2 April 2016

Gearbox Records: the label and vinyl cutter

Following the financial crisis of 2008, Darrel Sheinman ended a 12-year career as a city trader and invested his money into setting up Gearbox Records, a music label and studio that presses 12-inch records.

Gearbox Records is an unabashed passion project for Sheinman (pictured below) and his label manager Adam Sieff.

Both men believe something is missing from listening to digital files of jazz and folk music.

However, Sheinman does believe that there is a strong commercial business opportunity with Gearbox that’s arrived expressly as a consequence of the limitations of streaming music. ‘You speak to record shops and they say that it never went away and that they’ve always been selling vinyl but what’s changed is that a lot more women and a lot more young people are buying vinyl.’

He suggests the nature of a record label born in the streaming era needs to amplify all the best qualities of vinyl. It means Gearbox will feature more live recordings directly to disc, to capture sound in as raw a form as possible.

Sheinman has invested his own money into Gearbox and recently raised £360,000 as part of an investment round, including a small slice through crowdfunding. Sheinman maintains 88 per cent ownership of the company.

He links success with quality, motioning towards the mastering and cutting equipment in the studio. ‘It’s 1950s and 1960s analogue equipment – we’re one of the few studios that has a 100 per cent analogue chain.’ It means Gearbox offers artists the chance to record directly onto their tape machines using high-quality vintage equipment, where a record can be immediately mastered and cut before being sent to a pressing plant. Sometimes the process takes just three hours.

The company plans to make money through creating custom soundtracks for hotels and clubs; a retail pop-up arm is mooted; mastering and consultancy features as well as sales of its own turntables. But it’s the record label that’s its bread and butter. The cost of making a record is £4, the dealer price is £15 and the retailer sells it for £25. Gearbox aims to sell up to 1,500 records per month.

He remains a passionate believer in the tactile, tangible properties of vinyl and believes it’s a common view. ‘With vinyl, you own the copy, you keep it and that’s special. It adds value to what music is and I think people want that now.’