STS 003 - Vinyl-on-demand


Vinyl-on-demand is an independent label based in Germany. The operator and mastermind behind it is Frank Maier. After more than 20 years of collecting ultra-rare audio material Maier came up with the idea to present it to the wider audience. Maier invested a large amount of money to digitalize all the production in the professional recording-studio. This is how Frank started the label. Vinyl-on-demand has been focusing on vinyl releases since 2004. It specializes on the re-pressing of cassette-culture releases from the late 1970's and early 1980's. They are mostly extremely limited tape publications, that often go with exclusive bonus tracks and unpublished extras. Due to the presentation of diverse catalogue of influential bands, solo artists and various widely undiscovered musical projects from across the globe, Vinyl-on-demand's intellectual audience becomes wider with every publication. If we were forced to place this label’s sound into stylistic frames, it would range from industrial, noise, avant-garde to minimal synth, wave, goth releases. Many skilled musicians were released by Vinyl-on-demand including Current 93, Psychic TV, Merzbow, Nurse With Wound, Clock DVA, Die Tödliche Doris to name a few. All audiophiles should find their own favorites in Vinyl-on-demand discography, that has energetic and synthesized archaic rhythmics and affective lyrics as well as melancholic and eccentric melodic patterns and musical manifests.

Show Playlist
01. Emily Faryna – Who Cares – 4:55 START AT 0:00
02. Data Bank A – The Milky Way 4:32 START AT 4:55
03. Mystery Plane – Fractured – 3:53 START AT 9:28
04. Plus Instruments – Obsessed – 4:21 START AT 13:26
05. Twice a Man – Japanese Letters 4:40 START AT 17:43
06. Stratis – Herzlos – 2:00 START AT 22:23
07. Dada Computer – Automation – 3:34 START AT 24:23
08. Data Dank A – Dead Weight – 5:30 START AT 27:58
09. Exp. Products – Bagdad Sortie – 3:48 START AT 33:28
10. Ken Montgomery – Simple Day – 4:36 START AT 37:15
11. Symboter – Kraftkernstop – 1:23 START AT 41:51
12. Los Paranos – Black is the Best – 6:59 START AT 43:16
13. Kevin Lazar – Living on another Planet 6:10 START AT 50:13
14. Lars Falk – Hello – 6:10 START AT 56:25
15. Symboter – Step by Step – 4:38 START AT 63:05
16. Peter Becker – Drum Avant 7 – 1:51 START AT 67:26
17. Modern Art – Dreaming – 3:57 START AT 69:09
18. Ian Boddy – Sundance – 6:54 START AT 73:05

It is important to mention that Vinyl-on-demand has three sub-labels: Individual VOD, pripuzzi, VinylOverDose. Also, Vinyl-on-demand offers yearly subscription memberships. These members often get additional goodies, such as exclusive 7"s, inserts, box sets, t-shirts and alike.

Frank Maier was keen to record us a very exclusive mix that includes recently released and still upcoming Vinyl-on-demand releases. As he said “The key to all is passion, love and enthusiasm for music recorded between 76-86.”. Also, Maier answered our questions about various label management issues, fragmented alternative music scene, promotions, piracy and many more.


What was the initial Vinyl on demand vision and how it changed?

The Vision and motivation to keep VOD running have never changed for me in the past decade.

I am still trying to cover, explore and release all those great cassette-culture releases from 1978-1987.

I am still digging deeper and deeper into the cassette-culture universe in order to find more treasures from artists that never had a real record-label-deal during the 80’s or never received the appreciation they should have deserved back then for what they have achieved and produced.

I am still trying to deliver creative and innovative music from great artists, that weren’t able to use the digital platforms and mediums like Myspace, Facebook, Youtube to promote their own music or let people know that they are out there.

All this passion for this kind of music had developed during the late 90’s, when I realized that so much great output was left on the side and wasn’t given any attention from the music-industry.

Do you think that the music you present can compete in todays music market in terms of quality and genre? Could you say that the music you present is timeless and will be valued by different generations?

It is not my aim to provide something which can compete in a mass-market.

It is there to please a small market of music-passionates and lovers that dare to explore the different, that enjoy the unexpected, that still get excited from listening to inspiring music, which is old, but sometimes sound newer and fresher as lots of the contemporary electronic music of today.

I hope it is timeless as I think it is timeless and didn’t follow some hip mainstream-movement in order to be short-termed successful and squeeze the most cash out of it.

It is music, which I consider as honest, straight from the heart, not too mind-driven and concept-driven in order to make something proper without corners and edges so to fit for a special market.

The music released on VOD is produced for a niche-market, for people that appreciate the late 70’s and early 80’s Do-It-Yourself-Culture and the auto-didactic usage of electronic or self-built instruments as much as I do.

In order to please people and find the appreciation you would like to receive for what you offer you have to provide top quality these days in overall packaging and design as well as audio-remastering and manufacturing.

Frank Maier of Vinyl-on-Demand

What are the biggest difficulties you face with your label? Is the situation with piracy is as bad as people talk and write about it? Maybe there are much bigger problems in music industry (legal aspects, distribution etc.)?

There are several hurdles you have to take. First of all you need to find out about the artists, which has luckily become easier as many of them now have Facebook-accounts or their own websites. This has been a lot more difficult in the pre-Internet age, when you did rely and depend on Meta-Information-Magazines like Alex Dougals and Peter Mosers „CLEM“ (= Contact List of Electronic Music) or the ZigZag’s Cassette-Culture-Lists or some other magazines covering Tape and Cassette-Culture.

And even if you find out the artists, you sometimes need some convincing as the memories sometimes have not been of only good and positive nature.

Many artists from bands-projects got into severe fights and still don’t talk to each other anymore or have other sentimental problems related to the music recorded 3 decades or more ago.

And even if you are able to convince an artist or band with whatever reasons you were able to come up with (including money), you still have to compete with lots of competitors these days.

As in every market-segment a „first-mover-advantage“ never lasts for too long of your concept seems to be successful.

When I started in 2003, I just knew 2 more labels, that started to release early 80’s cassette-culture more on a semi-professional level, just for fun, while VOD tried to establish something that I can live on as a full-time job.

Now you have many fishes in the sea, that more or less have found the same mission and vision in (re)-releasing the 80’s independent music-culture.

When it comes to piracy, it is really a pain in the ass as those bloggers offering illegal downloads of your releases didn’t ask you to do so. They use the big odd terms/claims as being music-lovers that want to support the label, but that is for sure not any kind of support.

But it used to bug me a lot more. Nowadays I just live with the fact that there are always vampires that suck your seat, passion and blood out of you for their own cheap profit. You can’t stop them to do so. You can only try to convince the people to buy your product to deliver a product that is viewed as something admirable and great in value, so to make them spent the money on your product and not on some illegal download for free, which is only about the music itself.

Luckily people have realized that it is a lot more than just the music. It's the overall design, packaging, it isn't the ritual to put the record on the turn-table, to open a bottle of wine, invite friends and enjoy a few hours of great and exciting music and to dig into the universe of cassette-culture as listener.

The development of the music-industry and information-technology in the past decade has provided so many great opportunities for the small labels and start-ups. It's a great playground for all people, that think they want to start a music-label and produce/promote some artist.

It has never been so easy to promote and distribute a product with Ebay, Discogs, Cd-baby, Last FM, Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Reverbnation....

It has never been so easy to provide a high quality release as you have decently-priced SW and HW to master and edit the audio

You just need to offer a great value, a great product and you will succeed in whatever you want to do, but if you want to aim for short-term profit and want to fool people with shitty manufactured products, you will hardly succeed in this environment and will fail as feedback including shitstorms in special forums/boards is right there waiting for you.

During the previous year did you realize that it is getting more and more difficult to reach and interest the listener with music? Did you think of going digital and transferring all your activity to digital space? What do you think is the present status of vinyl?

Yes, absolutely more difficult for sure, which is related to a bigger variety and offer and a smaller wallet from the consumer-side.

So while the cake might even be a bit bigger as it used to be (with all the vinylmania and revival related to the medium vinyl and the decrease in sales of CD with no real alternative besides the digital downloads) you now have a lot more competitors.

There are no market-entry-barriers. Everybody can start a label and contact artists, everybody can release, promote and distribute his releases.

However, this great opportunity is also a great risk to a market.

I see, that many people and especially collectors are tired and bored, when nothing is scared anymore. Everything is going to be re-released and as soon as the limited edition is sold there will be a limited re-issue of the reissue of the reissue....

People are starting to get tired of this total exploitation of certain music.

People need a value in what they buy and own. If you take the value of something by making a reissue, then people loose interest.

If you offer too much to collect and cope with and enjoy and if the market gets heavily overloaded with products people loose the excitement.

I can clearly see the tendency of this and see the vinyl-market very critical. There are just not enough young people, that can compensate for the loss of the older people, that now have other priorities such as families, a new washing-machine, save money for a new house....

Offering all in a digital form would be a solution, but not for me, if I can’t provide a true value add and excitement with the release. I started a CD-series and they also need to excite people just by the overall look and feel and design.

How much time do you invest into promotion (marketing, distribution etc.) and how do you choose proper channels for that, what priorities do you consider? We are asking because many of your artists are quite old fashioned and not very active in digital space.

I do not invest a lot into marketing and distribution as a great side-effect about internet-age is that people find you if you offer a special-interest-product.

Those distributors that want to carr your product as their customers asked for your label will contact you anyway. Those collectors and passionate music-lovers that are interested in your kind of music will contact you and buy from you or become a subscriber to VOD.

And luckily those artists of the cassette-culture are not old-fashioned, so it isn't quiet easy to deal or find out about them. There are only a small group of artists that is not easy to be reached and there is a reason for that, because they actually don’t want to be reached and prefer to have the past left behind as they prefer to live in the present.

What do you get as a person from communicating and working with such respectful artists from your catalogue? Could you say that it is one of the key motivation for running a label?

It is not a key-motivation, although I have so many stories, that I could easily fill a book with them. In general those artists struggle with the same problems as the average person you deal in everyday life (such as money), they have the same motivations (respect and ego, self-fullfilling).

Some of them might think a bit different and odd, but I don’t think they are a lot different to any average human being, just because they have a certain unique characteristic or charisma or ego.

Could you name last 2 or 3 Vinyl on Demand releases, that your were most satisfied about? Maybe there were exceptional amount of effort put into them? Or maybe you think that they finally got evaluation they deserved?

The absolute record-holder in putting the most effort and time and meticulous handling was the Current 93 2x4Lp-Set, which is related to the incredible perfectionism and professionality of David Tibet as a person.

When it comes to the most excitement and happiness of a release, it actually wouldn't be fair to value one certain release more than another as they all deserve their release as it is not about taste and quality, but about anthology and progress of a band.

But I guess the one, where I invested most care, passion and sweat starting with the selection of the audio and the sleeve designs and the booklet has been most likely the Portion Control 7Lp-Set in 2008.

I probably became one of the biggest Portion Control fan during the planning of the release. This is something I very much appreciate, that with the label I do dig into music. A lot more as I used to as collector as my mind was more focused on collecting instead of listening. Now, with the label, I do listen and I do enjoy it a lot more (as odd as it sounds as you might assume the opposite).

Who is responsible for visual representation of the releases and how much attention do you pay for it? How important is it to you? How presentation and design contribute to the release?

I do work with a whole team of professional designers and each artist will be assigned to a special designer, that I think will probably understand the needs and wishes of the artists the best way possible.

Design and overall look and feel and quality are extremely important to me and, as I pay for the design, it also needs to satisfy my needs and reflect my wishes for the cover/box-design in accordance with the need of the artist and designer.

With this attitude I already drove some of my designers nuts and some can’t work with me anymore and I have to admit that it is not easy to work with me and that you need lots of nerves to work with me.

What releases you are going to release in 2013? Maybe you are actively working on something and could tell us your plans? To what extent forward planning is important for you?

You always have to plan minimum one year ahead of time, so that I would not not have a problem in announcing the complete year already at the beginning of the year. Therefore 2014 is already fixed and some of 2015.

This is also important as many labels compete for the same artists and releases to be reissued. Therefore, you need to act fast and contact them early enough before the artists already committed to some other label competing in the same niche and market

Still to be released this year: Lustmord, Hafler Trio, V/A Rising from the Red Sand, Peter Frohmader, Vice Versa and a 12Lp-Box-Set with several great bands from the early to mid 80’s wave and minimal/synth-culture such as Dada Computer, Plus Instruments, Kevin Lazar, Symboter, Mystery Plane, Experimental Products, Los Paranos, Peter Becker (of Eyeless in Gaza), Emily Faryna and Paul Nagle.

More about Vinyl-on-demand: Website - Discogs - Facebook

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An interdisciplinary journal, offering eclectic mixes and smart interviews with original artists and label owners as well as contemporary art reviews.


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