Knook #6: Holiday Records
One company has brought vinyl pressing back to New Zealand.
Wellington used to be home to the His Master’s Voice (later EMI) recording studios and record pressing plants. The plant opened in 1948 but shut up shop in 1987, and I’m sure many thought NZ’s record pressing days were gone for good.
(As an aside, EMI did not dump the old equipment in Wellington Harbour, despite the urban legend. They shipped their vinyl pressing and cassette duplicating equipment to Australia.)
However, the resurgence of vinyl has seen two mates in Auckland bring pressing facilities back to our shores.
I caught up with Joel Woods, co-founder of Holiday Records, to hear more about their business journey. I asked how they got started.
“I started this journey with Ben Wallace. Of the two of us, Ben is the muso and has been in a few bands over his time,” says Joel.
“He realised it was super hard to facilitate getting vinyl to New Zealand. There’s long wait times, high costs etc, and it was really hard to manage as a band wanting to get vinyl pressed for the New Zealand market.
“We saw a huge resurgence of vinyl’s popularity, but a degree of inaccessibility for New Zealand. We saw that it was a gaping hole in the market here, so at that point we started researching the viability of starting our own plant.
“There were no old machines on the market — they were either too old to be useful or had been turned into scrap metal. New pressing machines were being developed to help service the lack of supply, and there were two real producers from our point of view, one based in Toronto, Canada and one in Germany.
“We found the Toronto machine to be the superior one. We took a road trip through North America to visit the company making the machine up there, and to see other companies in the industry — either using that machine, or making stampers, cut pressings etc.
“All the research was pointing towards the viability of us doing it here. The market validation part of it was really key given the lack of data on vinyl pressing in New Zealand. It wasn’t good enough to just ask our mums if was a good idea,” Joel laughs.
I ask Joel what their motivation was behind starting the business.
“We were really keen to play a role in fostering the vinyl resurgence. For us, it’s not anti-digital, but just wanting to appreciate music more. Because it’s more of an investment in a record, I think it brings more meaning to music, especially in an era when music has become so disposable.”
I asked what the response has been since they opened (Holiday Records has a record store attached to the plant) and started pressing.
Says Joel, “The response has been completely positive. The general public love it, across generations. There’s something quite nostalgic about vinyl even if you didn’t grow up with it.
“In terms of orders, we have new inquiries everyday and we’re building a big pipeline. We have the ability to press about 800 records in a normal working day, but we have the ability to scale in terms of starting a night shift or adding machines.
“Our emphasis is really on service and a high quality of records — not just mass producing them. We are really just looking for quality to be driving sales.”
I asked what challenges have come up as they’ve got along.
“Oh man, the installation was an absolute headache but we pushed through it. The pressing plant is a huge investment that we couldn’t use until the setup was complete, so managing that from a cash and investment perspective was a challenge,” Joel says.
“It’s also both mine and Ben’s first business, so we’ve had to get ourselves up to speed on how to manage a business. And in terms of the equipment, we had months of training on the machine but we’re still working it out.
“But we’ve made a real effort to get some good systems in place as we grow. We don’t assume anything will go smoothly and have planned in line with that so that’s worked well for us. And we have some quality business mentors around us to help out which has been super valuable.”
I asked Joel what advice he’d give to aspiring small business owners.
“Just be willing to do it.
“For us it’s been about finding a niche. Market validation is super important, and a focus on objective validation. Especially for our niche, there’s no way to test the market other than speaking to people. As I said, it’s not good enough to ask your mum if it’s a good idea.
“We’ve also learned to find the balance between rushing in and dragging our feet. We wanted to make sure we weren’t being idiots, but also move with some urgency.”
I asked what Holiday Records’ plan for the future is.
“We’re keen to start attracting Aussie customers, and other international clients. We’re also wanting to move to full capacity with day and night shifts for pressing, and maybe start distributing here in New Zealand.
“There’s also potential to move into the event space and hosting live gigs.
“Vinyl is just going from strength to strength — vinyl sales are set to outpace CDs as the preferred physical format of music for the first time since 1986. So we just want to encourage more people into enjoying vinyl.
“But more broadly, the music world is our oyster. We’re really looking forward to seeing where we go as a company.”
Originally published at https://www.knooknz.com on October 30, 2019.