As vinyl sales, though still a tiny slice of the overall industry, have continued to rebound, a lack of capacity has emerged as an issue. Vinyl presses for making records are expensive, and there’s a limited supply of them, as anyone who ever tried to order a record that was delayed by the Record Store Day manufacturing crunch could tell you. United Record Pressing, the biggest player, announced in May it would rebuilding 16 presses and bringing them back online, but that’s still just one company. Bruce Watson, co-head of Fat Possum Records, confirmed to me in July that he was opening up a vinyl pressing plant in Memphis, Tennessee, but he hasn’t been ready to make an announcement. Now it’s official.
Fat Possum founder Matthew Johnson’s new Memphis Record Pressing is open for business, Billboard reports. (Despite an earlier report, though, it wasn’t behind Modest Mouse’s “Lampshades on Fire” seven-inch.) The plant has nine presses and plans to manufacture at least 7,000 records a day, with a more ambitious goal of up to 14,000. That’s a significant addition in output considering United churns out 30,000 to 40,000 a day.
Memphis Record Pressing, located at the AudioGraphics Masterworks building in Bartlett, Tennessee, and using refurbished presses, will allow Fat Possum to release vinyl with less lead time. It will also be offering its services to other labels, among them affiliates of Sony’s RED Distribution, which partly financed the 10-month-long construction process.
Vinyl album sales are on pace to top 8 million copies in 2014, according to Nielsen Music. That would be a more than 30 percent increase from last year, when sales were 6.1 million vinyl albums, a record for the post-1991 SoundScan era. Overall, vinyl album sales are up 223 percent since the comeback started in 2008. It’s worth remembering that vinyl is still a small fraction of the total music world — for instance, just 4 percent of albums sold during Thanksgiving week were on wax — but with more presses coming back online, at least the capacity is there for vinyl to keep up its resurgence.
Watch a clip showing Memphis Record Pressing at work below, on a re-press of Youth Lagoon’s 2011 LP Year of Hibernation.