It’s no secret that the recent spike in vinyl sales has been a double-edged sword, mostly due to simple supply and demand issues. Long story short, the pressing companies simply can’t keep up with the growing number of orders they’re getting every week, especially around the increasingly dreaded second quarter that surrounds Record Store Day.
Wondering Sound editor J. Edward Keyes sorted through the good, the bad and the downright ugly of this year’s run last month, echoing the anxieties of many by saying, “The rush to crank out big-ticket, limited-edition vinyl for RSD is starting to overwhelm the few vinyl pressing plants left in the country, creating a bottleneck that can delay pressings of regular new releases and wreak havoc on labels’ release schedules. And some labels, getting wise to the quick windfall of cash that comes with each new Record Store Day, are reissuing albums that might not warrant a reissue (Case in point: last year’s 4xLP version of the Flaming Lips’ Zaireeka, which was basically an overpriced novelty item, unless you happen to have three friends who own portable turntables and have nothing better to do than haul them over on a Saturday afternoon.)”
The good news, then: Nashville’s popular United Record Pressing plant has plans to continue expanding in the coming months, bringing the 18 presses they had just last year all the way up to 46. According to a Tennessean story, they currently have 30 and recently bought a $5.5 million, 142,000-square-foot space to store the rest.
“We are proud to be making this investment in the Nashville community and appreciate all of the support we have received,” said United’s CEO, Mark Michaels. “We are excited to build upon our great heritage and continue to manufacture innovative, high-quality vinyl records in the USA.
He then stated the obvious, adding, “Our belief is that it’s being driven by the rise in digital. People who want something tangible and the best sound quality and experience are going to vinyl as opposed to CDs.”
Oddly enough, one of United’s biggest customers/friendliest neighbors — Jack White’s Third Man imprint — just unveiled its latest crackpot idea, an “ULTRA” pressing of White’s upcoming Lazaratto LP. Here’s the deal, via a press release:
Over the past five years, Jack White & Third Man Records have brought to life many ideas that were new to the century-old vinyl format. So when it came time for the creative hive to discuss the vision for the pressing of Jack’s Lazaretto, Third Man were keenly aware of what it would take to produce a piece of wax worthy of the music it would contain… No single innovation would suffice. We needed to go big. We needed to go bold. We needed to press an ULTRA LP:
* 180 gram vinyl
* 2 vinyl-only hidden tracks hidden beneath the center labels
* 1 hidden track plays at 78 RPM and 1 plays at 45 RPM, making this a 3-speed record
* Side A plays from the outside in
* Dual-groove technology: plays an electric or acoustic intro for “Just One Drink” depending on where needle is dropped. The grooves meet for the body of the song.
* Matte finish on Side B, giving the appearance of an un-played 78 RPM record
* Both sides end with locked grooves
* Vinyl pressed in seldom-used flat-edged format
* Dead wax area on Side A contains a hand-etched hologram by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science, the first of its kind on a vinyl record
* Absolutely zero compression used during recording, mixing and mastering
* Different running order from the CD/digital version
* Utilizes some mixes different from those used on CD/digital versions
Check out a short film about the making of the album below, along with a tour of the United Factory by last year’s Record Store Day ambassador who was — you guessed it! — Jack White…