Digitizing Media as a Profit Center

By John Gardner

The Department Chair who, as part of his mission to clean up the over stuffed music library, asked the band directors about the LP record collection.

“You guys have hundreds, if not thousands, of LP records taking up space in here….”

He had a point, but it also encourages some questions:

  1. How many of you know Music Departments with massive collections of LP Records and VHS video tapes? IS IT YOU?
  2. How many of YOU have significant personal collections of old media?
  3. How many of you KNOW PEOPLE who have collections of old media?
  4. How many people NO LONGER PLAY their LP vinyl records, either because they don’t have a turntable or they are afraid that each play reduces the life of the record?

I asked a group of band parents how many had LP and VHS media at home. Someone asked me back if I was including 45’s and Beta. Oh my! Yes. Most of the adults in the room raised their hands. When I asked how many had a way to play them, about 3/4 of those hands went down. When I asked if they knew how, or knew how to get that media digitized (put on CD/DVD, etc), almost every hand went down.

There are options…..but…

You can easily find service providers via Internet who will digitize your old media. Because my initial emphasis is on records and tapes, I’m going to focus on those vs the Betamax tapes, 8mm and 15mm filmstrips and other media that some of you (and me) have….

Level of Service

The easiest, cheapest and least good option would be for an “Exact Transfer”, which basically means copying your media “as is” without making any changes to it. So if there is a pop or fuzziness on your old record, you will hear that on the CD/DVD. Prices I saw for making an exact transfer of an LP record ranged from a low of $15 to a high of $25 per LP with variations of discounts based on volume.

A higher level of service would involve using some “editing” software to create tracks and to correct some of the extra noise. Obviously if your record has a huge scratch, you might have an issue — but there is no question that digitized media has a more pure sound. A non-exhaustive search discovered rates as high as $39.95/LP to transfer and improve the recording.

Some negatives to the Internet providers…

One homeowner’s moderate collection of a couple hundred LP vinyl records with no way to play them.

The BIGGEST negative is that you have to send off your media. Some of us have old records that cannot be replaced. I have a couple dozen LP’s of my high school, summer camps, specialty clinics and college bands from “back in the day” where that was a popular form of recording. What if I ship them off and don’t get them back? What if they are damaged in transit — in either direction?

Some of the service providers SELL specialty boxes in which you can place a small quantity of LP records — and those boxes, which are almost a necessity, are a major profit item for the vendor. They also offer (some include, but others charge) to “wash/clean” the LP prior to playing/recording. So, by the time I order several of those boxes, get them shipped to me, then pay both the shipping to and from the digitizer vendor and have my records cleaned for best result — my bottom line price is significantly higher than even the prices they advertise.

Hence, people tend NOT to mess with it.

But what if…..

…there was a LOCAL OPTION?

What if you offered a FREE PICKUP/DROP OFF service (or even charge extra to do that)? I would be much more willing to provide a stack of my media to someone at my front door — or to take them somewhere local than I would be to do the shipping thing.

…YOU were the service provider in your area?


Need a way to supplement your fundraising business or to utilize during the off season?


What if your schools or bands ran a “DIGITIZING OLD MEDIA” fundraiser through you where YOU picked up the media, serviced it and returned it to them? It wouldn’t even have to, and probably shouldn’t  be an everybody does it at one time type sale for a couple main reasons: 1) You could be overwhelmed with an amount of work in a really short period of time, and 2) I believe people would be more apt to “test” a service with the idea of doing more later, and 3) if you operated like the magazine companies….you would service the first set and then communicate with the customers directly about additional digitizing ….. (or variations).

Your pricing for this ongoing service could be adjusted for those groups who also run their traditional fundraiser(s) through you.

Profitability Potential

What does a CD cost? A DVD? Both are under $.50ea, especially in quantity. Most of your overhead in this type of project would be TIME. Equipment needed is minimal and a lot of that is low cost or even free. If someone pays you $25 to spend about 45 minutes copying an LP, you’re doing ok. And if you can copy multiple LPs in that 45 minutes, or copying some while editing others, you’re doing even better.

I AM looking for BOTH Customers and Collaborators. If you could be either…..

  1. SUBSCRIBE to this blog so you get email notifications of updates.
  2. EMAIL John@VirtualMusicOffice.com and let me know your interest.

Thanks for reading.


The mission of the Virtual Music Office is to help Music Teachers, Students, Parents and Professionals Virtually anywhere.

17 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them. Also 4yrs as proprietor of VirtualMusicOffice.com, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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