Vinyl Pressing Prices: All that Factors In the Cost

Published Categorized as Vinyl 101

It is not hard to see why, when lost in our favorite albums as heard being spun on our stereo system, we might begin to wonder upon the vinyl pressing prices, about the costs underlying our beloved collection, as well as those who might be shafted and short changed in the process.

So, here today we will be elucidating for you the in’s and out’s of the pressing process, so that you might better understand the work that goes and the vinyl pressing prices that come as a result.

AspectAverage costCost per 100 record run
Cutting of Lacquer per side$190$380
Electroplating per side$170$340
Center lables per side$0.05$5
Per inner sleeve$0.15$15
Per jacket$0.75$75
Establishing pressing$190$190
Test Pressing run of 5$65$65
140g black vinyl record per disc$1.55$155
Total for pressing of 100 records$1225

Pressing a Record: A Walk Through the Plant

In order to under vinyl pressing prices in any way, which themselves can vary considerably from release to release, then we must first understand at least somewhat the process of producing a record and what makes a record pressing factory tick, asking ourselves ‘how are vinyl records made?’

Step 1: Mastering the Music for Vinyl

There are various minutiae that one has to be aware of even in the process of making sure the music is ready to be sent off to a record pressing plant. When the artist and producer are happy with the sounds they have recorded and produced, then the release is sent to a mastering engineer who prepares it to be pressed onto vinyl.

The vinyl record is a very different format, inherently physical and prone to several specificities that will have a crippling effect on the overall sound if not adhered to. For example, the frequency spectrum is significantly reduced on a vinyl record, for any extreme frequencies will tend to send the needle on the turntable flying all over the place. Similarly, the shape of the disc, the fact that the grooves nearer the middle of the disc are smaller, means an inherent dip in fidelity towards the centre, all of which must be considered by all involved.

Step 2: Creating a Master Disc

Once the mastering engineer is satisfied, the recording will be sent off so that a master disc can be created, an aluminum plate coated in a thick layer of lacquer from which all other records in this line will be printed and produced.

Vinyl Pressing Prices: the disc

The mastered audio will be sent through a cutting lathe, which at base performs the opposite of a turntable needle, turning the vibrations of the sources into the grooves of the master disc where a normal needle would simply surf the already cut grooves and reproduce the sound imbibed within.

The cutting process will be performed in real time, the real source audio imbibed physically and at a great temperature into this master disc. The main task for the engineer involved is to make sure that there are adequate separate spaces created between the songs, as this is not something machine will do automatically.

Yes, the original gaps created between these songs, the very physical and visual gaps on a record are created by hand, with precise hand and eye coordination on the part of the engineer.

Step 3: Creating More Discs

From the master disc, another disc is produced which is commonly referred to as the ‘stamper disc’, created directly after the master disc and before the calculation of vinyl pressing prices.

Once the latter has been carefully washed and rid of as much dust as possible, the master disc is sprayed with silver, after which it is submerged in a bath of nickel and then electroplated, with the intention of causing the nickel to fill in the grooves created in the lathing process.

Vinyl records, 7 inch singles, 45 rpm, how to clean vinyl

This electroplated disc is then pulled apart, leaving you with two discs that ought to be mirror images of one another: the original master disc with grooves; and the polar opposite with ridges instead of grooves. The latter disc is referred to as the ‘father’ disc, and is the most utilised when it is called upon to stamp its impression into the hot polyvinyl chloride wax.

At this stage, the master disc will be checked for errors, by the artist and producer as well as the mastering engineer, though this obviously cannot be done with the father disc. Thus, the father disc is electroplated itself and split apart so that a mother disc is made with all of the original grooves.

Step 4: The Pressing Begins

Though the calculation of vinyl pressing prices has to include all of the aforementioned and upcoming processes, this is where the actual pressing of the disc begins at least.

Pellets of polyvinyl chloride will be loaded into a hopped on the record press and melted and formed into what are commonly referred to as ‘biscuits’ of polyvinyl chloride, which are essentially just blobs of the substance that bear the resemblance of hockey pucks.

The stamper discs for each side of the album are loaded above and below this puck and, with pressure and heat, are pressed inward to imbibe the biscuit with the grooves. The labels are also added at this point, with technicians making sure to bake the labels beforehand so that there is no moisture in them and so that they do not bubble when pressed into the vinyl.

With heat and around 100 tons of pressure, the grooves are thus imbibed into the polyvinyl chloride biscuit pucks while the labels are simultaneously placed and stuck in the center of the disc, after which the edges are trimmed of excess plastic and the disc is cooled, all in a matter of half a minute.

Step 5: The Finishing Touches

Before heading out to the consuming public, a test pressing is made, so that, again, the artist and producer and mastering engineer (as well as the record label and whoever else) can listen to the record and make sure that they are as close to the artist and producer’s intention as possible. Once this has been confirmed, then the signal is green and the process once more goes ahead, sending out the record to record stores around the world.

The records, newly minted, are placed into their corresponding jackets and sleeves, shrink wrapped in thin plastic and perhaps even emblazoned with stickers that the record label sees fit to use as a way of promoting them and catching the eye of those who might not otherwise have bought the release.

Then comes your part of the story, where you take these sounds out into the world and make of them what you will, soundtracking your own experience with them and perhaps even soundtracking the experience of those around you, your friends, relatives, as well as all those you love and care about.

What Affects Vinyl Pressing Prices

So, we have seen the process itself, but lets quickly dissect it down even further and look at precisely what elements in this process have the most direct impact on vinyl pressing prices.

Quantity of the Records

You surely do not need to be told that the quantity of records in a run of pressings will have a more than direct impact on vinyl pressing prices.

This is not, however, always in the most common sense way, for in terms of big productions, there is an economy of scale which means that the cost of each unit to produce will actually become cheaper the larger the amount of eventual pressings there will be.

Pressing plants are, thus, far more likely to go for a run of records which are going to produce on a larger scale.

Weight of Vinyl Impacts Cost

There is an increasing trend among record producers to manufacture records and vinyl record types that weigh 180 grams, the added weight and thickness purportedly meaning that the record and the sounds imbibed within the grooves lasts longer and can be played more times, though this is as ever in the audiophile community a subject of much contention and debate.

Record Sizes

Choosing this weight over the more usual 120 grams to 135 grams, however, comes at an obvious cost, for there is an inherently larger amount of the base substance, polyvinyl chloride, being used in the process of manufacturing these kinds of thicker records.

Sides

It should also be clear that the amount of sides of vinyl being pressed in a run of records will have an impact on the vinyl pressing prices. The longer the original release, the more sides of vinyl there will be and thus the more it will cost to press, for there will tend to be more polyvinyl chloride needed in the process.

Not only that, but there will also need to be more master discs produced, which will hike up the vinyl pressing prices considerably.

Garbs

So far, we have only really covered how the disc itself can affect vinyl pressing prices, though there ought at least to be some light placed on the labels and jackets and sleeves that they come in, all of which can have more of an affect than one realises, especially in tandem with larger releases with more discs and more sides.

There are several choices made at every turn, with more colorful options of labels and sleeves and jackets inherently costing more money to print in comparison with those that are simply plain white.

Color in the Vinyl

Just as the color of the label or jacket or sleeve can affect the overall vinyl pressing prices, so too can the color of the disc itself.

More colorful discs will inherently cost more as they are a more specialised offering and will also mean the sourcing of more specialised colors and materials, especially if the artist in question is seeking to match the color of the disc with a particular color on the cover of an album, as is quite the trend in a lot of reissue albums these days. You can read all about the vinyl materials in this blog.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully this exploration of the process of printing a record has brought you a new found or otherwise renewed appreciation of the immense efforts that go into producing the polyvinyl chloride discs that might be littered or strewn all over your abode. Perhaps we have even sparked within you a new interest in these in’s and out’s, an interest which might prompt you to do some further digging around on the subject. We hope at the very least that it has scratched the itch of wanting to know a little more about vinyl pressing prices.

FAQs Vinyl Pressing Prices

How much does it cost to have vinyl pressed?

The issue with this area of record production is that it really can vary an immense amount from pressing plant to pressing plant. This is owing to a number of factors, not least the fact that in each pressing plant there are a different array of humans working, all of which have a different skill level and skill set and all of whom can obviously not be telepathically linked. Thus, there are various small expenses that occur and that mean that each pressing plant will expend a different amount.

How much does it cost to press 500 vinyl records?

The issue with this area of record production is that it really can vary an immense amount from pressing plant to pressing plant. Not only is this a whole lot of room for human error, but there are also variations in the materials used, the amount of them implemented into certain parts of the process, as well as the quality of the service you are going to get. Some companies will cut a lot of corners, not going through the same thorough checks that others might and that ultimately will ensure a higher quality product as a result.

How much does it cost to press 7 inches?

It is difficult to answer, though one thing is certainly for sure, and that is that 7 inch records will be cheaper to press than 12 inch records and 10 inch records, even if only for the fact that they use an inherently smaller amount of the essential material, polyvinyl chloride, as part of the process. However, it might be worth considering the fact that 7 inch records are not quite as hot a commodity as they once were, meaning their relative specialism in comparison to the 12 inch record could result in higher overall costs to produce.

How much should I charge for vinyl records?

It is difficult to strike a middle ground, though one should inherently attempt to, between being affordable enough that anyone can have access to the commodity, while also charging enough that each part of the process is given their proper dues. Sadly, so much of this money goes to record companies who could not tell you a minim from an admin. The typical price for a new and sought after record is around $20 and I think this seems like a fair baseline to follow, eventually reducing in price as the years go by, or perhaps the opposite…

Published
Categorized as Vinyl 101

By Robert Halvari

My name is Robert Halvari - audio engineer and a total audiophile. I love vinyl because it has that natural character which brings music to life. I've been using and testing vinyl record players for around 15 years and I'm sharing my love and knowledge of vinyl by publishing all I know at Notes On Vinyl

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