Way back in the day, just after World War II, the LP ruled the music world. And business was booming because the popularity of music was burgeoning. Huge hydraulic presses pumped out a never-ending flow of vinyl records. Later, during the 1980s, advances in technology produced the compact disc, hailed as vastly superior in quality as well as size. Almost overnight, CDs made the hydraulic presses obsolete. LPs went the way of the dinosaurs. Of course, there were a few die-hards who couldn’t let go of the past. They were called audiophiles, and they insisted that LPs provided a sonic quality the CD was unable to approach.
Fast-forward to today. Digital music and CD sales suffered reduced sales because of streaming services, like Spotify and Pandora. Around 2009, millennials discovered vinyl records, a medium before their time. They started buying vinyl records and playing them on old turntables. Vinyl was back. The big music labels noticed and began issuing heirlooms on wax. Technics jumped back into turntables.
The old axiom, well known to the field of fashion that the outmoded may justly return as the avant-garde proved to be true. The post-World War II vinyl presses were resuscitated and called back into service because, since vinyl was considered dead and done, technological innovation detoured around record pressing. But technology, if anything, is respondent. And the first new wave of record pressing machines is here. The new machines, controlled by software, are automated, fast and super-efficient.
To find out more about the growing popularity of vinyl, I contacted Kaneshii Vinyl Press Ltd., an Atlantic Canada company, based on Prince Edward Island. Kaneshii is one of the new wave of vinyl pressing companies.
What motivated you to enter a sector of the music industry that for all anyone knows might not exist ten years from now?
The love for music was our first motivation. We’ve always been actively listening to music and love discovering new music. On the business side, when you think about it Vinyl hasn’t gone anywhere since its peak in the 1970s. We are now seeing a new generation of people gravitating towards this medium. Like almost anything else it is cyclical and we hope to carve a niche in the market which will hopefully make us relevant years from now.
Where did you obtain funding to start Kaneshii?
The initial funding was from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency, the Province of Prince Edward Island and the rest was personal and angel investors.
From your perspective, why has vinyl regained popularity?
It’s an experience that’s been lacking in this digital age. For example, to play a record you physically have to dust it off, set up the player and become an active listener to the music, maybe that’s just us. Vinyl is also a community experience, you can walk into your local record store and meet individuals from all walks of life with the same goal, digging through crates and finding something new, old or sometimes rare. Most of our clients also add a digital download code as part of the vinyl packaging so there’s no loss of mobility when it comes to the listening experience.
Finally, for us it is the art. Some of the records we’ve seen are really pieces of art, from the cover to the insert booklet, to sometimes the design of the record itself, which emerges the listener into the world the artist is trying to convey.
Do vinyl records provide a better listening experience than digital?
That really depends on who you’re asking. I know people that just say music is music, and they are avid vinyl collectors and listeners. With Vinyl records, you cannot be a passive listener, it’s an immersive process.
According to Nielsen, in 2016 vinyl LP sales hit 13 million. Forbes recently published that number would jump to 40 million units in 2017. Do you believe sales will continue to increase?
Yes we do, then again we are bias because we are in the manufacturing business but we truly believe sales will continue to increase. Currently it is still only at 6%, but there is great growth in its future. The older generations are still buying vinyl records and we are going to see an increase in the younger generation moving towards vinyl, meaning it will hit more than one demographic.
What kind of machines does Kaneshii use?
We use a fully automated vinyl pressing machine made in Canada.
Are these new high-tech record machines just faster, or are they also more efficient?
Both, they are faster and also more efficient.
Are most of your clientele small record labels or do individual bands commission vinyl records?
We have small record labels in Canada, the United States and Brazil, and also have local individual bands. Bands in Quebec, Ontario, the New England states, and even bands from Australia and New Zealand are looking to press their vinyl with us.
Is it cost effective for a small record label to issue vinyl records?
Yes, it is. For a small label to issue vinyl for an up and coming band it is an immediate return of investment for them. For example, they can double their initial investment on a small run if they sell out their vinyl at a show or online.
The record pressing machines used by Kaneshii are the creation of Canadian tech-wizards, the guys who devise medical MRI machines. Made by a Toronto company, the machines are cutting-edge examples of the hottest technical advances currently available. .
Thanks to millennials and their nostalgic fascination with vinyl, record pressing technology caught up with the rest of the 21st century. And companies like Kaneshii are now pumping out new wax that is better than ever.