You know those people you meet who are just so fun their energy is infectious? The ones that you know you’ll keep in touch with, and can’t wait to see all that they’ll do in their career? That was us when we met Elsie Chadwick who works at Stamper Discs an electroplating facility based in Sheffield, UK. She’s fairly new to the industry as I write this, but already making an impact and has such insightful advice, as you’ll see in continuing to read. We also recently had her on our podcast to continue demystifying electroplating, so be sure to check that out here.
Stamper Discs is the only place in the UK that offers a ‘trade’ galvanics service to the vinyl industry. They work with new wave pressing plants (those that don’t plate in house) and record labels, making the stampers that fit into the moulds of record presses. They are a small but mighty team of six, and Elsie’s job is to handle all customer service involving taking care of customers’ orders, handling queries, resolving any issues, packing and shipping stampers, and some business administration.
When she’s not at work, she’s out walking in the Peak District of Sheffield which has where you “can get some incredible views“. Now that live music is coming back she’s got a load of gigs she’s looking forward to over the next few months!
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you to get into it?
I saw the role advertised online and thought it looked so interesting and different. At the time I was working a couple of part-time jobs but was mainly in the hospitality sector. I knew this wasn’t something I wanted to do long term but with the pandemic in full swing I felt like my options were limited – or at least had been put on hold. So as soon as I saw the advert I knew I wanted to apply and just went for it!
I’ve always loved music and thought it would be great to get into the industry but never really saw it as an option for me. I did my best to make my current experience and skills applicable to the job role and tried to learn as much I could about the vinyl industry before my interviews.
What is a day in the life like?
I get to work and the first thing I do is open up the emails. I’ll usually give them a quick scan through to make sure there are no urgent matters before working through them one by one. I’ll enter any new orders onto our database that have come in and answer any queries from customers. I’ll also help in finalizing the production schedule for the next day and making sure everyone in the team is on the same page.
Throughout the day we receive deliveries of lacquers coming in from cutting houses all over. Once they’ve arrived I’ll start booking them in on the system and generating work tickets to give to the production team. The work ticket provides all the information needed for processing such as how many steps the lacquer should be processed as, the catalogue number, and the plating specifications. At this point, stampers will have started to make their way through the forming room and into the office. I’ll start by logging the weight and diameter of each stamper and then organize them into shipments.
Once a package is ready to go, I’ll get it booked in with the courier and let the customer know it’s on the way! Then I tie up the business admin tasks such as invoicing. I’ll finish the day by checking all customer emails have been seen and dealt with and make a list of any pending jobs I need to get on with the next day.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
It’s exciting when you get some fresh lacquers through the door for one of your favorite artists. And it always feels cool that we’re able to listen to a mother before a test pressing even exists!
Also, not something I’ve worked on personally, but over the last year or so Stamper Discs have been developing a new audio comparison software tool called Fonograph. It’s really interesting because it plots the frequency/ amplitude distribution of two recordings and then presents this visually. The idea is that it gives an objective comparison between the two to help in diagnosing any audio issues you may be having. There’s a link to it on our website where you can see and hear the comparison between the same piece of music cut into a lacquer versus a DMM!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
At first, the idea of starting work in an industry I had surface level knowledge of definitely made me feel nervous. And I still sometimes have those moments of imposter syndrome! But I just have to remind myself how much I’ve already learnt in 6 months and that I’m building on my knowledge everyday. With the vinyl market growing at a rapid rate at the moment, we had to adapt to this surge very quickly and I think it took everyone a bit by surprise! Whilst this is obviously very exciting, particularly for the longevity of the industry, it’s come with short term challenges. Particularly from a customer service point of view, you don’t want to let anyone down but you also have to be realistic in managing customers’ expectations.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
If you see the opportunity to go for it! Don’t be put off because you think you lack knowledge or experience in a certain area – everyone has to start somewhere. But also do all the research you can and ask lots of questions when you get the chance.
I found Youtube was a great place to start for understanding the production process, and it is a rabbit hole of information once you’re on there.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I’d say I have a pretty humble collection at the moment but it’s definitely getting there. I absolutely love watching live music so when the first lockdown came in the UK my collection really started to grow as I saw buying records as alternative way to support the artists I like. Sheffield has a good selection of independent record shops as well so it’s always nice to spend an afternoon making your way around these for a dig. And as is the case for a lot of younger people collecting records, my collection also includes a lot of golden oldies ‘borrowed’ from my mum and dad!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about?
A couple of months ago Record Store Day UK posted an article about UK indie record stores seeing a rise in under 25’s buying vinyl which I think is great news for the future of the industry. Specifically to the stamper side of things, we don’t necessarily see trends because a stamper is a stamper whether it’s pressing 500 black records or it’s one set in a 50,000 record run that’s being pressed in five different colors. But we’ve obviously noticed our customers becoming busier which has led to a lot more 3-step orders than when I first started!
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
If vinyl collecting is something you’ve picked up during the pandemic, or you’re a young person just getting started, then keep going! Try and shop as independently as possible and support your local music venues who have struggled a lot over the past 18 months. If you’re starting to go out and watch live music again then show up for the support acts. Talk to your friends about new music you’ve been listening to or about a record you’ve just bought because gatekeeping isn’t as cool as you think it is. If you have kids or younger siblings, get them involved if they’ve shown an interest. My brother is 17 and has started building his own collection so we have great chats about music and records that we’ve got our eyes on.
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me what you’re listening to:
I’ll use this opportunity to highlight some amazing artists I’ve been listening to recently; Jane Weaver, Du Blonde, Lila Iké, and Dream Wife, all incredible musicians in their own way!