By Larry Jaffee, Making Vinyl co-founder/conference director
In March 2022, Jack White made an appeal that went viral, calling for the major labels to build their own pressing plants once again to meet consumer demand and loosen the 10-month backlogs, which have also impacted his own Third Man Pressing facility in Detroit. I knew from my own research for my book Record Store Day: The Most Improbable Comeback of the 21st Century that Universal, Sony and Warner were unlikely to do so.
At the 2022 Making Vinyl conference in Nashville, Third Man Records chief Blackwell admitted that White didn’t really expect the majors to really get back into the pressing business, acknowledging that they were perfectly happy outsourcing their needs.
When I interviewed Blackwell for the book in January 2021, I asked him what the chances were that Third Man might also open a plant in Nashville, where the label is headquartered. He drolly responded, “Nashville already has a plant,” meaning United Record Pressing, which helped Third Man Records create a liquid-filled record in 2012, and execute Jack’s “fastest record” stunt on RSD in April 2014, in which White recorded two tracks before a live audience and had 900 copies of a URP-pressed seven-inch single for sale within four hours.
Unbeknownst to both Ben and me, a flurry of announcements in April 2022 would promise new pressing capacity from existing and new players, including URP, which is doubling capacity at its Nashville facility.
My Making Vinyl co-founder Bryan Ekus and I looked like geniuses for staging our first post-pandemic event in Nashville at the boutique facility The Vinyl Lab, where attendees could watch records being pressed while listening to the conference.
But then we learned that long-time mastering engineer Piper Payne was also opening her own nearby plant, Physical Music Products, and that GZ Media – the world’s largest record factory, in the Czech Republic – was building Nashville Record Pressing, which will deliver a maximum capacity exceeding 20 million records per year by the fall of 2023.
But that’s not where the story ends.
At the 2022 Making Vinyl conference, Memphis Record Pressing, also backed partly by Czech Republic pressing giant GZ Media, announced expansion plans. Then the record-membership club Vinyl Me, Please revealed it was building an audiophile state-of-the-art facility in Denver, Colorado, to accommodate its own growing record-pressing needs.
New pressing-capacity announcements didn’t stop there. Large CD replicator ADS Group COO Connie Comeau revealed plans for pressing records from its brand new facility – the first modern-era plant in Minnesota – by September 2022. Making Vinyl will hold its next in-person conference in Minneapolis in June with ADS as the hometown sponsor.
Embattled audiophile label Mobile Fidelity also announced plans in January to open its own dedicated audiophile-caliber record pressing plant. By late July, MoFi admitted that it had been using a digital mastering process for more than decade, while deceiving its customers they were buying an all-analog product. At least two class-action suits have been filed against MoFi. Its plans for the pressing plant are unknown.
Back across the Atlantic, at Making Vinyl Europe in Offenbach, Germany, Dutch manufacturing giant Record Industry CEO Ton Vermeulen announced that his company was adding 14 new presses, expanding its capacity from 11 million to 15 million records a year.
And Sonopress CEO Sven Deutschmann announced the Bertelsmann-owned venerable optical media manufacturer was getting back into vinyl production for the first time in 30 years.
Jack White can rest easy; help is on its way.