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DIY Ditty: WaxLimited lets you make vinyl with no up-front costs

January 23, 2014

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DIY Ditty is a hopefully-weekly post that focuses on services, organizations and people who are making it easier for bands to have careers.

Vinyl records are costly: costly to make and costly to procure. That’s not a good or bad thing—it’s merely a fact. Some bands and listeners see themselves priced out of vinyl (bad), despite wanting to have the tangible connection (good) that a record can make between artist and listener.

“On the artist side, having a record on vinyl is a milestone at this point,” said Kyle Billings, co-founder of WaxLimited. “The production costs are a barrier; that’s why it’s a milestone. The fixed costs of actually producing the record are monumental. Even the cheapest, flimsiest weight is going to cost you a grand. You can spend it on t-shirts, which are more likely to sell. Vinyl is a risk.”

But why should it be a risk? In the era of on-demand printing, Kickstarter, and various other monetizing schemes, why can’t vinyl have a new business model? Enter WaxLimited.

WaxLimited, the brainchild of Billings and Julian Weisser, is a new startup that aims to take some of the pain out of creating vinyl for bands. The goal of the project is to lower the risk and the level of knowledge necessary to create a vinyl record. To set up a project, bands have to engage in a Kickstarter-style pre-order of the record. Once the record has enough pre-orders to recoup the costs of the record and the WaxLimited campaign, the band can get the rest of the run to sell at their leisure. Their current small run looks like 88 necessary pre-orders out of a total 250 records.

“You’re not paying 15 bucks for a record, you’re paying five,” said Billings. “Let your fans take the edge off the production costs. We’re hoping to give bands a way to liberate the whole production cost.”

WL also takes out the complicated aspects of finding a place to press your vinyl. By setting up a production system for themselves, they make it so that those elements don’t have to be a consideration for bands. The goal is for bands with music and fans to be able to get vinyl to their fan bases, with no hitches along the way.

“WaxLimited is here to smooth out details and logistics of doing it,” Billings said, “And the fans are there to smooth out the costs of it.”

It’s a project with ambitious goals and yet logical steps to accomplish that. It’s the sort of project that makes sense for an independent musician, which can be chalked up to the fact that Billings and Weisser are bout musicians and listeners themselves. Weisser is a folksinger who goes by the name Dr. J; Billings is of the more electronic ilk. They bonded over a love of vinyl’s materiality, time-consciousness, and decorating possibilities. (It’s tough to hang an MP3, you know?)

WaxLimited is open to work with any artist willing to set up a campaign, no matter the genre. Small labels are also good candidates to work with WL. The two founders don’t have a clear end in mind; as veterans of tech startups, they’re aware that things can morph and change as you do them. So they’re focused right now on getting vinyl to the masses, but they’re not saying that’s all they’ll ever do or that this is exactly how it will run in the future. But even though the long-term remains open, this isn’t a money-grubbing, “take what the industry gives” venture. Anyone concerned about that only has to hear Billings wax poetic about the meaning of vinyl.

“Scrolling through an MP3 collection is one thing; I have a lot of MP3s. Some of them I feel a lot more passionate about than others,” Billings said. “But the records that I have, I’ve curated those to really be a reflection of my personality.”

It’s a lasting connection, that record: it takes commitment to buy and dedication to keep. That’s the sort of connection all bands want with their fans, and WaxLimited wants to give that feeling to bands and fans.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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