Business Interviews Labels & Publishers

Q&A: Sean Bidder, The Vinyl Factory

By | Published on Thursday 11 July 2013

The Vinyl Factory

Founded in 2001, The Vinyl Factory began as a vinyl pressing plant, but has since grown to also operate a vinyl-only record label, two gallery spaces, and music magazine FACT.

And now, for the latest London edition of the Independent Label Market, The Vinyl Factory is pressing a series of ten special and very limited edition twelve-inch singles. Together they feature original music and remixes from this lost: Fresh Touch featuring Damon Albarn, Flea, Alex Kapranos and Nick Zinner; Beth Orton remixed by Four Tet; Tim Burgess remixed by Factory Floor; Django Django remixed by Liquid Liquid; Loefah feating Trigga, Planningtorock remixed by Bolton; The Wave Pictures; Editors; Scott & Charlene’s Wedding; and J£zus Million featuring Charli XCX.

Each single will be limited to just 50 copies with proceeds from their sales going to Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal. Ahead of that, CMU’s Andy Malt spoke to The Vinyl Factory’s Creative Director Sean Bidder about the releases, and vinyl’s current place in the world of music.

AM: When was The Vinyl Factory founded, and what was the motivation to do so?
SB: The Vinyl Factory sprung into life in 2001 with the acquisition of the iconic EMI vinyl pressing plant in Hayes, Middlesex. This was once the home of the British record industry, a place where everyone from the Beatles to Sex Pistols’ records were made. EMI felt vinyl had no future, whereas The Vinyl Factory team believed the opposite – that such a unique and loved format, unlike the CD, would continue to endure and indeed flourish alongside rather than in the face of digital. Luckily we were proved right!

AM: How did you become involved, and how did the company grow from there?
SB: My background is in music journalism. After the pressing plant came the music magazine – FACT – which is where I came on board. I was brought in to launch the magazine, which was initially a print title focused on showcasing vinyl culture and distributed for free via record shops. Then came our own independent record store Phonica. And then our vinyl-focused record label: we’ve released 85 records in the last four years, from our early limited edition collaborations with Massive Attack, Mumford, Pet Shop Boys and The xx to recent releases by Rudimental and Dinos Chapman, who we’re now developing an audio visual live show with.

AM: Does this diversification make it easier to survive in the music business? What do you think the long term future for vinyl is?
SB: It’s all sides of the same coin – rooted in a belief in creating exciting beautiful things – for us, vinyl is not just the best way to own music, it’s the best way to experience it. Vinyl releases feel genuinely special, and I think it’s important to make things that feel special, which you would actually want to buy, at a time when so much music is freely accessible.

AM: How important are events like Record Store Day and the Independent Label Market to your business?
SB: Very. Beyond creating a sense of community and shared excitement that interests a broader/younger audience, they provide the busiest period for both our pressing plant – the number of labels pressing special releases for Record Store Day is growing year on year – and for Phonica, where in one day we will take revenue equivalent to a few average weeks.

AM: How closely involved with RSD and ILM have you been over the last few years? What has it been like seeing them grow in that time?
SB: We’ve manufactured a lot of the special RSD records for various labels, and Phonica celebrates RSD every year with in-stores, though this year’s RSD Soho street party was an inspired move that surpassed everyone’s expectations.

AM: You’re pressing ten extremely limited edition twelve-inches for this weekend’s London ILM in aid of Oxfam’s Syria Crisis Appeal. How did that idea come about?
SB: A brainstorm between us and ILM. We wanted to support the market because we think it’s such a great idea. We wanted to create a sense of excitement around a series of collaborations with the labels taking part, and to encourage fans/collectors to the market.

AM: And how did you choose which singles to release?
SB: The labels chose them, with Joe from ILM leading the A&R. The only condition we prescribed was that the original track – or remix – hadn’t been released on vinyl before.

AM: Are there any of the ten you’re particularly excited about?
SB: So many of the labels have come through with incredible music that its hard to choose – we were blown away by the fact Loefah has chosen to release his first new music in five years and that the Damon Albarn / Fresh Touch is part of this series.