I'm uploading this tonight because I've had this scrap of paper sitting on my desk since 2006 detailing the pressing info (how many copies of which color vinyl) and I wanted to finally throw it away.
The Deche-Charge / Permanent Death - split 7" was the last vinyl release I did on Mortville. I typed up a long explanation detailing my reasoning and included it with the record, but I'm sure most people didn't bother reading it. It seems I always feel the need to explain myself when I stop doing something (see "Small Doses"). The numbers in my essay have changed some since I wrote it (CDs are even cheaper to manufacture now), but most of what I wrote is still relevant today. I'll post the original essay below the download link.
Tony from P.D. contacted me about doing this split. He arranged it and I jumped at the opportunity to work with Deche-Charge again. I don't think I had heard Permanent Death before he mailed me and sent a tape, and I wasn't quite sure what I was listening to. It sounded like harshnoise, but occasionally you could hear drums and hints of guitar. They managed to sound like Merzbow, but created that noise with a typical band arrangement. I'm not the biggest fan of harshnoise. It's not something I've released a lot of, anyway. I wasn't completely sold at that point, but when he sent me another tape with the material for the split I came around. In an odd turn of events, without knowing who was releasing this 7" when they arranged the split, the D-C stuff was recorded IN 1998 for a split tape with Captain Three Leg that never happened. It's strange I ended up releasing it after all, though 10 years later. This is some of my favorite D-C material, I'm glad they asked me to release it.
The D-C side of the test pressing was botched the first time and had to be re-cut. The second set of test pressings they sent had only the D-C side on it (B side was blank), so full finished test pressing copies don't exist.
I ordered 300 copies of the 7", told the plant to make as many different colors as they could without cleaning the machine between colors. As a result, I got a wide variety of colors, some as few as five copies. The pressing breakdown of the 313 copies delivered is as follows...
116 x grey
80 x toothpaste blue/green
28 x dark hunter green
26 x blue
24 x pea soup green
21 x clear
7 x red
6 x burgundy
5 x teal
(tosses that piece of paper in the trash)
The labels were all blank and required me to hand stamp all of them. The ink took several days to dry, so the 313 copies were strung out all over the kitchen counter on every available flat surface until both sides were finished.
Tony from Permanent Death died sometime after this 7" was released, but I never got the full story as to what happened. It's my understanding it was by his own hand, but I don't know any details. I've known lots of people in this scene that have died way too early, it always shakes me up a bit. We only wrote each other a few times, but it's still sad. RIP Tony Schepkens.
The record sold quickly and was received fairly well. I still get people asking for copies all the time and it usually sells for $20+ on eBay when I see it. Just download it instead and save your money for other things...
Here is the essay included in the vinyl copies...
THIS IS THE LAST EVER MORTVILLE VINYL RELEASE, AND HERE'S WHY...
I've said it a hundred times before, "People release vinyl because they love it, not because it's cost effective". This has to be why people release 7"s, because I just can't see any other reason for it. When doing a price comparison between releasing 1000 7"s and 1000 CDs, CDs always come out on top. Here's the breakdown based on a couple of examples I've found...
(NOTE: I don't necessarily endorse or recommend either of these places, nor do I discourage people from using them. These are just examples I've found on the internet, places I've worked with and have had no problems dealing with. I chose them because they are inexpensive and make good examples. The record you found this essay in was pressed at www.billsmithcustomrecords.com, they're a more expensive, but I've found you get what you pay for.)
1000 x 7" records from United Record Pressing
Mastering and Plating (from www.aardvarkmastering.com - the cheapest place) = $225.00
1000 x 7" 33rpm records with small hole = $440.00
Test Pressings = $22.00
1000 Sets of Labels = $80.00
Postage for Tests and Return of Masters = $28.00
Record Jackets = $200 (this is a very moderate estimate, I've paid as much as $300)
1000 Poly Bags (from www.bagsunlimited.com, before shipping) =$44.00
TOTAL before shipping = $1039.00
Price per 7" = $1.04 each
1000 x CDs from www.wonderdrugrecords.com
1000 x CDs with 4 panel booklet, color front, b/w inside and color tray card = $1090
2 color on disc printing = included in price
Packaged in Jewel Case = included in price
Shrink wrap = included in price
Films / Shipping = $150.00
TOTAL = $1240.00
Price per CD = $1.24
So, which format do you go with?
The difference in price between releasing a CD as opposed to a 7".... About $0.20 a CD. Not a lot, is it? Then why is there such a divide in the price labels sell them for?
Profit from the sale of 1 x CD = $7.00 (give or take)
Even in the underground, factory replicated CD packaged in a jewel case sell for around $10.00 each, some as high as $12.00 and some as low as $8.00, so I'm using $10.00 as mid-ground baseline. Let's say the label gives the bands involved 20% of the pressing, which leaves them with 800 CDs to sell at $1.55 each. CDs might cost $1.50 to send via First Class Mail - add another $1.50 to $1.55 = $3.05 total cost for each CD (shipping goes down for each CD if you ship more than one at a time, but I'm going for the highest estimate here). This leaves almost $7.00 leftover from the sale of each CD for the label. Not bad, eh?
Profit from the sale of 1 x 7" record = $0.21(roughly)
Most labels still charge $3.00 for their finished 7"s, some as high as $4.00, but most are still holding on to $3.00 as their postage paid price. I think if you charged $5.00 for a 7” you’d scare a lot of potential buyers away. Again, the label gives 20% of the pressing to the bands involved leaving 800 copies @ $1.29 each. 7" records cost about the same to ship a single copy as CDs do, so let's estimate at $1.50 again for First Class Mail - add another $1.50 to $1.29 = $2.79 total cost for each 7" record. This leaves a whole $0.21 left over from the sale of each 7" record for the label, a far cry from the $7.00 leftover from the sale of a CD.
I realize of course that I haven't even touched on advertising, promotional copies, etc, but I figured it would be about the same cost for each format. I've been doing this since 1997 and I've never spent a dime on advertising, so I didn't figure that into the cost because you really don't need it.
So why are CDs sold for so much?
I don’t know. I've never figured it out. I sell my factory replicated CDs (same packaging as the other labels, the “Big Guys”, who charge more, so my cost is the same) for $5.00 each. I've toyed with the idea of selling them for less, but after a certain point, people don't take you seriously as a label and think that there must be something wrong with the CD for it to be sold so cheaply. I always thought making $2.00 from the sale of a CD to be pretty good. I have a day job, this isn't my primary source of income (I'm guessing this is the same with most other people who run labels in the underground), and so I can't see charging more than that for a CD. If more labels followed this example, maybe the price of CDs would drop a little across the board. The prices of all electronics have dropped over the years, DVDs have dropped in price after their introduction in the market, but CDs prices are as high as ever. It's the same in the underground, I wouldn't expect it to change. Why spend $10.00 for a CD when you can find the same ting in another distro for $6.00? Sounds good, but it's not going to happen. I've had labels refuse to trade their CDs against mine when they found out how little I was planning on selling them for because they didn't want to be undersold. Still other labels wouldn't trade my CDs straight across for theirs because of how little I sold them for, said they weren't worth as much as theirs and have tried asking for more things to balance out the trade in their favor.
You've decided to press a 7" anyway...
So if you run a label and decide to press a 7", you've obviously done one because you like the format, not because it was cost effective and you thought you would make money from it. Now what are you going to do with your pile of 1000 records? Most labels that do things on the same scale as Mortville trade their records against other people's releases and sell them through their distro. Let's face it, it's a lot easier to sell 10 copies of 100 different records than it is to sell 1000 copies of one. The likelihood of you finding 1000 different people as customers is pretty small, so trading is how I, and most other smaller labels, get rid of their releases. If you're lucky enough to find labels to trade their vinyl releases against yours, you can sell their records for the same price, plus a $1.00 markup to cover your expense of sending your records to them. A $4.00 price tag for someone else's record is still pretty good, most people will pay it, but you're still only making $0.21 or so from each record sod.
If you're trading your 7"s against other labels CD releases, it's an entirely different story. Even though CDs cost around the same price to manufacture, the market price of a CD dictates that your 7" is worth less than their CD is, this is always the case and there aren't any exceptions. Most labels will want to trade 3 copies of your 7" against each of their CD. Some cooler labels will trade 2 of your 7"s for their CDs, and some will try and fuck you over to go as high as 4 for 1 CD. Don't ever trade 4 of your 7"s for 1 CD!!! These people care nothing about the underground, they're there to make a buck from you.
So you've decided to trade 3 of your 7"s against another label's CD because you really like the artist and you think people will buy them from you. You've just spent 3 times the amount as the original label did to carry that title, not including shipping. Shipping is another issue. When you trade 30 of your 7"s against 10 of another label's CDs you're spending at least 3 times as much on shipping as they are. If you're trading with a label from another country, 90% of the time they're going to send you CDs without jewel cases so THEY can save on shipping. You're sending them finished product they can turn right around and sell, meanwhile you have to go and buy jewel cases for the 10 CDs they sent you before you can sell them - on top of paying 3 times as much for shipping you're going to have to pay another $5.00 ($0.50 a jewel case) to sell their CDs. I've never figured out how this is fair, but its standard practice for most underground labels.
What does all of this mean?
Nothing, really... I typed this out as an explanation as to why I'm not releasing 7"s anymore (several people have asked, I figured this was a good place to explain myself). I’m not trying to deter people from releasing vinyl. People should know what they're getting into, know what shit other labels will try to pull on them. My advice is if you release a 7", trade them against other 7"s, not CDs. If you decide to trade them against CDs and someone tries to get 4 of your 7”s for 1 of their CDs, keep in mind the cost and reconsider trading with them.
If you decide to release a CD, consider passing along some of the savings to the customers. Chances are you're releasing something because you feel passionate about the music (or in my case, noise) and you want other people to hear something you enjoy, not to make money.
Mortville is not dead, but as far as I'm concerned, vinyl is. I'll continue to buy other people's records because I love the format and the music, but I'm not releasing it anymore. I've reached a point where I've decided enough is enough.