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Flying Vinyl wants to fix the broken music industry with its vinyl subscription service

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's Flying Vinyl!

Riding the resurgence in vinyl sales, and joining the growing trend for 'vinyl subscription' services Flying Vinyl was founded by Milton Keynes born Craig Evans as his attempt to fix a music industry that he sees as broken at its core.

I met up with Craig to discover more about 'Flying Vinyl' and see if the company can be the cure to a spreading illness within the music industry.

Flying Vinyl

So let’s start with the history of the company. What was it that gave you the idea for ‘Flying Vinyl’?

I came out of uni and sort of fell into digital marketing and was working with a lot of very grassroots bands and artists and ended up working with indie labels. Through that you see from a real artist perspective just how broken the music business is in terms of how streaming and digital has just destroyed it.

There was a particular day when I was just so frustrated; I was just stood with a copy of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac on vinyl in my hand and I just thought “if we can get everyone to be purchasing music like this they would see the value in it”. 

You walk around and see everyone listening to music, you see how important it is to all of us yet we’ve got to a point where we’re encouraging consumers not to pay for it. It was in that frustration that I had this idea and I was thinking “wouldn’t it be great if you got something that was presented so beautifully to you every month and it wasn’t something you’d necessarily heard of but it was something someone had considered as the best stuff that was coming out”.  

On the note of wanting to get more money into the music industry to support artists, there have obviously been massive increases in vinyl sales over the last five years and Record Store Day last year was one of the biggest ever, why do you think that is?

I think we’ve lost the experience of music; I’m not one of these people who is going to be completely anti-digital, I have a smartphone, I have a Spotify account, but I think it all has to be put into the perspective of “are you getting the best listening quality?”

I think Record Store Day has been so successful because a lot of the kids have never bought physical music before, I was exactly the same, I’d never experienced vinyl, but the first time you have that experience of buying vinyl and you put it on you realise it’s something digital music just cannot compete with.

The depth of sound when you get to vinyl is just something which digital music cannot replicate, I know it’s a very hipster thing to say which I’ve been criticised for in the past (he laughs), but digital music is quite flat and while that works for some genres for others it just doesn’t; with guitar heavy  music there’s a lack of quality and depth on streaming platforms and digital recording.

I think we’re getting to a point where people will buy their music on both digital and physical, they’ll still have their subscription services which they pay jack shit for, but they’ll also put more money into the music industry and supporting artists.

Obviously every month you send out at least five vinyl to each of your subscribers, how do you decide which bands you approach for production?

It’s purely on musical merit really; there’s me and one of my business partners Alex, we go to a huge number of gigs and it’s about finding the right band and the right genre that fits in with what we’ve gone for with this first set of boxes.

There’s obviously a lot of indie labels now that see the merit in what we’re doing and see it as much of a promotional outlet as they do as a way of just making some money. We’ve sent boxes with bigger artists like The Temperance Movement and Swim Deep alongside artists who are literally just releasing their first single.

It’s good because you can get that mix of bands where people are like yeah I recognise that but I really like this stuff I haven’t heard before as well.

How do you pick the acts for each box, and are you trying to create a specific experience for the listener?

We sit down and we do a lot of listening to the balance of tunes; playlisting all of the music and trying to decide what sits well, right down to being really picky about the order of the tracks in the box. It tends to be that people pull them out and go “page one” and put that record on first. The booklet that comes with it gives a lot of bare information that you need to know about each of the bands as well, none of these 500 page ‘summaries’ that you get online or in some music publications

So at the minute you’re really all about finding your feet and establishing yourselves as a relatively new company, have you had a lot of feedback from artists and consumers?

- Yeah there’s been a huge amount of feedback, like social media ironically has been key; very paradoxically the analogue format has translated into people talking about the product a lot on social media, posting product reviews on YouTube etc.  We get this incredible real time feedback from people literally on the day that the box arrives; what they like, what they don’t like, feedback for the bands we’ve included and so on. Generally the feedback has been fantastic, to be honest we never thought it would be this good, the percentage of negative feedback is so low because we appeal largely to open minded people.

We’ve already talked about the past and what you're doing right now, what's your plans for the future of 'Flying Vinyl'?

The next stage is to take the product to different genres. We’re about to launch an Electronica box which is going to be a parallel with 12” records and aside from that my personal future goal for the company is for this to be the larger grassroots start of us looking at music distribution in general.

Because anyone who looks at the mechanics and business of music will understand that it is completely broken. The industry allows it to be broken, the only reason Apple and Sony exist is because we allow them to sell us products that don’t benefit the artists. If we had an industry platform that benefited the artists and that could compete well the likes of Apple and Spotify would be dead in two minutes.

 

You say that these streaming services would be dead in two minutes, do you think that given the current situation they have an expiry date?

It was all just a bit experimental, like when Steve Jobs came along and said a track should be 79p, the problem is that when you price something that low there's no coming back from that because then the consumer gets used to it. I think those streaming platforms; the Spotify's and the Tidal's, will continue to exist but as packages. When you take your internet contract out you'll be able to bundle it in etc. If you look at it as pure data and business it's very Silicon Valley it just doesn't work.

The problem now is that we've driven artists to rely on merchandise deals to make money, the way I see it is if you want to sell T-shirts to make your money become a fuckiing fashion designer. We need to make the music industry more like the publishing industry, because they realise that the value of a product is not in the physical nature but in the intellectual property itself.

Tell me a bit about the 'Flying Vinyl' festival which you've organised on 9th April

Yeah the festival is sort of our first step into the live space as well as the subscription space which we've created. We've had a lot of people approach us about doing club nights and things like that but we wanted to do something that was spectacular and radically different.

That lineup is fantastic for a one day festival, and all the bands will have vinyl which you can buy and get signed at the festival. The one thing we can do in a broken industry is be proactive, you know when I get up on a morning there's no end to the list of possible things which I can be doing to take the company forward and make a change.

You mentioned to me before the interview that Viola Beach was obviously a big part of the festival; flyers and advertising and their performance etc, will there be some sort of tribute to the band?

Obviously you know it all happened very suddenly; I woke up early just randomly and there were a few people already tweeting us about it.

Our thing is, it's horrible what has happened, everyone knows that they were supposed to be playing because we'd just released the line-up, but ultimately we want to let the dust settle for now and everyone's thoughts should be with the family of the band and the manager. It puts the whole thing into perspective really, when you think about how quickly life can be taken away the festival, as excited as we are about it, just seems irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Our October box is obviously really popular now because it had the band on it so we're going to donate all of the money from that box to the families of the band and the manager. the lads playing the festival was actually a tribute to their work ethic, they wanted to play first so that they could then go on to another gig and I know they were big Swim Deep fans as well they so wanted to see them play.

Subscribe to 'Flying Vinyl' HERE and get tickets for their Festival on 9th April HERE

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