Turntables: the new British vinyl manufacturer surfs on the revival of music | Vinyl

It only received its first presses on Christmas Eve last year, but Press On Vinyl is on its way to becoming the UK’s largest vinyl record manufacturer, already churning out around 3,000 records a day and hoping to double that next year.

Vinyl’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years – 2022 is expected to be yet another year with the highest sales since the early 1990s – and manufacturers have been unable to keep up with demand. Taylor Swift’s Midnights sold 80,000 copies on vinyl, more than any other album this century, helping to boost vinyl sales above CD sales for the first time since the 1980s.

“Demand for vinyls has increased dramatically over the past eight years, and existing factories have failed to grow in parallel and new factories have failed to set up in time,” said David Todd, who co-founded Press On Vinyl, in Middlesbrough, with Danny Lowe last year.

“There is only a very small amount of capacity in the UK, and there is also a huge lack of capacity around the world. Also, there were only two [vinyl-pressing] machine manufacturers in the world and they couldn’t keep up either. So we decided to step in and see how we could help.

The couple previously ran a record label and promotion company to help local artists, and during the pandemic downtime they came up with a ‘crazy business plan’ to set up their own pressing factory to help small artists to monetize their music through vinyl.

“Lack of capacity means lead times are quite long, most pressing plants quote six to 12 months, and that’s probably the biggest problem,” Todd said. “Artists of all levels are suffering from this, but especially local and emerging artists are finding it even harder to get records pressed.”

There are only a handful of pressing factories in the UK, which means that a large proportion of the vinyl records sold in the country are imported from Europe. There is now a third manufacturer of vinyl pressing machines, and Press On Vinyl has only received the fourth machine in the world to be produced by this company.

They faced a steep learning curve to become fully operational and now perform all three stages of the vinyl production process in-house – the main cut, the pad manufacturing through an electroforming process, and the pressing.

“We had a lot to do to try to figure it all out. Each of them is a completely different department, different skills, different materials and different machines,” Todd said. “We put in a lot of work, but I’m really proud of the people in this area who all threw themselves into it and learned some really tough skills.

“It also means that we have a good base of qualified personnel who can help us grow to meet demand.”

A spokesperson for the British Phonographic Industry (BP!), which publishes official UK music consumption figures, said vinyl had enjoyed “a remarkable 15th consecutive year of growth” since the format’s low point in 2007.

BPI analysis of official chart data shows that eight of the top 10 vinyl albums of 2022 so far were released this year, while in 2017 only three of the top 10 vinyl albums were released that year (the rest by artists such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac).

A selection of early albums produced at Press On Vinyl, Middlesbrough. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

“Early in the vinyl revival there was evidence of a novelty factor – students sometimes bought vinyl to frame as decoration or to play on cheap turntables. But now we are seeing more and more of fans, including millennials and Gen Z, who see the value in investing in premium audio systems,” the BPI said.

As vinyl audiences continue to grow, Press On Vinyl hopes to grow with them. The company is also setting up Fair Sounds, an online platform that allows small bands and labels to fund vinyl releases through pre-order sales.

“We want to break down the financial barriers of releasing on vinyl, that way we can squeeze out exactly the number of records they want, and it costs them nothing,” Todd said.

“All sectors of the music industry want vinyl right now and we want everyone to have access to it, so fans can get what they want and artists can continue to grow.”

theguardian Gt

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