By Jim Schutze
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Portland, Oregon's Blind Pilot garnered headlines this summer when the band announced that it would be traveling by bicycle this fall. Having kicked off in Bellingham, Washington, on August 16, the group's West Coast tour de tunes will wrap up in San Diego mid-October.
Part of the impetus for eschewing automobiles and enduring two months' worth of slipped chains and barking quads was to avoid relying on costly gasoline.
In the coming years, more musicians may consider following Blind Pilot's creative lead. The high price of petroleum could force the retail costs of key products and services within the music industry to rise, impacting more than just fueling the tour van. Although it's a safe bet that most artists will steer clear of cycling, they could be pressed to find alternatives to other important mainstays in the entertainment world. (Or alternatives to that trustworthy, creative stimulant; better hope your dealer sports a hybrid.)
Below, we run through a list of prominent music products threatened with spikes at the register if the price tag on petroleum continues its steep hike.
The cost of vinyl pressings is expected to rise—from the price of the record itself, to the oil for the manufacturing machines, to transportation—thanks to the industry's heavy reliance upon petroleum. At indie giant Sub Pop, head of production Stuart Meyer says expenses have gone up at the label's pressing plant, although for the moment, that hasn't triggered an increase in what Sub Pop asks for vinyl.
The soundproofing industry has been similarly affected. According to Jody Cook, president of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based Sound Isolation Company, noise-control products with petroleum components (soundproof barriers, floor underlayments made from recycled rubber and acoustical foam) have all risen in manufacturing cost.
"We've seen increases of 30 percent in the last 18 months for a tremendous percentage of the products commonly used for the music biz," Cook explains. "These increases are due in part to the cost of raw materials, the cost of getting the raw materials to the manufacturer, and getting the product to us or our customers or both."
Alert the Pete Wentzes of the pop world: The ingredients in and packaging for hair gel are made from petroleum-based materials.
And just how long will companies be able to hold off markups? Onley, Virginia-based In Tune Guitar Picks has contended with rising petroleum prices influencing commercial plastic expenses (the material picks are manufactured from), as well as delivery fees.
President Bert LeCato expresses satisfaction in keeping his retail rates stable but isn't alone in speculating upon inevitable hikes: "We haven't had a price increase in over eight years. But it's getting close," he says. "We've had to become a lot stricter in handling our endorsement pricing."
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