The Revolution Will Not Be Digital.
In the digital age, with readily available streaming services, illegal downloads and a generation having grown up having never actually bought a physical music product who in their right mind would contemplate starting a vinyl only record label? And a subscription only record label at that. I mean you’d have to be bonkers right? Even more so when the label in question asks that you pay twenty quid a month for five exclusively pressed discs from the best new and up and coming artists whom you may have never have heard of? I mean this is crazy talk, yeah? Craig Evans the man behind Flying Vinyl’s innovative subscription service tells what gave him the idea for such a label and proves he’s actually quite sane
Over to Craig
“Before Flying Vinyl started I was working, ironically, in digital marketing in the music industry. I was becoming increasingly frustrated, I was one of those people who thought that with the advent of digital and social media there would be this great democratisation in the way music was listened too and consumed and yet some four or five years later nothing had really changed. I did a complete U-turn because we weren’t actually connecting people with new music in a way I’d hoped. The reality was that there was no genuine democratisation as such, we’d simply created a system that replicated the old system, a world where it was sadly once again still the case of those with the biggest budget were the ones who prospered in the music world.
Yet I was going to see all these fantastic bands with incredible talent and none of them seemed to go anywhere, a few years down the line they’d simply disappear. Aside from that, I was looking at the revenues involved, I mean when I started in music we were talking about how on earth is anybody going to survive on download revenues, and then a few years later we were then praying for download revenues, because how is anybody going to survive on streaming revenues and so on. So there was this kind of thought process taking place within me, so when labels were asking how they can get more followers, my response was actually we don’t simply want followers we want proper music fans, people who actually go to gigs and support bands, not people who consume a bit of content via streaming and then bounce off somewhere else.”
But it wasn’t new music that was the initial catalyst that gave Craig the idea to set up Flying Vinyl, it actually happened when he was listening to a classic album on vinyl by legendary rockers Fleetwood Mac.
“Yeah I sat down listening to ‘Rumours’ on vinyl, and it occurred to me if we could connect people to new music via this format it would be amazing. I mean it’s such a different experience than listening via any digital outlet because you genuinely focus on the music, it’s not background noise. You take the time to sit down and listen, you’re not on a PC, you turn your devices off and you’re properly engaged with what your listening to. I mean a vinyl album doesn’t throw up adverts or suggest you listen to other content. It’s just there as a body of work. And the idea kind of snowballed from there – ‘What if we could take all these bands who I really rate and who I was sure people would love and get people to listen and engage with them on a different level via vinyl. I mean some of the outlets that at one time promoted new music such as Radio 1 just aren’t doing it anymore, radio isn’t breaking bands in the way that they used to. You only have to look at festival headliners to see that they are just recycling the same old artists instead of helping create and nurture new potential festival headliners. So I felt, that given all the people in the world, there surely must be a few thousand people who share the same views as I do in that respect. People who would pay 20 quid a month to get music that is totally exclusive, get music that they perhaps hadn’t heard before and taken that risk. And lo and behold there were lots of people out there who were as frustrated as I was. And lots of people who as music fans thought that we shouldn’t actually have everything completely on a plate for free, who believe that we have to invest in art and pay for art.
It’s great to see 16-year-old kids now, who have never previously purchased music of any kind before going out and spending the little disposable income they have on records. Ideally, it would be great if we could make shopping for records a cornerstone of our cultural and social lives in the same way as say going for a coffee or a drink, I mean what an incredible musical landscape we could create over the next ten years!”
With so much information, so much music out there, and so many blogs simply churning out exactly the same content about music, replete with endless top 10’s from classic albums to pop stars who look like turnips, Craig sees the Flying Vinyl initiative as a way of getting away from the noise and hysterical but shallow and transient hyperbole – of tuning out and then really tuning into what matters – the music. So did Craig notice the way he was consuming and relating to music being affected by this tsunami of constant information
“It’s a big problem, we really do have information overload, which gets in the way of enjoying things in a pure form. With the label its a way of getting people away from computers and new tech which is where I feel its been really successful, making that connection with people who want to experience new music. In terms of churning out endless information and content, blogs are a great example of that. There are some excellent blogs out there but they are under such pressure to churn out fresh content, every single day that there’s only so long you can continue to do that before the quality takes a nose dive and you start to water down your output. I studied journalism at uni and worked for a year in the industry before deciding it wasn’t for me. And it’s incredibly hard to make any money, I mean how do you live if you’re writing all the time but nobody is paying for your content? I think the whole profession doesn’t really understand how it’s going to exist in the future. And then, of course, to survive you end up sucking corporate cock and worrying about your sponsors and advertisers and simply exist for hits That’s not pure journalism, is it? Journalism should be about being independent and having an opinion.
In terms of the constant stream and availability of music I mean when streaming came to prevalence I was listening to everything all of the time as well as working, running around town, going to meetings, always listening and yet conversely not really listening at all. Yet when I started collecting vinyl things changed. Vinyl is like heroin, it’s absolutely the most committed way of listening to music. I mean I was and still do stream music, but I was taking time out to actually sit down and listen to records. And that experience is so different from digital music and listening on the go, often through crappy I-pod headphones or laptop speakers – you really can’t compare the two experiences. So when people ask, yeah but will this last? I mean won’t people just all stream eventually. And I explain that the two things aren’t mutually exclusive … you can actually do both. Most people who purchase music are music fanatics, they still stream music, I mean I can listen to Fleetwood Mac on my headphones when I’m running about which is great but I can also properly sit down and listen to it via vinyl. And with the digital world, we sometimes forget how nice it is to have a physical product. There is room for both formats.”
And Flying Vinyl have a great track record, releasing exclusive from the likes of Dream Wife, Black Honey The Big Moon and In heaven to name but four,
“We always said from day one they only thing that would govern what we put in our flying vinyl box would be the quality of music, we don’t care whether the band are on a label or not, whether they are a Sony or Universal high priority act or if they have just made a few scratchy demos in their garage. We just wanna put out music that means something, so when we send you five records you’ve paid for, you are going to listen to them, you’re not gonna put them to one side. And people trust us .. so if we keep up the quality people will keep subscribing .. I mean some f those bands you mentioned we put out early on our now becoming quite big deals like Black Honey, Dream Wife, and The Amazons, In Heaven and The Big Moon. I mean when we began when many of these bands were just starting out, and so when people say “how do we know if we’ll like the music” we say, well you don’t but have a look on our website at past releases. Part of it is trying to predict what we think might be big I guess, but that’s not the overwhelming priority, as I’ve said if we find something in the music we love we’ll put it out because we believe in it.
And now Flying Vinyl have their very own festival
“The first one was last year in Hackney, which sold out 1000 tickets. Somebody suggested we put a gig, but the thing is our way of doing things is we think what’s the biggest thing possible we can do? So instead of a gig we went for broke and decided on an all dayer festival – ten bands for twenty pounds with the aim of getting the best possible bands and create an experience you couldn’t get elsewhere .. We obviously waited to see how it went and straight after we were like ...”right that was so good this just has to be an annual thing “ So this year The Wytches are headlining with Spring King, there’s, Willie J Healey, Dream Wife, Anteros, Hidden Charms, Trudy & the Romance, Yassassin, Traams, and Palm Honey. And if you can’t make London, don’t worry in future we are at ways of getting up and down the country too “
FLYING VINYL FESTIVAL II will be held at Oval Space, in East London, on 08/04/17. Tickets go on sale 12/02/17.
for more on Flying Vinyl’s subscriptionervice visit their website – https://www.flyingvinyl.co.uk/