I was fortunate to get a few minutes to meet Elizabeth Varvaro during the virtual Making Vinyl conference this year. Elizabeth handles production for Bonsound an artist management company, record label, booking agency, concert promoter and a promotion & publicity agency founded in 2004 and based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
When she isn’t at work she’d normally be at live shows, so in current times that being challenging, she’s instead enjoying her time watching a lot of horror movies.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I totally stumbled into this industry over 10 years ago. Back then, vinyl was something we’d produce occasionally, and I took on the production as part of all the other organizational things we had to do when putting out an album. I fell in love with the medium while on the job. It’s the most stressful thing I do, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
What is a day in the life like?
A lot of emails, a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of phone calls! Everything else is up in the air. Right now my colleagues and I are just running around trying to get everything in order for our spring season.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
This is impossible to answer for me! I don’t have favs, I love all our vinyl equally. Check out our store, there are lots of gorgeous albums.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Definitely trying to balance expectations and artistic vision with production costs and timelines. Vinyl is such a coveted, beloved product, but it’s really expensive and fickle when compared to any other merch or album format. So many things can go wrong during the production, and so the biggest challenge is trying to address any potential complications up front, getting assets ready months in advance, educating people about how to listen to tests, etc.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I do collect for fun, but I’ve never been precious about keeping them pristine, or seeking out rare editions or anything.
What I love the most about vinyl is the imprint we leave on them. They are so viscerally tangible, when I listen to a used record, it’s like I’m listening alongside whomever had it before me.
When vinyl became a part of my job, I dug my parents’ turntable and vinyl collection out of their storage locker. I found so many gems, like my Mom’s Elton John records from when she was a teenager! Now when I flip through that collection, I feel like I’m watching my parents grow up. Some of the records have little notes written in them by their teen-aged selves, some are really worn from being played so much, and a few are doubles, from when they moved in together and combined their collections. I don’t care if they sound scratchy or if the jackets are falling apart, they are my favourite thing in my home. I’d save them if my home was on fire, they’re history to me.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Dive in, ask a lot of questions to a lot of different people. It’s an industry that is growing really fast, and there’s a mix of people who’ve been cutting records their whole lives, and those who are just starting out. There’s lots of room for you too!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I’m really excited about all the new production innovations that are making pressing machines more reliable and more environmentally friendly. Those two things are crucial for vinyl to continue growing like it has. My hope is that new technology will make vinyl a more accessible product for both artists and consumers. It costs a lot of money up front, which isn’t feasible for a lot of bands, and similarly a lot of music consumers don’t have a ton of disposable income to drop on records. Vinyl is a format that really celebrates the experience of listening to an album, and I want that experience to be available to as many people as possible.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Oh my gosh, I am floored by how much vinyl we moved this year, so thank you! There are lots of ways to support the industry. Shop at your local record shop, or check out the artist’s online store. If a new record isn’t in your budget right now, that’s ok, maybe show your love online instead by interacting with the artist’s content.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share in closing?
When people talk about vinyl, either making it or listening to it, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the complicated details, and that can be really intimidating. If you’re just starting to get into vinyl, remember that a good record will be good on all kinds of sound systems, for all kinds of ears. Sound is subjective, so just do the best you can with what you have.