The Privately Released LP

I have been collecting vinyl records since the mid 1960’s, or at least buying them. One day during my college years I realized I had enough to call it a “collection”. Many years later I opened up a record store called Missing Link Records in Indianapolis.

Along the way, I began poking around at local releases, mostly out of curiosity. Until the advent of punk and new wave and the DIY ethic, though, I never really gave much credence to local releases. The record release was largely the province of the Major Label; anything released locally I considered to be “inferior” in some way, because naively, I thought that the major labels would sniff out anything good and release it themselves.

Ridiculous thought, in hindsight. Especially when considering that in the 1950’s and 1960’s, a huge number of 45’s were released by local/private labels and the bands themselves.   Prior to the advent of big FM stations, hits were generated locally and regionally, with a select few breaking through nationally.

The sheer marketing power of the major labels and the increasing corporatization/homogenization of music radio, however, overwhelmed the notion that something good could come of a local label.  By the mid 1970’s the local release was lost in the shuffle.

Then came punk and new wave in the late 1970’s, as youthful musicians moved into full on rebellion against disco and other forms of commercial,  mainstream music.   That’s when bands really took matters in their own hands, and the result was many local releases, beginning in the late 1970’s. Most of these were 45’s or cassettes, though. The lp was out of reach for most due to cost.

While recording and releasing a record or CD is relatively cheap and easy today, it was not so until recently. Until the advent of digital recording in the 1990’s, quality recording equipment costs many thousands of dollars, hence this was another barrier to entry for local labels. Only recording studios owned recording equipment and musicians were forced to go there to record, and everyone knows that most musicians are not well heeled.

So the typical band would record a few songs and release a 45, because it was way more affordable. Nonetheless, there were many hundreds, possibly more than 1000 privately pressed lp’s released in Indiana prior to 1990. This does not include religious or school records; if those were included the numbers would increase many-fold.

And thus begins the adventure of documenting what’s been released.