Five years ago, muso Ben Wallace wanted to get his small-time folk band The Rambling’s new album pressed on vinyl but there was just one problem: New Zealand’s last vinyl printing press was closed in the 1980s.
Wallace was taken aback because vinyl had been “trending upwards” for a long time.
“I started talking to some people in the industry and they generally got their records from massive manufacturing companies over in Europe,” Wallace says.
“New Zealand artists – unless they’re part of the 0.1% – have smaller run sizes than most artists and they were getting pushed to the back of the printing queue with their lead times blowing up.”
Seeing the huge demand, Wallace mulled over the idea of starting up a press where local artists could access quality vinyl and not have to struggle with international clashes.
“It's obviously a little hard for NZ artists as well when Europe and the States think New Zealand is next to Mars and don't really have a hell of a lot of time,” he says.
But Wallace knew he couldn’t start up NZ’s first vinyl pressing plant in 30 years just by himself and so asked a close friend and criminal defence lawyer, Joel Woods, to jump on board with the business idea.
Woods was “keen to leave a career of criminal defence law behind”, so the two vinyl devotees started to work out how they were going to bring their business to life.
More than a one-hit-wonder
It quickly turned out to be a less than easy journey. Wallace and Woods had to head overseas to research how printing press machinery even worked, let alone how to successfully run a vinyl business.
“It's a real craft to make vinyl,” Woods says. “We've been the only ones doing it in New Zealand, so when we were getting started, we didn't have anyone to speak to in the country that had any idea.”
They spent a few months in the United States and Canada where they travelled to various pressing plants and suppliers to get a “good grasp” on the industry.
The vinyl world was humming, and Wallace says the pressing places they visited were “pretty surprised” NZ didn’t have any vinyl pressing plants left.
“We came back from that trip pretty energised and confident that this was going to be an idea that was going to work,” Woods says.
“Everyone gave us the confidence that there was that demand.”
After many sleepless nights, setting up shop in the perfect Auckland CBD space and getting a press shipped from Canada, Wallace and Woods threw open the doors to Holiday Records at the end of 2018.
Growth was steady until the pandemic hit, and then things really took off.
“Vinyl is really changing itself as that physical medium of music that all artists are really turning to us for,” Wallace says.
Order requests are flying through the door so quickly that the Holiday team has a six-month waitlist and a new press on the way.
“We're pressing about 16 hours a day, six days a week at the moment, and printing between 1,200 and 1,300 records a day, and that's still not enough,” Woods says.
“There hasn't been any live music, gigs, or concerts and people are looking to support their favourite artists,” Woods says.
Instead of people buying concert tickets to see artists or bands perform their music live, Wallace and Woods say they’re noticing people buying their favourite artists’ music on vinyl instead.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing with Holiday having to cope with pandemic-fuelled increases in shipping costs and ever-lengthening wait times for supplies.
Groove is in the heart
But even those issues have had silver linings in that it’s become even more expensive for their overseas competitors.
“Local and Australian artists have had to more or less look to only New Zealand and Australia now to get their records pressed,” Wallace says.
“So, a lot of our business has been coming from Australia at the moment and the large majority of records that are pressed for New Zealand artists are all done by us,” Woods says.
Wallace and Woods say the worldwide interest in vinyl has meant an uptick in demand for vinyl machinery as well.
“We've had to look further ahead and order stuff well in advance now,” Wallace says.
“The press machinery demand is pretty large,” Wallace says.
“The wait time for the second vinyl press that we’ve ordered isn’t going to arrive until this time next year.”
Wallace and Woods aren’t sure where the future is going to take them and are content to keep growing and to work with as many artists as they can.
“Because when you’re listening to a record, you're never in a stressful state of mind,” Woods says.