Vinyl production platform aims to treat listeners to master-quality records
Though dedicated music streamers might not have even noticed, sales of vinyl records have been on the rise over the last few years, prompting pressing plants to fire up again and start churning out albums. Currently in stealth mode, the UK's elasticStage is looking to shake up vinyl record production with a new manufacturing and distribution model.
Manufacturing a vinyl record can be quite an energy intensive process where metal templates – kind of like negatives of each side of the master record – stamp the grooves into heated PVC, then the pressed album is allowed to cool before being packaged and sent off to a record store for sale.
The elasticStage process – which has been in development for the last six years – reportedly cuts out the pressing process altogether and effectively produces lots of first-generation master records on a PVC alternative, which should result in higher quality playback when they reach the turntables of vinyl-loving listeners.
"The sound of the vinyl is a significant upgrade from the established 50-year-old manufacturing process," said renowned music producer – and investor in elasticStage, Paul Epworth. "There is sharper definition in all frequency ranges without losing any of the vinyl character. Largely indistinguishable from the original master in blind tests, on a sonic level it brings the vinyl process into the 21st century, which is why I have invested in elasticStage as it represents an overhaul to the way vinyl will now be created."
The company claims that its manufacturing method should result in less waste, a reduction in energy use compared to vinyl pressing processes and "the issue of unsold stock in bargain bins and warehouses also becomes a thing of the past" as the fully packaged records and artwork can be sent direct immediately to the customer from the point of creation.
Another advantage of the development is much shorter lead times, with minimum orders of just one record if required – artists are able to "essentially sell vinyl on the same day when making a release available on the elasticStage web-platform."
The actual patent-pending production process hasn't been revealed at this stage, but the on-demand, direct-to-customer manufacturer has attracted investment from leading industry figures including Epworth (producer: Adele, Paul McCartney), Dan Grech-Marguerat (producer, mixer, engineer: Lana Del Rey, George Ezra, Tom Grennan), Ryan Walter (Lewis Capaldi's manager), Tim Parry (co-founder of Big Life Management) and Ed Millet (co-founder of TaP Music). The latest seed round has taken the total raised so far to £3.5 million (over US$4 million).
"We have built a revolutionary way to manufacture vinyl that will soon replace the current outdated, traditional method that uses harmful chemicals and a lot of energy, along with long lead times and unnecessary warehousing," said elasticStage CEO and co-founder, Steve Rhodes. "We are already in talks with a major DSP for integrating our tech and we can’t wait to help the industry in meeting commercial demand for vinyl at speed.
"At the same time, rightsholders can considerably increase the number of catalogue titles available, which will help boost revenue. We have truly modernized the vinyl manufacturing process and are also perfectly situated for the growing number of creators, estimated to reach 50 million by 2025, that currently have no or little access to vinyl."
At this time, elasticStage has yet to officially launch, and its website is currently little more than a holding page. We look forward to learning more about the technology behind this exciting initiative, and to trying out our first album.