3) One of your companies, Mobile Vinyl Recorders, brings what could be called a reinvented vintage experience to the public. Why do you think this resonates with bystanders? What has been your favorite venue to take Mobile Vinyl Recorders and why?
Vinyl records have been around for 130 years, but most people don’t actually understand how they work or how they are made. Maker culture is on a huge upswing, and we help to take a little bit of the mystery out of it, while simultaneously drawing attention to the incredible science behind it. All of our gigs have been incredible, but our month long residency on the canal in Paris is probably my favorite.
5) I know MVR takes upcycled CDs and cuts a new song onto them, but they can still be played in a CD player as well as on a record player. Can you explain a little more about how the lathes work/the technical process?
The cutter head (which holds the cutting needle) acts like a tiny speaker. But, instead of having a paper cone that pushes the sound waves through the air, it focuses the waves to the tip of the tiny needle (made with a sharpened ruby). As the ruby vibrates, it scratches the grooves into the disc, which is turning underneath it. The groove is actually the physical representation of the sound wave.
6) Do you have any advice to give young tinkerers, innovators, and entrepreneurs about entering a market that is already filled with massive and long-standing corporations? How have you found your niche?
My advice is to not try to move into the pressing side of records. Pressing records is a huge industrial process that takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to enter. I would never even dream of it. What I do is on the experimental lathe cut side. I make records one at a time, rather than by the hundreds. The investment is much smaller, the learning curve (while steep) is more manageable, and the market is easier to reach. If you want to make records, buy a record lathe (if you can find one) and start out slow. It has to be an obsession, not a casual hobby. It’s a horrible business model, extremely expensive and time consuming, and there is no real way to make much money at it. I’ve been doing it for almost a decade, am one of the most well-known in my tiny field, have 20 machines, and yet I still make about the same yearly income as I would slinging fast food. And I work twice as many hours. But, it’s what I love. It’s a passion and it has led to me working with artists and bands that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I started.
I found my niche by being creative, working hard, and being there before the beginning. The Vinyl Revival was still a couple years away when I started, and I happened to be one of the few people doing what I did when it started to come around.
Thank you Mike for sharing so much with me today!
This is one of Mike’s many vinyl projects that bring art, music, and science together. To learn more about his other pursuits and experiments with strange materials and record players please check out his website http://www.michaeldixonvinylart.com/ .
To paint the picture, please view this original montage of Afropunk Brooklyn 2016.