At long last, vinyl is making a return, and a very successful one at that. The sales of vinyl, have for the first time ever, topped digital purchases. The sale of CDs has clearly shown, with Mozart topping the league, that their form are pretty much only accessed by the older generation. And vinyl are now no longer something that only hipsters appreciate. But the person who has made it his job to reach this level, is easily the unsung hero of 2016. And his name is Craig Evans.

Mr. Evans, whilst not disclosing his age, is clearly not a well-seasoned business man. In fact, he seems relatively young. The music has probably kept his youth. His company, Flying Vinyl, not only take subscriptions for people who want a bumper, and incredibly cheap, package of five exclusively pressed singles a month, but they do so with new music.

Flying Vinyl, in 2016, have propped up the very revolution that you have seen first hand. They have got people in the younger generation talking about vinyl. Understanding that physical sales see more money enter the pocket of artists. But not just that, they have new music going directly to the masses. Flying Vinyl is a company that is doing everything to help musicians, and doing so with such passion, and causing such fervour around new music, that they are becoming the hot topic of new music fanatics, and the music industry as a whole.

I sent an email to Craig Evans asking if we could do a Q&A, and in truth, I thought he’d say no. He’s a busy chap, but believe it or not, he came back to me straight away, first of all thanking me for my support, and secondly claiming he’d be happy to take part in the Q&A. It would turn out that the future of new music, and the distribution of music, is also a really nice guy. We talk Record Store Day, how the revolution has gone this year, and what could possibly be next for the most exciting new company.

When did Flying Vinyl begin?

The idea first came about in January 2015, we launched a very basic website around April that year and the first boxes shipped in June 2015. So we’ve been going just over a year and a half – though it seems like two minutes ago.

What was it that made you start the company?

It was frustration of the way things had got in music really. I was working in the industry on digital marketing around music and just felt a bit fed up. I wasn’t sure what all this online stuff actually meant anymore, like, were more people turning out to see these artists at gigs and buying their stuff, not really. Artists were getting paid a pittance for millions of people consuming their work and all people seemed to care about was ‘following’, which felt like it had just become vanity. When you break your balls to get a few thousand people to view a new music video and then you look at the stats on it and the average person viewed it for 10 seconds because there’s a hundred different pieces of other technology and content immediately pulling their focus away you really question why we’ve all gotten into bed with these companies.

We sit here and just eat all this shit up from these technology companies about how they’re creating a more ‘open’ and ‘connected’ world with these Directors who go and do all this charity work building hospitals whilst their companies avoid billions of dollars in tax which could be used to do the same thing. It’s nuts. The industry is actively empowering these organisations to exist and enslave the artists to them and I just felt like we could do better than that. Flying Vinyl isn’t going to be Apple, let’s be honest, but we’re going to do what we can to fuck with those companies as much as possible and lead by example in highlighting the best new music, caring about artists, encouraging people to compensate artists for the work that we love and encourage people to listen to music in a format that will connect them so much more intimately with what they’re listening to.

As music-lovers we need to all understand that digital music is making the thing we love disposable background noise, when it can be so much more.

How has your company grown over the past year?

It’s growing well, we’re now exporting boxes to every continent and about to put out our 100th artist on wax (I think that’s Feb by my calculation). More importantly the artists that we’re working with are doing some really amazing stuff. The Amazons, who we put out in our debut edition, have just been shortlisted on the BBC Sound of 2017 list, The Magic Gang have signed a huge deal with Warner, Black Honey are blowing up in quite a big way and I think if we continue to take the best stuff at a real grassroots level and champion it we’ll keep growing and making impact.

Looking ahead, what do you make of the increase in vinyl sales this year?

I think that since Napster came into the world and started chipping away at the traditional music distribution model we’ve all been drawn into this race to convenience. That being, any music, anywhere for little or no money. This convenience has led us to a state where most music’s being listened to through computer speakers and earplug headphones whilst we go about doing a million other things in our lives. Young people are adopting vinyl for the same reason that when you go to your first live music show you want to go to more – because it’s a heightened way to experience music and one that connects you to art in a way that other formats don’t. The more people we can get records into the hands of, the better, because I really believe once those people experience vinyl for the first time, those shitty iPod headphones won’t do it for them anymore. I understand that we’re not all going to throw this technology in the bin or whatever but I think more people are now listening to music conveniently through all this tech and then putting time aside to sit down and listen to music on vinyl in an undistracted way, which is an incredibly important thing for culture and society. So, to answer your question, it doesn’t surprise me that year-on-year sales of vinyl are increasing because it’s a form of resistance against the way that most people now consume music.

Did you see that Mozart was the most bought CD of the year? What do you make of that?

I did, it pretty funny really but actually quite logical when you think about it. CD’s in general are kinda interesting, because they’re actually seeing a remarkable amount of stability when compared to formats such as digital download. I don’t think anyone expected that to happen but there’s still a core of generally older people who only pay for things they can actually hold in their hands and still like collecting CD’s. So that story was pretty amusing, but it’s probably more of a reflection on who’s buying CD’s, I can’t imagine that there’s many people over the age of 40 buying Drake CD’s, but a lot of older classic music fans who’ll stick the CD’s on their old stereo’s. Also I think it was an eight CD set or something which probably helped. Either way, it’s funny.

How do you think Flying Vinyl has affected the resurge in the popularity of vinyl?

That’s a tough one. Ultimately, where I think we’ve helped is that we work with a huge amount of artists who are incredible at what they do and have a lot of fans, but for a number of really tedious reasons are probably not going to be able to be out on vinyl at that point in their careers. Now if we work with them to create this beautiful piece of art that’ll live forever, represent their music and be something that’s far more tangible than anything digital, then those kids following those bands are going to buy it. And then if they buy it, I hope they’ll buy a turntable and listen to it and start buying records from other bands at gigs they’re going to. I think that’s where we’ve probably made more impact than anything is just by being an outlet that’s helping the best bands to have their music on wax and as a result encouraging more young people to start collecting. Outside of that when I started the company it was this really liberating thing because we’re not really tied to anyone or anything in the music industry other than the artists. There’s aspects of the music business we love and there’s a lot we hate and we have a voice now that we’re able to use as a global community. We can create consensus on issues with all of our members and followers on social media and highlight things that we think need to change. Too many people are too scared to say these things because the industry’s so incestuous but we’re able to and in the resurgence of vinyl we’ve been as vocal as possible about the reasons why buying physical music is a great investment.

And what about the work of Record Store Day?

I like Record Store Day. It’s been instrumental in getting young people to go out and buy records, which was alien to them before really. To some extent it’s become a victim of its own success because it was creating such a buzz every year around record shops and indie label releases that the major labels have stormed into the event now and sort of ruined it. Like, if an album was out on vinyl in 1982 and is still sat on shelves everywhere today available to buy then why the fuck would you reissue that? It takes up capacity at the pressing plants and it encourages people to buy these strange vanity pressings at hugely inflated prices instead of new indie label releases from bands that haven’t been out on the format before and need support. I’d like to see Record Store Day return to more of what it was about initially, which was indie labels creating amazing releases that were only available in record shops from bands that you probably haven’t heard of, but will have done this time next year. Also this whole thing of people queuing at 5am to get the exclusive releases (many of which end up on eBay the next day) is causing a problem with what the event is trying to achieve. If you’re trying to encourage people to go into record shops for the first time you’re doing-so in the worst possible environment. You want the customer to go away feeling like that was the best experience and something they want to do every week. So you make those people queue outside for an eternity then fight their way through crowds of people and not be able to have a proper chat with the people who own the stores and are massively knowledgable about music.

Does it ever feel as though your company is THE purveyor of new music as opposed to A purveyor of new music?

I hope so. A lot’s happened for us in quite a short space of time and I don’t think any of us at the company are so arrogant that we think our opinion on music is the be all and end all of everything. Music’s subjective and I think that we’ve become really ingrained in what’s happening in culture at the moment, so the bands we put out really early on then go and start doing big things and we see that because we’re there before most other places in music. We’re only really as good as our drive to continue finding those gems in shitty nightclubs and stuff, because the day we stop doing that’s the day that someone else will be calling things better. Our ability to find music before it’s big is only done through a traditional means of A&R’ing, which basically involves going to gigs and listening to a lot of bad music in order to find those little gems that grab your attention, instead of sitting on YouTube and worrying about which bands have the most video views or Facebook likes or whatever. The day we stop doing that, this whole thing collapses.

Lastly, what can we expect over 2017? Can things even get better for the company?

We’ve got some really interesting tie-ups coming up, which is going to mean we’re putting out more content that you can’t get anywhere else (even digitally), our festival’s going to be returning to Hackney (at Oval Space this year) on April 08th and we’ll be announcing the line-up in January for that. There’s a load of amazing new bands that we’re already preparing for release for the first few months of the year and we’re planning some things that we think are going to take the company to the next level, so stay tuned. I wish I could announce them now!

Where can we find information on your company, and how can our readers subscribe to your monthly packs?

Here comes the hypocrisy! Follow us on social media as we chuck most of what we’re doing on there and if you want to subscribe and check out one of the boxes then head to www.flyingvinyl.co.uk and sign-up. The boxes are £20 per month with free delivery for 5 exclusively pressed records and you can cancel at anytime if it’s not for you.

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Words: Sam Meaghan