An Interview with Eric Hughes of SlyVinyl

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SlyVinyl: Your Informant

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with the CEO of SlyVinyl, Eric Hughes. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, the origins of SlyVinyl, his opinions on where RSD stands today, and what he’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

If you would like to learn more about SlyVinyl, you can head over to their website, Twitter, or Instagram, and dig in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Eric. Cheers.

Andrew:
Eric, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?


Eric:
Hello, and thank you for having me! My name is Eric Hughes, and I have been the CEO of SlyVinyl Records for the past three years, and involved in some shape or form for over seven. This past year has certainly been an interesting one; my son was born in March 2020, so we’ve been learning to become new parents amidst a global pandemic. The silver lining to the situation is that I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home this entire time, and have spent so much more time with my son than I would have been able to otherwise.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?


Eric:
I think I’ve always had music in my life. My parents would have Classic Rock, and Jazz playing most days. I would do homework while listening to Jethro Tull and my very first concert was David Bowie! My first cassette was a Best Of Steppenwolf compilation, and my first CD was The Offspring’s Americana. I’m a huge proponent of supporting bands by seeing them live and buying merch directly from them. For the longest time, I was a “concert-tee and poster” guy, but shirts can fade, and there’s only so much wall space for prints. Around a decade ago, I started picking up bands’ vinyl offerings and have been hooked on wax ever since.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events first. What’s new with SlyVinyl? How did the pandemic affect your business, if at all?


Eric:
The pandemic obviously had a major impact on indie bands around the world with live shows being canceled, and tours being scrapped. Fortunately, it seems music fans that would have been buying a concert ticket are looking to put that money elsewhere, and some are choosing to pick up their favorite artists’ vinyl releases instead. Anyone pressing vinyl right now will tell you about the crazy turn-around times, due to the industry-wide bottleneck causing major delays in the production of records. It can take sometimes s6+ months from the time you’ve placed your order to having the release in hand. This has added extra pressure on labels and artists, as albums may be ready to go, but
there’s no merch to offer alongside. Despite these shortages, SlyVinyl will manage to have at least 10 (maybe 11) vinyl releases scattered throughout 2021, and we have already secured press time throughout 2022 as well. We are not looking to slow down; just adapt.

Andrew:
Going back a bit, let’s talk about the origins of SlyVinyl? How did it get its start?


Eric:
SlyVinyl was started in 2012 by our founder and owner Scott Wickberg. Existing mostly as a vinyl-news blog for the first year, SlyVinyl Records officially released its first pressing in 2013 and a new chapter began. Since then, SlyVinyl has released more than two dozen exclusive vinyl releases, lathe-cuts, and even a cassette! Our focus has always been from a vinyl collector’s perspective, and thus we like to really deck out our releases with all the bells and whistles. We know what we’d want the release to be like if we were the ones buying it (and we are!), so we make it that way.

Andrew:
Ultimately, what were your goals for SlyVinyl? How did those goals change as you’ve gone along, and how have things evolved for you?


Eric:
In the early years, SlyVinyl’s main focus was on the blog side, and our vinyl releases were coming only once or twice a year. This cadence continued for a few years until I assumed the role of Director, A&R, and Production in 2016. The focus was now on securing and pressing new records with artists that we love and want to support. Our previous runs had sold well enough that we could start affording to put more than one item into production at a time, so we began having several exclusives per year most years. Since then, I’ve been promoted to CEO and SlyVinyl is now in the position to begin to release vinyl records monthly. We plan to continue that pace going forward. The future may hold some different offerings from us as a label as well. We want to expand the release types, merch options, and more next year and beyond.

Andrew:
For vinyl collectors, SlyVinyl is important as it’s a sort of “cheat code” into the underbelly of the scene. These indie releases are so limited, and scalpers are always thwarting real-deal collectors’ efforts to obtain the music they love. What are your thoughts on the scalper market, and the state of the scene in general?


Eric:
There’s really no “secret sauce” to how the SlyVinyl blog operates. We have a small, but dedicated group of authors, each of whom has a unique taste in music and has a knack for catching wind of when new records are coming down the pipeline. These folks are in the trenches, scouring labels, and artists’ social media for any hint, and a scrap of news. It’s not magic; it’s persistence. When it comes to “scalpers” or “flippers”, you have to recognize that this secondary market exists for all hobbies. Look at trading cards, poster prints, basketball shoes, etc. It’s a supply and demand issue. All of these items exist in finite quantities, and thus scarce items can demand a premium from resellers. If a scalper has come by their stock by legitimate means, then who am I to tell them what they can and cannot do with their property? I don’t believe someone must keep all the vinyl they have ever purchased until the day they die. However, it can become an issue if you detect individuals trying to circumvent your policies. We have banned buyers in the past for attempting to buy more copies than allowed, using multiple accounts with the clear intent to resell. Unfortunately, it’s almost always impossible to make such a crystal clear determination at the time of sales.

Andrew:
RSD is a hot button issue among many collectors. Some love it. Some hate it. What are your honest thoughts on RSD?


Eric:
It’s easy to hop on the RSD hate train. Every year, it seems to clog up the press plants with redundant copies of releases no one was asking for. Despite that, I think RSD continues to be an important entry point into the hobby for thousands of new buyers every year. These new collectors fuel the “record economy” which has allowed for the resurgence of the format in the 21st century. Even though RSD releases seem to gum up the works each year, I don’t think we would be seeing the same level of investment at press plants to be able to increase production that we are currently seeing. In the long run, RSD has been good for vinyl.

Andrew:
Some say the vinyl bubble will burst, and many feel the proverbial shark has already been jumped. Where do you feel things stand? Is vinyl sustainable? Or will it eventually sink back into the unknown?


Eric:
To answer this question, I think it’s important to consider why people are buying vinyl in the first place. Why are we drawn to this relic of a format? In this day and age of streaming music, a vinyl record offers a physical and direct way to interact with your music. The artwork is large and in your face. The disc itself may have some crazy color configuration. You cannot compare buying a digital download of an album versus the feeling you get when you are unsealing the shrinkwrap from a new release and sliding the vinyl out into your hands. You cannot hit play on Spotify and get the same rush you get from dropping a needle on wax. Another reason I believe that vinyl will stick around is that it is the only format that appears to maintain its value. A record you bought last year will likely be worth the same (if not more)
this year.

Andrew:
Do you collect vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums, and why?


Eric:
I have more vinyl, cassettes, and CDs than I can reasonably store or display at the moment. According to my Discogs account, I have over 1,000 pieces of vinyl and hundreds of cassettes. I still have a fair share of CDs, but those are mostly from my completionist sets for certain artists.

Some favorite albums are:
Shpongle – Are You Shpongled? (1996).
Shpongle is the psychedelic lovechild of Simon Posford and the aptly named Raja Ram. About 15 years ago I came across a lovely little flash animation called Flashback that used Shpongle’s infamous track, “Divine Moments of Truth,” and immediately knew I had found something unique. Shpongle is a perfect sampling of Psychedelic, Trance, World, and Electronica. Tracks: “Shpongle Spores,” “Behind Closed Eyelids,” “Divine Moments of Truth.”

M83 – M83 (2001)
I first came across M83’s self-titled album while browsing a record shop in Carlsbad, CA. The track “Night” came on over the speakers and I bee-lined it to the counter to immediately ask, “Who?” and then, “How much?” Early M83 exists in this rarified air that even he hasn’t been able to recapture in quite some time. Tracks: “Night,” “Kelly,” “Sitting.”

Menomena – I Am The Fun Blame Monster (2003)/Friend And Foe (2007)
I wanted to highlight two albums by Oregon’s own Menomena. I was introduced to both of these albums at the same time and the experience of listening to these tracks is intertwined for me. One of my all-time favorite bands, I was fortunate enough to release the anniversary reissue of I Am The Fun Blame Monster a couple of years back. Truly an honor. Tracks (I Am The Fun Blame Monster): “Cough Coughing,” “Twenty Cell Revolt,” “Strongest Man in the World.” Tracks (Friend And Foe): “Wet and Rusting,” “Air Aid,” “Evil Bee.”

Andrew:
What other passions do you have?


Eric:
I’m very passionate about comedy. The year before the pandemic, I tried out stand-up comedy for the first time and really fell in love with the entire process of writing, refining, and performing original material. Few feelings can match making a crowd roar with laughter! Even though I wasn’t performing, I have been continuing to write since early 2020. I’m looking forward to getting back on stage with a mic in hand!

Andrew:
Last one. We seem to be nearing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. That said, what’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?


Eric;
Next on the docket for SlyVinyl Records is a slew of new releases for the remainder of 2021 and throughout 2022. Possibly looking to use a new fulfillment service, which will afford this one-man label more time to focus on the releases themselves. I am most looking forward to a post-COVID world where my family and I can do all the things we’ve been looking forward to with my son. I would love to travel and see some live shows again. I do miss packed crowds!

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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