Stop me if you've heard this one before: vinyl is making a comeback. Physical medium, tactile experience? High fidelity? John Cusack? Well, what you haven't heard is that Hand Drawn Records is looking to provide Dallas with a sought-after service: convenient record pressing for local artists.
Dustin Blocker and Alex Cushing have teamed up to create Hand Drawn Pressing, Dallas' premiere record pressing storefront. By providing a no-nonsense interface and personal interaction, Blocker is able to offer competitively priced record pressing to the DFW area so local bands can hear their own albums when the needle drops. As a former musician, Blocker knows the pitfalls of trying to get a record pressed and wants to use Hand Drawn Pressing to put a community spin on local vinyl.
Blocker's own band, Exit 380, eventually started sharing their music via CDs and downloads, but wanted to take it a step further with vinyl. But the hoops he had to jump through to get a record manufactured proved to be both daunting and misleading. Steep learning curves and hidden costs tripped up the process and left Blocker wanting to mend the system by rebuilding it himself.
Blocker recognized the need and has been working on the now-finshed website for the past few months with Cushing, who handles the day-to-day business operations of the label.
The process begins with musicians choosing to either put out a 12-inch LP or a 7-inch EP and choosing a package that fits their needs. Higher priced packages include goodies like color-printed sleeve inserts, custom record display boxes and custom-colored vinyl. By default, packages come with 500 pressed records that cost $6 to $8 each to press.
Then, artists send in their album art and audio files to be pressed to vinyl. There're only about 14 vinyl presses in the entire country, and Dallas' A&R Records, the only one in Texas, is where Hand Drawn's orders get sent. There a master record is cut into aluminum with a sapphire lathe, after which the disc is inverted into a mold and where hot vinyl is pressed to create the record's grooves. From start to finish, it takes about eight to 10 weeks to go from placing an order to holding your own record.
Pairing a local record label and vinyl-pressing business seemed plenty obvious for several reasons, but most specifically because of the win/win solution it provides to artists and fans. "People aren't buying CDs and bands aren't making money from downloads," Blocker says. "But vinyl benefits both sides."
Bands who spend thousands of dollars perfecting an album and fine-tuning the sound usually end up putting it out online or through CDs, inevitably becoming compressed sound files. By pressing recordings into vinyl, the quality and fidelity that's captured in studios is able to be transferred directly to the audience.
Not only that, but the bands end up making pennies from selling music online while the margins on vinyl would give them enough scratch to pay for gas while touring. "You're not going to make it to the next town if you're only selling on iTunes," Blocker says. "Musicians have a hard time asking to get paid at the end of the night. That's why most of them are on your couch."
Throughout the setup of Hand Drawn Pressing, Blocker wanted to make sure he avoided becoming a faceless head of a business. Every step of the way he remains active and engaged with the people he works with, and as a musician himself he knows he needs to be involved in the process.
So far, Daniel Markham's Pretty Bitchin' is set to roll out in February as Hand Drawn's first pressed record. Several other bands have already reached out to Hand Drawn, and Blocker is also planning to start an analogue studio series that tapes live sessions and then presses them to vinyl. Though business is tepid at the moment, he expects to be thoroughly busy as orders come in and get sent out.
"We're excited to get out there in the world," Blocker says. "We're just all trying to build this community up together and I think we're all headed in the same direction."
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