Vinyl is booming, but that doesn’t mean pressing wax is easy.

Labels and artists on small budgets are finding it as tricky as ever to cover costs and avoid being left with armfuls of deadstock, with most plants demanding minimum pressings of 300 or 500 at a time – not to mention the challenge of getting decent distribution.

QRATES is a new idea that hopes to bring the logic of funding systems like Kickstarter to the vinyl industry, offering labels and artists the chance to drum up interest in a record before committing anything to wax.

The pressing only begins when a set number of pre-orders is reached, so labels don’t have to front any cash for their release and won’t be left with stacks of unwanted vinyl afterwards. The minimum pressing number is just 100 – a fair amount less than the current industry standard.

The price of the vinyl is set by the labels and artists, so they can instantly calculate how much everything will cost and how much they stand to earn based on the number of pre-orders. To help with the process, QRATES has a design tool to choose how the vinyl, sleeve and labels will look and a cost management function to follow the money. It also keeps track of user statistics to see who’s buying what.

There’s a catch, but a relatively small one – while QRATES is free to use, it takes 15% on each sale if the funding is successful. When back catalogue records are sold, it takes a 10% share.

QRATES promises an 8-10 week turnaround time except for the hectic period before Record Store Day, which as FACT reported recently is putting increasing pressure on the already-squeezed vinyl plants.

We reckon the idea has got serious legs if it works properly, although if it gets more people producing vinyl then the paucity of pressing plants could be a stumbling block. Meanwhile, we’re looking forward to the advent of DIY vinyl cutting on desktop machines – dubplates for all!

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