. You know, personally, I believe that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to sound quality, whether you're talking CD or whether you're talking high quality stream or whether you're talking vinyl, vinyls, just a different sound. Neil Wilson: And to me it's more human sound. There's a wall. There's a I've never had, I've never played a CD or streamed and thought, wow, that could just be sitting in the corner of the room. Those artists could be right there, but I do with vinyl. it there's, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: is Neil Wilson: I can't, I can't put words to it, but there's a quality to the sound that makes me feel like it's real those artists there. Neil Wilson: I can imagine them in a room playing that music. And that's Jan 'Yarn' Muths: so relate to that. Yeah. it's right on my alley. Neil Wilson: it's just such a joyful experience. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: it is. If we put ourselves into the position of, you know, a band, a young band who are maybe starting out at, at what time of their career should they consider getting their recordings printed to vinyl? Is that something that, you know, everybody should do all the time or is it only for more advanced or successful artists? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What is your recommendation? You know, looking at the business case of printing vinyl Jan 'Yarn' Muths: what's your Neil Wilson: as a fan, I would say that artists should press vital all the time from the beginning to the end Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Of Neil Wilson: in a business sense. The reality of vinyl production, is that like a lot of things the more you press, the cheaper it gets there's certain setup costs in, in pressing vinyl. There's, you've gotta cut lacks, you've gotta produce stamps and there are fixed cost. Neil Wilson: Doesn't matter whether you press a hundred records of whether you press a thousand records, that cost is the same. So the less you press, you know, the more you've gotta wash that value back through those records, the more you press, you know, it dilutes that amount of money. The same with printing, you know, the more you print when it comes to jackets, or if you want printed in the sleeves, the cheaper it gets. Neil Wilson: So the reality is, is that and the will do runs of anywhere from a hundred up to 1500. We've capped our orders of 1500 at this stage. And look, we could press one album, but the, the cost would be ridiculous. so for us, it's a hundred records. And the reality is if you're pressing a hundred records, you're not doing it as a commercial venture. Neil Wilson: You're not doing that to make a lot of money. You're doing that because cuz you want it and you're doing it because you want to give it to fans. You wanna give it to, well, not give, but you want fans to have it. You want friends and family to have it a hundred records, isn't a crazy amount to sell. Neil Wilson: So it's, you know, it's, it's something that can be moved. You want it as merged, you know, you wanna be able to sell at those gigs and you're gonna make some money back, but you know, you gotta, you know, you're not gonna, you know, be rich. But you're gonna make more, you're gonna make much, much more selling a hundred records than you are, you know, streaming a hundred thousand tracks. Neil Wilson: You know, that's, that's just the reality, which is, you Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. That's right. Neil Wilson: thing about streaming, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So it's a bit of sort of like a business risk assessment, you know putting my songs out on Spotify is very cheap. That cost me just a couple of dollars, but getting, you know, a hundred records done that is a bit of upfront costs that I need to cough Neil Wilson: it Jan 'Yarn' Muths: but there's also a really good chance to make more money of these a hundred records than I would ever have on, you know, selling my music on Spotify. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Isn't that. Neil Wilson: Yeah. Oh, definitely. I mean, I think the reality is if you're pressing a hundred records, you know, and you sell 'em, you're gonna, you know, you're gonna get your bunny back. You probably cover your recording costs, and maybe you'll get a couple of bucks in your pocket to, from what I can see and, and speak just more labels two 50 to 300 seems to be the tipping point beyond that. Neil Wilson: It really does become a commercial venture in terms of getting a reasonable return on your investment Interestingly, you know, we've, like I said, we've sold 15. Look, it even might be high. I think it might be maybe 20 orders so far. And the largest run we've sold today is 300. And you know, there's varied reasons. Neil Wilson: You know, we, we had a band in the, in the in the factory yesterday, Banco square tags, which is local Brisbane punk outfit. And they're doing it because it's what they do, you know, like they make music it's and they want the vinyl because it's, it's their music. It's, it's that, it's, it's that tangible thing. Neil Wilson: It's like, look, mom, we made this, you know, and that's such a. You know, experience, you know, and, and it was really good having them out because we were talking about, they're doing a color runner. We were sort of looking at, well, you know, we've got some physical color samples, so they'll go through those. Neil Wilson: And then we started to get excited about, well, what if we did a marble or what if we did this? What if we did that? And then, you know, not to get too technical, but when you change colors, there's a, you we've gotta purge the extruder because otherwise, you know, you get, you get color overlap and it it's, it's random. Neil Wilson: You can't, you know, who knows what it's gonna look like, but you know, they punk they're like, oh hell bugger the color purge. Let's just run a yellow into a red and then see what happens, you know? So, so that's really fun, you know? Like, and, and it it's fun for me, but it's fun for Jan 'Yarn' Muths: it's yeah, Neil Wilson: And so it's, it's, it's, it's as much about the music as it is about that whole experience of of, of producing this physical medium. Neil Wilson: That's, that's a reflection of them. Yeah. And it's the same in the artwork. It's the same in, you know, the labels that it's like, you know, how do we wanna present our music? How do we want to, you know, how do we want to portray us into the world of music? And that's really fun. Like that's, that's, that's why we got into the business businesses, those experiences. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So, so you mentioned that the setup cost is fixed. So would it be a good business case to say, look, you know, I've got a young band we've played for a year or so. We've got our first recordings done. How about we start with a hundred make a hundred records, see if we can, let's say, sell them with gigs and at pops and shows and you know, our website over, let's say the next year. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And if they sell, could we come back and order more? Would the setup cost be exactly the same or would that then like a second issue, reissue? Would that reduce the, the setup cost? Neil Wilson: Yeah, it would reduce the setup costs. So, so the basic process, you know, very quickly of making a record is an artist will come to us with their audio files. Typically their digital files. We can also, our lack of cutter can, can cut from anything. They can cut from a cassette tape quality, be terrible, but they can do it. Neil Wilson: They can cut from real to real, so they can cut from tape. But you know, most people digital files. So we then We, we do not produce, we do not cut ERs and produce stamps in house at this stage. And, and that's mainly because the setup cost for those items. In terms of, you know, the equipment that required is, is high and being a new business, we just can't afford that. Neil Wilson: Also to produce a stamper, which is the metal plate it's effectively the negative for, you know, for a record run. That's something that we will look at because it's a process that we can both understand and also control it's, you know, it's a, it's a process that if you get the process set up correctly, you get the right training. Neil Wilson: You can do it cutting. A lack of is a different story to cut a lack of your view, you really need beyond the equipment, which is in itself costly and difficult to get you really need to understand I think engineering you know, the best, the best lack of cutters I think are, you know, are mastering engineers because they're not remastering the music when they cut. Neil Wilson: Like that's, you know, it's, it's mastered by the, the artist's engineer, but they can, they can understand that audio and they can understand what it might need to get the best out of, of a vinyl lack of cut. So that's something that's not learnt overnight. It's not even learnt in a few months, you know, the best, the best lack of cutters have got years and years of experience. Neil Wilson: So if we were going to do that, we need that person. So, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So, Neil Wilson: so at this stage we probably won't be looking at that in the near future. And just to sort of, I suppose, Sort of, you know, change paths for a moment. We we're using a company in the us to cut out like is called master disk which is owned by a gentleman called Scott hu. Neil Wilson: Now master disk had been around for about 40 years. And Scott started at master disk as an intern probably 30 years ago. Worked for them for off the top of my head. I think about 10 years went away and worked for some great mastering houses for probably another 10 years and then came back to master's about 10 years ago and actually ended up buying the company. Neil Wilson: And so Scott. You know, an amazing history with both the business, but also with mastering and he's look both he and master this Cav mastered and cut Laers for the, the who's who of the music world you know, millions of well, millions, but, you know, countless artists that you've never heard of, but then also, you know, they've mastered and cut Springsteen they've mastered and cut. Neil Wilson: The stones, the who you know, Lou Reed, you know, you know New York was, you know, mastered Louris New York was mastered by them. Nevermind, nevermind by Nova was mastered by these guys. You know, more recently they've done the weekend, they've done panic at the disco. They've done Kanye they've, you know, they've done steely, Dan, they've done, you know, you name it, they've done it. Neil Wilson: So there's this absolutely incredible depth of talent and experience. We got talking with Scott probably four months ago. And, you know, initially we approached him about, will you do our ERs? It actually turned out to almost be a interview process the other way, like he really wanted to understand us before you would agree to cut our lacks. Neil Wilson: So it was probably, you know, two months of back and forth finally, before he finally said, yep, we'll cut your lagers. So, so that's, I think one of the key things to us getting the quality right, is that we, you know, because that's, in my mind, that's half the process of getting a decent record. You've gotta get the right lacker. Neil Wilson: You've gotta get a great lacker. And we've got that. So getting back to the original question so we get the lack of cut. And then from the lacker you produce the stampers and the stampers. It's a, it's an electro process. It's a bit like magic, I think. And in producing a stamper, you effectively destroy the lacker. Neil Wilson: So that's it lacks gone. So you wanna make sure you've gotta a good stamper house because if you destroy the lacker, gotta recover it. So, so that part, you know, that's money spent that you'll never, you know get to use again, but the stampers there's, there's, there's a number of well, there's, I suppose, three steps in producing stampers. Neil Wilson: Well not three steps, but you call it steps. It's, it's, it's three ways of of producing stamps. The first is what's called a one step, you know, process and that's effectively you take a lacker, then you produce a single stamp. And a single stamper will make, you know, rule of thumb up to about a thousand records. Neil Wilson: But if you just make a single stamper, the lack of can never be used again. So that's that, you know, your, you are limited to a maximum of thousand records. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Right. And is there something like a backup Neil Wilson: well, there is and that's a two step or a three step process. So one step is you produce a lack of, and that's a negative. So it doesn't have grooves. Neil Wilson: It has ridges because you then take that you place that step bridge your molds and you produce a record, which has now got grooves. A two step process. Is that where, where you effectively take the stamper and then from the stamper, you grow another. Stamper and that stamper is now a positive and it's referred to as a mother. Neil Wilson: You know, the industry really needs to work on as gender appropriate terms, but but you know, that, that's what it's called is a, is a mother that mother can now produce another nine stampers. So you've gone from having, you know, a one off that can produce maybe a thousand records. And if it deteriorates or if it's damaged or you wanna produce more than a thousand records, you can't, you've gotta go through the whole process again. Neil Wilson: Now in two step, we've got a mother and we've got a stamper. And from the mother, we can produce more stampers. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. Okay. Neil Wilson: 3000 records. We can do that from that mother, or if the stamper gets damaged, we could produce another stamper from that mother. And then there's another process after that, which is called three step. Neil Wilson: And that's where you grow a stamper from a stamper, you make a mother and then for the mother, you make a father and that father, you then use to produce up to 10 mothers. So you kind of go back the other way, and then those mothers can each produce 10 stampers. So you get to a point where you could actually produce a hundred stampers. Neil Wilson: Each stamper can make up to a thousand records. So in theory, you could make up to a hundred thousand records off. One lack of cut. Now for us, what we do. And we do this for a couple of reasons. We do everything is a two step process. We won't do a single step. It is cheaper, but it's not that much cheaper and it's not worth the risk in our mind. Neil Wilson: Because if we do a single step and that stamper shows up and it's been damaged in transit or heaven forbid as we're inserting into the mold, it gets damaged or it, you know, you decide you wanna run more records or for whatever reason it gets damaged. Well, you've gotta go through that whole process again. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. I Neil Wilson: we do two-step and the mother stays with the plating factory, which is over in the states. And we get the stamp sent to us. And if there's a problem, or if you want a thousand, 2,003,000 records, we can do that from that mother. Now in terms of whether, you know, an artist wants to say, run a hundred records and then produce more. Neil Wilson: Absolutely that can be done. Now, there's obviously a couple of caveats on that. One is that the stamper is damaged and obviously we take up ice, Karen making sure that they're not damaged. When we, you know, before we, instead of stamper into a mold we, you know, we, we, we are meticulous in how we clean it. Neil Wilson: The tiniest spec of dust, because our press is basically a hundred ton hydraulic press. It runs at about 75 ton, but it's, you know, it's a, it's. Big ass press. You know, if you have a, a sizeable speck of dust that sits between the stamper and the mold that will put an imprint through, into the record and potentially over, you know, a hundred, 200, 300, 400 pressings will, will damage that stamper, you know, and you'll get a tick, you know, or a pop when you play that record in exactly the same spot on every single record. Neil Wilson: So we're incredibly careful about cleaning them before we put them in. And then when we take them out, we go through the same cleaning process and we store them carefully so that they're protected and they're dust free. So, you know, that's a long way going about saying yes, if you do a run of a hundred, we can then run more. Neil Wilson: And effectively you're not paying for that stamper again. So you're saving costs there. The other way that an artist could save cost is, is if they wanna run a hundred, but they think there's a really good chance they're going, going to want to run more. We would suggest they actually run the covers to begin with because, you know, if you run a hundred covers, you know, the price is X. Neil Wilson: If you run 200 covers, it's suddenly dropped by 30, 40, 50%. You know, you really Jan 'Yarn' Muths: per unit. Yeah, Neil Wilson: in print in printing. So, you know, you run a hundred. If you think you want to run more and you, you know, you can afford it, run the covers. You know, we can saw the covers or you can saw the covers, doesn't matter who stores the covers. Neil Wilson: You've got them. So you've, you know, for that next run, you've already got the covers. You're not paying for those. You've already got a stamper. You're not paying for that. So suddenly that second run becomes a lot more economical. So that's Jan 'Yarn' Muths: is fantastic advice. Yeah. Yeah. That's fantastic advice if you're okay with this, I'd like to ask you to talk me through the process from, from a musician's point of view, one more time. So we are just in the rehearsal room, we wrote a couple of songs. We think we've got an album together. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: We need to now think about side a and B, which songs fit together how they end up in, you know, the overall duration. And now suddenly we have limits while, you know, with streaming in CDs. There are also some limits, but can you talk about the limits that we have there for side a and B? For, for vinyl records, Neil Wilson: Yep. There's a couple of things. There's a limit on time. So, and it varies on the style of music that you're playing or that you're recording. So you know, sort of quiet, acoustic, quiet, jazz you know, quiet, acoustic sorry. Yeah, solo type music. You can, you can press a longer record. Neil Wilson: The noisier that music gets the more for a better term, intense that music gets. The less you can get onto an album. And it basically just comes down to like everything. It's about the amount of information you can get into a groove. So to just to pick an average, if, if you are pressing a good old fashioned rock and roll record, 18 minutes aside is, is optimal. Neil Wilson: Under 18 is, is, is great. Yep. 18 to 21 is good. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: good. Mm-hmm Neil Wilson: you can, you can get a good pressing above 21. You gotta start to think about how, you know, do you really want that music on there? 21 to 24, depending on the music and depending on the type of mix. Yep. You can do it. And then above 24, you, you know, like we'd be hesitant about whether you wanna do that. Neil Wilson: And we would actually send the audio off to our, to our lack of cutter and say, Hey, have a listen to this, see what you think before we would cut it. So that's the first thing is, you know, is, is what's the duration. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And is that because you know, more intense music basically means it's, it's louder, let's say stronger hits on the drums. For example, that means you need to cut the groove deeper, making the groove a little bit wider and therefore is, is that, is that why? Neil Wilson: yeah, that that's, that's essentially it. And it also comes down to how close those groups are together. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I see. And that has to do with how loud this record plays back. Is that true? Mm-hmm Neil Wilson: And you can have different mixes, you know, you can have a loud mix. And again, that has a similar effect, so that's Jan 'Yarn' Muths: can I ask more questions on that? I'm dying to ask questions about Neil Wilson: I'm not sure how much I can answer, but yes, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: look over the last couple of decades, we've gone through something that we know as the loudness wars, where everybody tried to have their record just a bit louder than the previous ones. And that sort of has PKD has hit a war and it seems to be rolling back at least that's my in the digital world to some degree. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: What about vinyl? If you know, if we give our mixes, let's say to mastering engineer and ask them to make it as loud as technically possible, would that translate well to vinyl record or would you recommend to get it mastered differently? Neil Wilson: Look, it's an interesting one and there's, and it, there is a number of different opinions on this. You know, there's a lot of people say you've got a master specifically for vinyl. Interestingly so masters who cuts our lacks is they do have specific technical requirements for, for how to cut how to master for vinyl. Neil Wilson: But it's not, it's, it's less in the I suppose the format and more in the mix. Well, what they do say is, is you don't need to over process, you know, or basically compensate for vinyl, unless you think it's absolutely necessary. And electronic music is probably a good example of that because you know, electronic music it can be, I suppose, mixed differently for, for digital than it can to vinyl. Neil Wilson: I don't know that this pure, the, the pure technical reasons for that. But I just know that's, that's sort of a, you know, a reason. The thing about a digital master is that you can use a limit to help you sort of average out the level. And you can use that, I suppose, to, to, you know, make it louder, make it quieter, those sorts of things. Neil Wilson: Basically, but the thing is is that if you, if you use that limit to basically, you know, really pump up the volume of the digital recording, the reality is, is to get a good vinyl, cut the vinyl master, the vinyl lack cut is probably gonna actually blow that back down. So, you know, if you want to, if you want a loud record, you know, it's not about getting your digital mix loud, it's, it's really about recording it well and balanced so that the, the lack of cutter can then I suppose cut a pure representation of that music and then really it's your amplification that that's gonna make that loud? Neil Wilson: The Jan 'Yarn' Muths: good. That is good. So, you know, I was really waiting for these words and you phrased that so well. So you basically said that by making it louder, digitally, there's nothing to be gained on the vinyl side that doesn't make it louder on the vinyl side. Neil Wilson: Oh, look, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you can, Neil Wilson: it can make it louder, but the qu you loud doesn't equal quality. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: exactly yeah, Neil Wilson: that your foregoing quality at the sake of loudness you know, the reality is, is, is that get the, get the best mix possible that truly represents your music and how you want that heard, regardless of the volume level, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yes. Neil Wilson: are always gonna get the best outcome. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So many people need to hear exactly that Neil Wilson: we had a question recently that I'm gonna be honest. I had to Google, we had a question for someone that said, oh, are you guys gonna be redlining? Your, you know, your, your mixes. And I kind of thought, well, hell what the hell is redlining? You know, so I did a bit of research, spoke to someone and basically redlining is an act of, of really amping up the volume in your digital mix. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And yeah. Going into clipping. Yeah. Yeah. Neil Wilson: But the reality is, is that you are then impacting the quality of the vinyl cut. You get so, so yeah, I look, I, I think the best advice I could give is, is, is mix music. So that, it sounds great. You know, whether it's quiet, whether it's Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that's it well said. Neil Wilson: we're gonna get you, you're gonna get the best quality sound, you know, and if you want it loud, we'll use a bigger ramp and a bigger set of speakers, you know, you know, because it's, it's that same old thing, you know, it doesn't matter how big an app, it can be big. Neil Wilson: It can be small. Your speakers can be like, however many whats. There's a point when you turn that up, that it starts to distort. And it sounds like crap. Yeah. Upping your digital mix is just in some ways the equivalent of that. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I'm definitely on board with that. So in other words, we are not trying to achieve artificial loudness in the mastering process, but we preserve quality instead. And then on the consumer's end, that's when we just bring up the volume touch more. I also found that mixes that are sort of over mastered or overprocessed and mastering, I seem to fatigue quicker and I'm ready to switch to the next song earlier where the songs that are not as strongly processed, I can listen to a thousand times in a row and I never get sick of 'em. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's something that I observed myself. Neil Wilson: Look, I, I, I'm Jan 'Yarn' Muths: level of fatigue there. Neil Wilson: Yeah. I I'll openly admit, like I know very little about mixing and I've had a couple people kind of chip me about that in the past, you know, like, well, how enough are you gonna press records? If you don't understand how to, you know, mix or after a record? The reality is that's not my. Neil Wilson: You know, my, my job is to press you the best representation of what your mastering engineer has produced. And I do that by getting the best quality lacker I can get cut. I do that by getting the best quality stamps on cut by having a great machine. And for me, the job is things like understanding what temperature my vinyl has gotta be at, so that it perfectly Mels into those grooves and captures every single little divot in that groove so that you get the best possible playback. Neil Wilson: Now that said, you know, in the background, I'm, I'm, you know, reading everything I can to, you know, to understand it more because I think that it's important for me in the long run to understand that. Mainly because I can then sort of answer the sort of questions that I get asked, but I don't need it to be able to reduce a good record. Neil Wilson: And the thing is as a music fan, what I notice is that it's not just. The mixing and the mastering, it even comes down to the sort of high-fi gear you're listening on. I love tubes, you know, I love, I love valve amps, but my favorite setup, which I've sort of got in the factory at the moment is a valve preamp and a solid state power amp because the power amp for me will give me it, it gives the music you know, that that power essentially gives the music freedom. Neil Wilson: You know, it doesn't feel like it's being forced. The music suddenly comes into a science and then the valve Preem gives me that tone that I love out of, of valve, you know, that warmth, that airiness, that breathness, you know so that combination for me is fantastic. Now the reality is, is that there's certain music that I play on that where I could just sit there and drift away. Now there's other music that I'll play on that setup and it's like, Ugh, just doesn't really. Feel comfortable. You know, punk is a classic example or really, really hard driven rock through a valve. A in my opinion, you know, other people will differ, but in my opinion, it's, it's just got a it's got a, it's not a muddiness. Neil Wilson: It just doesn't sound as, as free, it sounds forced. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, Neil Wilson: I've also got a, you know, a fairly big sizeable integrated sense, SU amp, solid state amp. Now I play punk through that and it sounds fantastic, you know, and I think there's a similar thing with, with, with mixing and mastering, you know, like you've gotta, you've gotta be true to the type of music you you're playing and you've gotta be true to the type of music you're mixing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's so true. Neil Wilson: you know, so if you mix punk or rock, you know, the wrong way if you over process it, as you say it, it, you, you don't get that, that. That energy, that freedom. It does sound forced. You know, so again, you know, you need, you need to treat your music with respect the whole way through, you know, you've given it the respect of, of, of creating it, of playing it of, of practicing of, of, of all those hours and hours and days and weeks and months. Neil Wilson: So give it the same respect when you master it and, you know, when you record it and master it, and you know, that doesn't mean that, you know, it's gotta be the most amazing studio and the most amazing mastering engineer, you know, You know, I heard a great expression the other day bedroom pop, you know, like, you know, it's, you know, recorded in bedroom on someone's laptop. Neil Wilson: It's, it's about, you know, understanding what you're trying to achieve and, and, and putting the right process in place for that type of music. And that's the whole way through it's the mastering. It's, you know, it's the lack of cup, it's the getting the right stamp of producer to, to really capture what's on that lacker. Neil Wilson: And then for us, it's, it's the same process for us when we press, regardless of the type of music it's treating that stamper with respect, getting it, absolutely spotless, getting our vinyl temps, right. Getting our, getting our pressing times. Right. You know, it's not just opening and closing, you know, a press and molds for us. Neil Wilson: It's there's heating stages. It's making sure the first stage is right. The second stage is right. The third stage is right. Making sure the cooling is the right amount of time so that, you know, that record comes out of that mold. Stable, but not hard because if it comes out hard and then we go to trim that record, you get a rough edge, you know, and it can actually almost walk the record a bit because the knife is pulling out that record as you're, as you're trimming. Neil Wilson: So they're the things that are critical for me. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. That's a, Neil Wilson: terms of producing good music, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that's a precision mechanical process. Isn't Neil Wilson: it is it's, it's like, you know, and we've been shooting this machine down to the half seconds in stages, you know, and, and, and balancing out the desire to get our, our cycle times up, you know, because obviously the more records we can produce, the quicker we can get through runs, but the get to a point where it's too quick, you know, you're not heating it fast enough, or you're not cooling it long enough, or you, you know, you're not giving that, that PVC time to actually Mel into a good puck. Neil Wilson: So, you know, and we think we've got that balance, right? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I wanna steer back to, to that example of, of a band working with you, if that's okay. So let's say, you know, we've recorded our songs. We decided for, let's say two sides of approximately 18 minutes. And now we probably have the high energy songs at the beginning of the site and the quieter karma songs towards the end of each side. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So we are all ready to go. Now we Neil Wilson: just on that. I like a lot of people you know, had an idea around the order of songs as not a technical thing, but about, you know, you want to play your big, uplifting, fast, powerful songs at the beginning of the album to bring a listener up. And then towards end of the side, you bring them back down into the gentle Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm-hmm the journey actually. Neil Wilson: From what I can see, it it's actually, that's the, that's the cart, not the horse. Neil Wilson: The reason it's come about that way is that the, the a record, the outside diameter. Is is much less sorry, much greater than the inside diameter. So you think about the arc of a needle as it goes around a record when it's on the outside, it's a lot more gentle then by the time it gets to the inside, by the time the needle gets to the inside that that that's circumference has gotten tighter. Neil Wilson: And so there's more force, you know, for one of a better term, the needle wants to pop out and skid across the record because you're getting tighter and tighter and tighter. So if you put your really hardcore loud track at the end of a record, you gotta lower that, that volume. You've gotta really start to subdue the, you know, the volume because otherwise you're gonna blow the needle out of the track. Neil Wilson: So that's where that actually came from. You know, you put your, your noisier tracks on the outside because it's a, it's a far gentle. You know, sort of circumference then on the inside. So all these years, you know, when I thought, oh, it's this whole idea artists have got about you, build them up and you bring them down. Neil Wilson: Well, an actual fact that's come out of the fact that, you know, it's just the physical nature of a record. So that's, that's a big part of what drives it. Now, obviously, if you like, I've got, you know, was talking about Lou Reed, New York before I was playing yesterday and it's only three tracks and on some of the size, two tracks per side, and it's, it's loud the whole way through. Neil Wilson: Now. What's interesting on that is that on some records, when you look at them, they might only be three tracks and the groove will start at the outside. It actually finishes right at the inside at the runout groove. So they've used the full for one of a better term width of that, that side to be able to cut. Neil Wilson: And, you know, the tracks get obviously quiet as you get sort of more and more to the inside this Lou read. You know, it's, they're tight and there's this massive run out groove. And I think that's just because, you know, he's like, I'm gonna play my songs loud, which if I want them to, to be held with physics, you know? Neil Wilson: And so they've actually compressed those to the outside so that, you know, even those noisy songs they're still really are sitting in the middle of the record. So you're not getting that tight circum compass the end. But anyway, I Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Well, there's so much to it. It's, it's such a physical process. Isn't Neil Wilson: it is. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Once my band hands it over, let's say to you and your mastering engineer for cutting. How soon can we expect results? Neil Wilson: Yep. So, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: long does it take? Neil Wilson: So right now our lead times are safely running at 12 weeks. Could be a little bit longer if you wanna test pressing and you wanna spend a bit of time with that test pressing, but as a rule of thumb 12 weeks now the reality for us is that, you know, if, and, you know, we think we will and we hope we will get busier. Neil Wilson: There'll be pressure on that. Now the reason for that 12 weeks, if you break it down for us is mostly driven around the ma sorry, the lack of cut and the stamps and the stampers is actually the biggest part now in Australia right now, there's no one who produces who will do lack of cuts and stampers commercially. Neil Wilson: So if the other two pressing plants in Australia, there's program in Zen boat, down in Melbourne, Z have inhouse, lacka cup and stampers and program like us done. So. So puts center side program are probably in a similar boat to us in that we've gotta go offshore to get our, our lacks and our stamps. Neil Wilson: And that's another reason why we really would like to get stampers in house at substation in the next couple of years. So if, okay, so if you start at day one to start in order, we need apart from that little horrible thing around money and deposits, we need your audio files and we need your artwork. Neil Wilson: The artwork, the jackets we get produced locally in Australia, where, you know, we wanna keep as much in Australia as we can in terms of supply chain, the labels at this stage, we have to send offshore and labels are a whole conversation in their own, right? And this has actually been one of the trickier things that we've had to learn. Neil Wilson: And just to very quickly. Off track. And just to explain it, labels aren't glued or stuck onto a record after a record is made. The labels are actually fused into a record when you press the record, they're simply placed on top, you know, on the top and the bottom of the park as that's pressed and the heat and the pressure is what actually fuses the label into the record. Neil Wilson: Now that's obviously a high stress process. So to do that, you need to use specialist, paper and the right type of Inc. And the paper actually has a very high clay content which allows it to, I suppose, both take that paper pressure and also you know, deal with the stress of, of that pressing and that 75 tons of pressure. Neil Wilson: But it's not just getting the right paper and the right ink. We, we have to actually bake the labels before we. Make a record. So, you know, we literally take the labels, we put a metal rod through the hole. We use an air gun and we sort of gently blow them to separate them all out and get any Dustin particles out of there. Neil Wilson: And then we literally whack them into oven at 130 degrees and we bake them and we'll bake them for about 13 hours. And depending on the ink, depending on the color of the ink, depending on the humidity where you are the, the baking time varies. So the factory that we are friends with over the UK, Milsborough they only have to bake their labels for about three to four hours where we found that we had to bake our labels and we have to bake our labels overnight. Neil Wilson: And that's to remove any moisture. Cause if you don't, they stick. So so that's, you know, that's obviously a process you need that specialist printing and the paper is It's not difficult to get, but it's, you know, you need to order a certain volume and there's a lead time in getting that paper. Neil Wilson: So right now in Australia there's no one doing those labels, but our our printing plan is actually working on on doing them. And they've been sending us some samples to test some of which have been working really well and some of which haven't and we're working with them to kind of refine them. Neil Wilson: But right now we have to go overseas for those. So we get your artwork. We send, you know, we, we check that it's all, okay. It meets the, the the requirements we send that off and that gets printed. But the audio files, what we do is we, we send them over to master disk and they'll cut a lacker. And that's about a two week process you know, based on their backlog, And, and, and where they're at, but, you know, roughly two weeks, it then gets shipped to the stamper factory. Neil Wilson: And right now plating is, is one of the big bottlenecks in the industry because there's a lot of factories that have their own in-house Galban stampers. And there's a lot of factories that don't. So there's specialist factories that obviously make those stamps and like everything in the industry, they're under incredible pressure because there's a lot of demand. Neil Wilson: So for us, we are running at somewhere between sort of, you know, five to six weeks to get stampers turned around. So if you look at that, we're already at sort of, you know, six to eight weeks, then you've got shipping. So the reality is it's, it's sort of you eight to nine weeks, you know, before we get those stampers back in house. Neil Wilson: So we can't even, you know, look at the record, press for an order for eight, nine weeks. So we then get those stampers in. You know, we we, you know, we make sure we've got our labels cuz you have to have the labels to obviously press the records, make sure we've got everything. And then when we've got the jackets, we've got the labels, we've got the sleeves, we've got the stampers. Neil Wilson: That's when we're ready to press we supply test presses on orders of 250 or more and under 250 records, we can supply them for a cost. And the reason we don't supply them on smaller runs is just the setup cost. It's just, it's too hard to be able to absorb it. We need to push the price up even more of our records if we were gonna do that. Neil Wilson: So, but you can't get them. So if you're getting test presses, we would then run your test presses. And we run all our test presses as 140 grand black. And we would typically. But we've run a few first few records at any run are always gonna get dumped. But we produce those test presses and we send them back. Neil Wilson: You check them now, you know, what we suggest on checking test presses is that you need a number of ears and ideally, you know, you need a number of setups. So, you know, send one to your, to your you know, your recording engineer, your mastering engineer, get them to listen to it. You listen to it. Neil Wilson: Band members, listen to it, friends, whoever someone, you know, who loves music, get them to listen to it. And it's important to understand that what you're listening for is you're not listening for the mix, cuz the mix is predetermined. It's being produced by your mastering engineer, you know, and the audio quality essentially has come out of, of your recording. Neil Wilson: What you're listening for is background noise. So in the intro and outro and in the track breaks, is it quiet or is it kind of, you know, is there a static, is there a noise? Cause if there is then we've done. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Or my needle is messed up Neil Wilson: well that, and that's why you need to check it on different setups as well. So you're listening to, is there background noise? Neil Wilson: Is there is there a pop or a crack or does it skip now if there's a pop or a crack or something on a record what you want to then do is you want to check the other records on the system that you are using, and if it's only one pop or crack on one record on your system, and it doesn't happen on another system, well, obviously it's a problem with your system, but also it could just be that that particular record has, yeah. Neil Wilson: Is, is got some dirt on it, or look, you know, there's a scratch or something. So you want to check all of them to make sure that it's not a problem in the same spot in every single record. Cuz if it is a problem Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. Yeah. Neil Wilson: that's a problem with us without stamper. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's actually not a creative approval process anymore. It's a technical Huff and safety procedure where you just rule out, you know, any that the records misbehave. Yep. Got it. Okay. Neil Wilson: listen to it on different setups. If you can listen to it on a great setup, do, if you can listen, you know, if you've got a cheap setup, listen to it on that, you know, listen to it on various setups. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Now we've approved this. We're happy with that. So we give it back to you or will we keep it? I guess we keep the test pressings Neil Wilson: You can keep your test, press. All we need to know is that you're happy. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Take Neil Wilson: tell us you're happy and then we press. So at that point, what we do is pretty simple. We get it into our production schedule day before we bake those labels. And then the next day we then press your records. Now, when the record's coming outta the press, they're not ready to sleeve because they've been cooled in the mold with the, with the cool water and they're coming out at, look, it varies. Neil Wilson: But for argument sake, say they're coming off that press at 35 to 40 degrees now. We we can, and we do, you know, we can take them and play them and check them at that point in time. And we do check, we check, you know, kind of on a regular basis, every sort of 15, 20 records that come out, we're, we're taking one off and we're listening to it. Neil Wilson: And again, we're listening for intro outro, you know, track breaks. Is there, you know, any background noise? Is it sounding good? And that's, you know, have we got the vinyl temperature, right. Have we got the pressing process? Right. And you know, generally we are so, yep. Happy, good press. That rum. What we then do is we take those records and we let them cool. Neil Wilson: And we let them cool in a very particular way. We've got some we've got a cooling system. And what we effectively have done is we've got series of aluminum trays with a, with a six mill rod spike that comes off it. So we take, you know, five to 10 records depending on what the, the actual atmosphere temperature is and what the humidity is. Neil Wilson: Slide those on. And then we put an element in plate on, and that Al element in plate is, is wider than the record. Then we put another five, 10 record, another element in plate, and we build that up to about, you know, kind of 30 to 40 records. Now we then take that and we store it away in a, you know, nice clean room and we let that stabilize and that'll stabilize for, you know, 12, 24 hours longer. Neil Wilson: And what that does is it effectively just allows that record to perfectly cool. Even if the ambient temperature in the room is 30 degrees, it doesn't really matter. It's not about getting them cold. It's about letting that vinyl stabilize, letting the PVC stabilize and become perfectly hard solid. And what those element in plates do is they're effectively, they're helping the. Neil Wilson: The records stabilize flat, which is obviously important, but they also act as a heat sink and they help to draw the heat out and out through the, in your plates. And so yeah, we, we let the record stabilize and then once they're stable we then pack and, and packings, you know, it's a simple process, but it's actually one of the most important QA processes for us, cuz it's the last time someone from our factory, you know, one of us gets to check your record before it goes. Neil Wilson: So as we're packing, every single record is checked. You know, we look at that record, is it clean? You know, are there any obvious defects? Is it flat great, then we slave it and then we pack it and then it's ready for shipping, you know, either being shipped or, or picked up If anything, one 40 gram records are the trickiest to press because you know, it's about keeping it reasonably flat. Neil Wilson: Now a one 40 gram record isn't gonna be dead flat. Some are some are, you will always get a, you know, you'll always get a little bit of a wave, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, a little war Neil Wilson: on some of them. Yeah. Now what we're doing is we're checking and making sure that it's a little bit of a wave. It's not a big wave. Even a big wave will still play, but it doesn't look good. Neil Wilson: you know, it's you look at and think, oh, that's not quite right. So even though it'll play, it's got that big wave, not, it gets rejected. So that we are making sure we're only sitting records that they're not just played that look good. 180 S are a lot easier. They're a lot more, you know, they, you know, they come off the press breeze to be flat. Neil Wilson: So there's not much of a, a process and the cooling to, to make sure they're flat. so, yeah, so packed and ready for either shipping. When we ship, we've got we ship in two boxes, we double box, we've got a single box that will take depending on whether it's a, a, a single three mill spine record or a gate fold, or it'll take about, you know, single record three mill spine will take 25 records. Neil Wilson: And then we've got, and that's a really heavy walled cardboard which is good for both insulation, but also to protect them. And then we then take two of those boxes and we sleeve it into another box, which is also a heavy walled box, so that they're double boxed. And we've also designed our packaging so that we, we are, we're packing into the first box flat, but then when we pack those two boxes into the main box, they're packed vertically, cuz you know, always keep your records vertical don't ever like store your records long term sitting flat, especially not with other records piled on top, cuz that's a really good way for your records to walk. Neil Wilson: So again, you know, we're making sure that even in the packing process that we're taking the utmost care, so those records get to you in the best condition they possibly can. So that whole process right now, you're looking at about 12 weeks until it's ready for delivery. I mean, obviously we, we wanna try and keep that as much as possible. Neil Wilson: But you know, like everything in the industry, the moment the industry's overwhelmed. So obviously if we get overwhelmed with orders we'd need to revisit that. But there's a couple of things we can look at doing, you know, we may look at spliting the stampers and sort of, you know, sharing between a couple of factories to see if we can keep things speeded up. Neil Wilson: We'll obviously always be trying to make sure that we can keep a good, a good deadline. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. And have you got any recommendations things you've learned from maybe clients of how to sell on the records to the fans? Are there any things that my band should definitely do in order to know, get to, to sell these records ASAP? Neil Wilson: Look, I think one of the best ways is, is if you're a band that plays live selling the gigs, you know, seems to be, you know, like you come out of a gig with that buzz and, you know, I don't know, like anyone else I just look for, where can I buy this album? So that's obviously one way you know, like I was about to say the kids these days, which shows my age, but, you know, social media is great, you know, like there's, you know, great communities on there and, and, and people, you know, there's, there's obviously ways to sell there. Neil Wilson: We're looking at doing some arrangements with a couple of local record stores where they'll sell on assignment our, you know, pit foot bands that we press. You know, and I think it's just really those normal channels. The, the bands that seem to do well in terms of sales, I think are the ones who've got a really strong online present presence and online community because you know, fans wanna buy the album because they wanna feel like they're helping the band. Neil Wilson: You know, they wanna feel like they're kind of engaging with that band. So, you know, the easier you can make it to engage with for fans engage with you. I think it's the easier it is to, to make those sales. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: and what's the best place to, to find you online. If somebody wants to reach out and, you know, learn more about you and your business and maybe reach out to, to make records, Neil Wilson: yeah, so. Web address is suitcase records or one AU. And we're on Instagram at suitcase records. And we're on Facebook. I know I should know this. I think we're, again, suitcase records on Facebook and they're the best best places. You know, Instagram interesting. We're getting a really good engagement from really good sort of sort of genuine feedback from, from from, you know, just people who are really interested and, you know, it's worth saying that really great support, you know, we, we're finding that people seem to really want us to succeed, you know, and we are getting this great, great support, great feedback which is really nice, you know, it's, it just makes it worthwhile when you get people seem to be genuinely excited about what we're doing. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: That's fantastic. Well, it is an amazing procedure and I learned so much today. I had no idea just how complex making records is. So that's really insightful. Neil. Thank you. Thank you so much for your time. I wish you all the best for your business endeavors. It's something really exciting and you know, the more music we have the better as a society as a country. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you're doing a Neil Wilson: true. That is absolutely true. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate chatting to you. Thank you. Neil Wilson: See you. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This was Mr. Neil Wilson of suitcase, a record from Brisbane vinyl, manufacturing plant, and a family business. It's a startup. So I really hope that they're doing really well. Thank you, Neil, for sharing all your wisdom. And hopefully many, many amazing records will come out of your facilities over the years to come. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe a right here in your podcast player and tell all your friends and fellow musicians about this podcast series. Because the more listeners we get the better, if you want to reach out to me, you can do so via my website, a mixed where I offer mixed on services and recording services for everybody who needs a little bit of help. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And by the way, I've looked very deeply into the right production techniques for vinyl records. So if you want to do a vinyl record and you would just like to have a technical chat about mixing and mastering at all the dos and dons, why don't you just reach out to. Stay tuned. There are some phenomenal episodes coming up with extremely successful musicians. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I hinted this before, but today I won't say anything more about it. Just stay tuned. It's coming up in the next episodes. You have a fantastic week and that's all for today. Bye for now.
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