On the eve of Record Store Day, it seems clear that despite numerous music industry struggles, the vinyl resurgence stands as a small success story. Last year, nearly 8 million records were sold, a 50% increase from 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the cache of the physical format has never been stronger. But at the dozen or so presses across the country where records are pressed today, it's not always as glamorous as a steady rise in sales may suggests. At both legacy plants and new arrivals to the industry emboldened by the formats resurgence, machines made decades ago are still putting out records, and require serious tinkering tinkering to repair or replace. We took a look a many of the shop floors and pressing plants where records are born, the often unglamorous rooms where tiny pieces of vinyl are collected, melted into a puck and pressed, ideas and artistry literally pressed into plastic.Read More
For Record Store Day, a Map of Presses Where Vinyl Is Made
1. A & R Record & Tape Mfg. Co
Dallas, TX 75207
Located on the outskirts of Dallas, this 2,400-square-foot facility has no bells or whistles, it’s literally just a plant working on 7- and 12-inch pressings and audio mastering. Owner Stan Getz has been working at A&R since 1974, when he moved from Detroit, where he was also employed in the record manufacturing industry.
2. Archer Records
Detroit, MI 48212
Despite being such an important center for the music business, this is Detroit's only pressing plant, going alone and making jazz, soul, rock and dance records since 1965. (During its heyday, the influential Motown label had most of its massive output pressed at regional plants). Owner Mike Archer took over from his father, Joe, and continues to operate a fleet of mostly finicky old machines. In addition to the recent resurgence in vinyl, the city's homegrown techno scene has provided lots of business over the years.
3. Bill Smith Custom Records, Inc.
El Segundo, CA 90245
“Anybody that thinks they want to get into this industry, I say start with an airline, it might be a little easier,” says Kevin Smith, the second-generation owner of Bill Smith Custom Records, a company founded by his father, a working class music fan who started this factory in El Segundo after spending years setting up presses for others. Smith says that the industry’s rise has been happening for years — he had a 56% bump in business last year. His 5,600-square-foot factory has four 7-inch machines and seven 12-inch machines, as well as a stockpile of parts stripped from closed pressing plants. “There’s lots of fun in this industry,” says Smith. “I get to educate others on record terminology and see the look on their faces when they finally get that tangible, physical object in their hands.”
4. Brooklyn Phono
Brooklyn, NY 11232
Open since 2002 in a one-story brick building in the Sunset Park neighborhood, this small plant recycles records, shredding old wax and then using the raw material to press new records. Owner Thomas Bernich took months to find the machines and literally rode around Brooklyn on a bicycle looking for the right place to locate. He's since modified many of the plant’s machines to make for a more automated process. The company utilizes a Southern Machine & Tool Company record press to turn small donuts of wax into new music, primarily for nearby indie labels.
5. Capsule Labs
Los Angeles, CA 90031
For those who can't wait to get their music on vinyl -- considering the backlog most other pressing plants face, it's definitely going to be a wait -- Capsule Labs is your best bet for instant gratification. Located in a old building next to the L.A. River, the facility, which also offers mastering services, lets musicians record and press directly to acetate, with no computers getting in the way. The company also proudly proclaims that every record they press comes from 100 percent virgin vinyl.
6. Erika Records
Buena Park, CA 90620
“I keep my factory like I keep my home, very clean” says Liz Dunster, long-time owner of Erika. Inside her 40,000-square-foot plant, which has a big American flag hanging near the entrance, records are pressed 20 hours a day. The company began as a heavy metal label in 1980. Dunster expanded the business by picking up a machine shop, and now the focus has turned away from making music to pressing it. Erika focuses on regular and specialty records, including vinyl with splatter patterns and multiple colors. She prides herself on independence, and to stay that way, regularly picks up old parts from plants that have closed (she recently paid to have machines from a record plant in Jamaica shipped to her warehouse). She prefers working with independent labels (he company made the Sub Pop singles series, for instance), and says record-making is in her blood, literally. “If you cut me, I’d bleed PVC.”
7. Gotta Groove Records
Cleveland, OH 44114
Vince Slusarz started Gotta Groove in 2009, convinced that with the rise in streaming audio, more people would want music in a physical format. After scouting out a few presses for sale in New Jersey, he opened on the outskirts of Cleveland in Tyler Village in a space formerly occupied by an elevator company, retrofitting the warehouse with the electric, plumbing and steam line needed to start pressing.
8. Musicol Recordings
Columbus, OH 43224
A family business that’s been pressing since 1971, this Columbus plant is actually a set of three houses that have been joined together (the presses are in what was once the basement). John Hull started the company in 1971 with a simple name (a portmanteau of music and Columbus) and built and modified much of the equipment himself. Musicol utilizes a more rare book dye press, a manual press that means they can only press two records a minute, tops. Two recording studios are also attached to the plant.
9. Quality Record Pressings
Salina, KS 67401
Located in a converted produce storage facility in Salina, a town at the crossroads of two interstates in Kansas, Quality Record Pressings is the brainchild of Chad Kassem, an entrepreneur who focuses on audiophile quality records. When Kassem’s company Acoustic Sounds, Inc., had trouble getting their releases made, they bought this facility in 2011 and began pressing their own, as well as taking on smaller jobs from others. Currently, they have six presses working three shifts a day, pumping out roughly 1.8 million albums a year including heavyweight jazz reissues from the Blue Note and Impulse catalog, as well as rock reissues including Rush and Pink Floyd.
10. Rainbo Records
Canoga Park, CA 91304
Founded in 1939 by Jack Brown, Rainbo Records has the kind of fascinating and varied history one would expect from the nation’s oldest record pressing plant, having pressed hits for legends from Led Zeppelin to NWA while pioneering a number of formats and advertising tie-ins, such as the Wheaties “Record-On-A-Box” campaign, which sold more than 30 million records in the ’50s and ‘60s. The new redesigned facility, which the company moved into in 2006, offers everything needed to release a record in house except for the artists, including mastering, art design and packaging.
11. Record Technology Incorporated
Camarillo, CA 93012
Started by Bill Bauer in 1972, Record Technology has been in the same building since it began and has weathered the ups and downs of the industry over the last few decades, briefly manufacturing cassettes and packing CDs before returning to an all-vinyl business model. Don MacInnis and his wife Dawn bought the business in the early ‘90s and have worked with everyone from small local bands to indie labels such as Ubiquity and Drag City to Warner Bros.
12. United Record Pressing
Nashville, TN 37203
This Nashville icon, initially known as Southern Plastics, dates back to 1949 and stands as a symbol of the music industry’s changing face over the years. Many of the machines were custom-made by original owner Ozell Simpkins, and the plant at 453 Chestnut Street has a second floor that’s hosted record release parties from legends such as the Supremes. There’s even a room known as the Motown Suite, a furnished apartment that was used by executives from black-owned labels in the ‘50s and ‘60s when visiting the segregated South.