Colored vinyl is for big, spoiled record babies

I'm not at all picking on this band, whose records I'll never listen to because I'm just not in their demographic. It's nice that these talented young people are being successful with their musical career. I also just don't give a shit about them, and have far heavier records already, thanks, by Phill Niblock, Enemymine, Rev. Louis Overstreet, Breadwinner, the Osmonds, Flag, and Funkadelic. But whatever, who cares, none of this is the point. The point is that the hedder of an actual email I received today reads "MASTODON TO REISSUE ALL OF THEIR REPRISE RECORDS TITLES ON COLORED VINYL."

Did these industrious fellows raise a hundred thousand dollars for charity? Hit me with the caps, then, yes, please. That is awesome. Did half  of them just perish in a fiery crash? Add some exclamation points to those caps. I don't care about punctuation or even spelling in this instance; I simply am very sorry for your loss. Are you capitalizing (as it were) on the worst level of current trends in vinyl fetishization and taking advantage of the allowances of a large number of seventeen year-old boys, people who likely already own this music in one format? Then to heck with your all caps; it hurts my brain. It's not even noon yet, and you're shouting about a major label metal band now finally re-releasing their shitty music for all the record babies of the world.

Now, I'd wanted to wait until this giant rant I'm going to write for Record Store Day to say this, but, seriously, colored vinyl is destroying the world. Again, I will say this way more eloquently and with multiple quotes from industry sources, but colored records slow down the entire process for everyone who wants to make records. Also, they sound worse. That's right, colored vinyl always sounds worse. They're not pressed with the same well-formulated vinyl that your plant is used to working with, that they do all they can to regulate and have it all sound as good as possible. These guys are just made from colored beads melted down, and there can't be any quality control (with the notable exception of Third Man, where I'm sure they take the time to have a colored pressing sound great 'cause so many of their records are done that way and they basically own a few machines at United, OK).

I get it that once you've already paid for mastering the audio, prepping the tracks, any recording and art costs, advances to the artist and songwriters involved, to have the vinyl master created and plated, for test pressings and labels and inserts and the record cover and maybe nice sleeves if you want to be fancy. So it doesn't cost that much more per hundred copies to have some or all of your pressing done in a color. I'll probably have to do this myself on some projects I'm going to do — where the first couple hundred are blue, or clear, or whatever, to ensure that I can sell them direct to the big record babies who care about this stuff. And when you sell direct to a fan you make more money, and also you maybe build up a fan base, a database, so that you can continue to do this sort of silly stuff. You also get paid a whole lot more quickly than when you sell to a distributor. So, I do totally get it. Also, labels have been doing picture discs, splatter vinyl, and one color vinyl for many decades. I just want to be clear that I understand this is not in itself a new phenomenon. 

What is new is the extent to which every pressing of every new record seems to have to employ these kind of tactics for sale. Most of my friends with labels do this kind of stuff, special editions and colored versions. But they will tell you if you ask them that it's not really the thing that they're the most excited about in their life, that this one is red and black and only 58 were made. Look, it's splattered, like a bowling ball. What that does mean, though, is that your pressing takes longer than usual, and it helps to make the wait at a typical pressing plant in the three to four month range. Stop bogarting that plant with your silly colored records! 

(Unless it's me doing it, at some point, because I'll only do it when I have to. And I only have to because you all created this ridiculous market in the first place. That one above is really really pretty though — see how pretty it is? Damn.)

About The Author

Mike McGonigal

Metro Times music editor Mike McGonigal has written about music since 1984, when he started the fanzine Chemical Imbalance at age sixteen with money saved from mowing lawns in Florida. He's since written for Spin, Pitchfork, the Village VOICE and Artforum. He's been a museum guard, a financial reporter, a bicycle...
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