I recently spoke to Craig Evans, the founder of Flying Vinyl. We discussed the return of vinyl, why people collect records, and the close relationships Craig builds with the artists that go into the box.
Digital platforms have revolutionised the way in which we consume music, so what inspired you to revive an old format and create Flying Vinyl?
It was sort of created out of frustration really. There’s so much incredible music out there that just isn’t breaking through. We have all these digital outlets but it doesn’t feel like they’re really helping to connect people who care about music with decent new music and cutting through all that digital noise that’s being created. I was working in digital marketing in music and felt like a lot of my time was being spent trying to get people to click on things, but then questioning whether that was actually positively impacting the artists – was it resulting in more people turning up at shows or downloading their music or whatever. And I was kind of having this thought with an old copy of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac in my hand. It just felt like the perfect format to introduce people to music on and it’s not like someone tries to sell you some shit you don’t want every time you play it, or starts immediately encouraging you to view some other content as a lot of digital outlets do. It’s a really pure way to introduce people to music.
What can vinyl records offer listeners that digital music cannot?
Digital technology, in general, is very new. In my lifetime we’ve gone from purchasing CD’s to being able to listen to literally anything you can think of for a tenner a month and you can do that virtually anywhere you go. Thing is, we’re all really guinea pigs in a huge experiment that we probably won’t understand until it becomes a retrospective thing… for instance, is the huge amount of time we’re spending on social media creating better connections in the real world or isolating us? That’s a question that’ll be answered in the next few years. Obviously, there’s good points but commodifying music has made it cheap, throwaway, badly presented and ultimately I think people are connecting with it less. Vinyl’s the antidote to this. It’s a format that goes completely against where technology is taking us all and, honestly, I think it’s a better listening experience. So many people are listening to music through car speakers, crap earplug headphones and stuff, and that’s OK, but then when you listen to something on vinyl, on a good system, it’s a massive difference. What a way to be introduced to a band, by being given a piece of actual physical art and engaging with it and hearing aspects in it that you simply don’t get with digital music.
The vinyl format has gone through a remarkable resurgence, but could this merely be a fad?
I’m always astounded that people are plotting its demise but it’s really only just getting going. Ultimately it’s a format that you don’t purchase and then get bored of and throw in the bin; you keep it and cherish it like an antique and put it in your loft and leave it in your will to your kids. It seems really unlikely to me that people are going to be that emotionally and financially invested in collecting something so personal to them and then one day stop doing that. The only thing that could really stop vinyl’s continuing market growth is that a format came along that replaced it, but that would be odd because there’s not really any format that’s at all like vinyl and no one is trying to create ‘the next vinyl’ because they’re all trying to create ‘the next Spotify’ and become fucking billionaires and hang out with the tech twats in Silicon Valley.
What message would you give to young people who have never experienced listening to vinyl before?
I think, especially for younger people, you should go out and buy a record you love on vinyl just to experience the difference between vinyl and digital. It’s a whole experience that a lot of people have never had before and when people try it for the first time they get really obsessed with it because they immediately get that it’s a much better way to enjoy music than perhaps anything they’ve experienced previously.
Do you have any tips or advice for people who looking to start a vinyl collection?
Send me an email. My email address is ‘email@example.com’ and I’ll answer any questions that you have honestly and not to sell Flying Vinyl, but because we think more people should experience vinyl whether it’s purchased through us or someone else. Part of the problem with vinyl traditionally was that there was a really elitist attitude around records and the actual equipment and it can be really intimidating for people to walk into record stores and ask what they think are ‘stupid questions’ so just drop me an email and I’ll tell you the best equipment to buy and where to find decent records without spending a fortune.
Sending your members a monthly box filled with new music on 7″ vinyl is a unique idea. Where do you discover the artists that you put into your box?
All over the place really. For the most part, we go to a lot of gigs and listen to a huge amount of music and just take the stuff we think’s best and most interesting. We don’t really care about whether artists are signed, unsigned, playing shows to thousands of people or just to a few mates. Really it’s all about the quality of the music and whether our community is going to like it.
From your social media it seems like you have created personal relationships with a lot of the artists you work with. Do you believe this is key to helping those artists to develop and grow?
Oh definitely. As I said before, the company was created because we felt we could do better by art and better by artists. So we spend a huge amount of time with the people we work with, the whole team do, and that’s never going to change because we really love the people we work with. Ultimately that keeps our focus on ensuring that we’re actually helping to develop artists and get more people listening to some of the incredible music that’s out there. It’s become both a club for our members and also for the artists where they become part of our clique and we keep telling our community about things that they’re up to and shouting about them as much as we can. A lot of artists have ended up networking with each other and touring together simply because they were both released through Flying Vinyl and ended up chatting about it. I think it’s become a mark of quality to be part of this project.
What’s the best advice you can give musicians who are looking to get their music on vinyl?
It’s quite a complicated and convoluted process at the moment. There’s only a few factories in the world who produce vinyl and, as a result, demand is out-stripping supply. You’ll need to press 500 records to even get an order at any kind of fair price so the main thing I would say firstly is to make sure you can actually shift 500 units; if you can’t, you’ll end up with boxes of the stuff in your garage. You’ll also have to pay up-front and be willing to wait up to 14 weeks to get the product back before you can start selling so in a day and age where it’s easy to upload a track to the Internet, pressing vinyl is really tough-going. Again, I would highly recommend anyone who’s looking at pressing their own records to get in touch with us and we’ll steer you in the right direction towards people who can help you out.
Have you got any stories you would like to share from your first year?
Hmm, a million! I suppose a good one is this. We were sat in a meeting with a management company at Soho House and they asked ‘What are you planning for Record Store Day?’ We kind of had briefly discussed a few things like doing a ‘pop up shop’ or whatever. So we got in the lift after the meeting and were like ‘Why don’t we put on a huge festival?!’ A few months later we’d booked a huge warehouse in Hackney as a venue and had a thousand people going nuts for a day to a load of artists we’d put out over the last year. It was pretty surreal. And we’re going to be doing it again next year. We’re currently scouting out venues. As our team’s grown it always amuses me how we have an idea that sounds really ridiculous to say but then ends up becoming a reality really quickly.
Find out more about Flying Vinyl:
Cover photo by Acid Pix