Last year, vinyl records outperformed CDs (in the United States) for the first time since 1987. It’s a stat I put to Jonno Seidler – author, music journalist and co-founder of a new “direct-to-superfan vinyl club” – who playfully points to a parallel with his own journey.
“That’s crazy because I was born in 1987, so I feel like I’m [also] realising my potential,” he laughs.
The Sydney-based creative has banded together with a collective of music lovers (including Luke Bevans, the former head of domestic artists for Universal Music Australia) to launch Impressed Recordings, a new kind of vinyl company that’s poised to change the record production game by removing cost, time, design and manufacturing barriers for artists.
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“It’s both the completely right thing to do and also a completely insane thing to do,” Seidler acknowledges.
At a time when music is more accessible than ever, and streaming services like Spotify have made it easy to rely on the algorithm to curate your music taste, Seidler and his team want to celebrate the craft that goes into making vinyl while supporting artists and providing something tangible for audiophiles.
“Luke and I both felt we were losing that grip of what made music special. It’s become extremely ephemeral … music feels like water now, it’s everywhere, it’s all around you. And that means people are now passively engaging with music at a level they never used to,” says Seidler.
“I come from a generation where I used to line up for an hour and a half to buy a Killing Heidi CD and that kind of fandom and love for music as an artform has dissipated for a lot of people. But there are still a lot of people who have that emotional connection who we felt weren’t really being served in this market.”
Seidler and his collaborators want to reward those “superfans” with collectible, limited-run, hand-numbered releases, which will be available via exclusive pre-order each month.
“There are those passive listeners who go, ‘Alexa, play me breakfast jams!’ … and then there are superfans who are actively out there looking for new music, pouring over Discogs and Bandcamp and Soundcloud, buying the T-shirts and the merch, just really engaged with artists on a one-to-one level,” he says.
The pre-order model, as well as the company’s partnership with pressing plant Suitcase Records, means Impressed can also front the cost of manufacturing.
“Independent artists’ budgets rarely account for vinyl LP production, the most tangible representation of a musician’s work,” musician and former Oh Mercy frontman Alexander Gow said in a statement. “To counter that, Impressed step in and collaborate with the artist to help them press and release a gorgeous product and avoid artistic compromise. It’s a passion project, much like the work of the artists they support.”
Gow’s debut solo LP is one of the first releases from Impressed Recordings, which will put out around 10 records per month. The collection also includes the debut album from Julia Jacklin-endorsed Georgia Mulligan; an exclusive double LP of future-soul artist Ngaiire’s Lamentations and Blastoma records; and for the first time on vinyl, Brisbane indie legends Hungry Kids of Hungary’s debut album Escapades.
Each LP is a 180-gram heavyweight vinyl and arrives with a bespoke essay from a top Australian music writer. “It allows us to platform not only Australian musicians but Australian music writers … that’s the biggest thrill for me, to put people in print and get them to write about records they love.”
It’s these sorts of touches, says Seidler, that digital music modes can’t replicate. The warmth and timbre of vinyl aside, he also points to the little “nuggets” listeners can uncover on wax, singling out Boygenius’s recent album The Record, which uses a locked groove to repeat the final word of the final song on an endless loop until the listener lifts the needle. “That’s not on streaming, that’s not anywhere else. You have to own that to have that,” he says.
Another motivation behind establishing Impressed Recordings was to bring vinyl production onshore. “There’s very few vinyl plants in this country and a lot of them are very backed up because the demand has soared, especially in the last two or three years,” says Seidler. "We’ve got all these Australian artists who are pressing in Germany, and people ordering vinyl then waiting 20 weeks to get it.”
It’s clear Seidler and his cohorts are just massive music fans. As he nurses a hangover from the previous night’s Arias, he waxes lyrical about the state of Australia’s music scene, shouting out award winners Forest Claudette, Troye Sivan and G Flip. “It’s really fun to be making records … after being someone who’s bought records for such a long time.”