Wax and Wane: The Tough Realities Behind Vinyl’s Comeback

http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/9467-wax-and-wane-the-tough-realities-behind-vinyls-comeback/

 

If we’re talking about vinyl in 2014, we have to talk about Jack White. In April, rock‘n’roll’s self-appointed analog evangelist celebrated Record Store Day by teaming up with United Record Pressing in Nashville to put out the“World’s Fastest Released Record.” At 10 a.m., White and his band recorded a live version of his new album Lazaretto’s title track at his own Third Manstudios, then drove the masters to United, where it went immediately onto a 7” press, before ending up in fans’ hands at the Third Man store. From start to finish, the process took 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 21 seconds.

It was only the beginning of White’s latest streak of vinyl whimsy. In June, he packed the LP version of Lazaretto with all sorts of ear- and eye-candyincluding hidden tracks beneath the label; engineering side A to play from the inside-out; a matte finish on side B; a hand-etched hologram, and more. Fans were excited about the extras, which led to record-breaking sales: Not only did the album reach #1 on the charts, it also set a new high for the most first-week vinyl sales since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. White sold more than 40,000 copies of the Lazaretto LP in its first week.

Which is great news for the vinyl industry. Mostly.

“Every time I see a headline about Jack White’s latest gimmick, it’s kind of maddening,” one indie-label employee who declined to be named tells me. “While he’s making records ‘in one day,’ normal customers can go weeks not knowing the status of their orders.”

More and more people are buying vinyl; sales hit a record 6.1 million units in the U.S. last year. But as demand increases, the number of American pressing plants remains relatively fixed. No one is building new presses because, by all accounts, it would be prohibitively expensive. So the industry is limited to the dozen or so plants currently operating in the States. The biggest is Nashville’s United, which operates 22 presses that pump out 30,000 to 40,000 records a day. California-based Rainbo Records and Erika Records are similarly large outfits, and after that come mid-size operations like Record Technology, Inc., also in California, with nine presses, and Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records, which turns out between 4,000 and 5,000 records a day on six presses. Boutique manufacturers like Musicol in Columbus, Archer in Detroit, andPalomino in Kentucky operate between one and five presses.

“You used to be able to turn over a record in four weeks,” says John Beeler, project manager at Asthmatic Kitty, the label home of Sufjan Stevens. “But I’m now telling my artists that we need at least three months from the time they turn it in to the time we get it back.” Across the board, lengthy lead times that were once anomalies are now the norm. “They’ve been longer this year than they were even nine months ago,” says Nick Blandford, managing director of the Secretly Label Group, which includes prominent indie imprintsSecretly CanadianJagjaguwar, and Dead Oceans, and artists including Bon Iver and the War on Drugs. “We crossed our fingers and hoped that turn times would improve after Record Store Day in April, but they’re still about the same. We’ve just accepted this as the reality.”

So when it comes to the current state of the vinyl industry’s unlikely resurrection, everyone is happy. And everyone is frustrated.

Vinyl’s sharp rise began in 2008, when sales nearly doubled from the previous year’s 1 million to 1.9 million. The tallies have gone up each year since, and 2013’s 6.1 million is a 33 percent increase over 2012’s 4.6 million. (Those numbers are even larger when you account for releases that fall outside SoundScan’s reach.) The resurgent format’s market share is still far smaller than CDs, digital, and streaming—vinyl accounted for only 2 percent of all album sales last year, compared to 41 percent for digital and 57 percent for CDs—and no one expects it to regain dominance. But it’s more than a trend, and it’s not going away anytime soon. “Four years ago, maybe half our releases would get an LP option,” says James Cartwright, production manager at Merge Records. “Now every release we do has a vinyl format.”

Mounting today’s LPs side-by-side on a giant wall would offer a particularly kaleidoscopic display since a significant chunk of sales now come from colored discs. While some purists claim these sorts of limited-edition releases and Record Store Day exclusives are leading to the cartoonization of a format, it’s apparent after speaking with pressing plants, labels, and record stores that artists like Jack White are giving people what they want. As vinyl sales have climbed, so has the demand for exclusives. Musicol’s two-press operation in Columbus, Ohio, has been pressing vinyl since the 1960s, and though the place used to press about 90 percent black vinyl, color vinyl now accounts for about half of its orders. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s five-year-old Gotta Groove Records presses about 40 percent of its LPs and 45s on colored vinyl.

 

And White isn’t the only one upping the ante with quirky embellishments. On a recent tour of Gotta Groove’s operation, sparkling specs littered the ground near the 7” machine after a just-completed run of 100 45s were pressed on clear vinyl with glitter. Covering the walls of a listening room were more custom orders that ranged from impressive to confounding. One band pressed coffee grounds into their records. Another incorporated the ashes of a 19th-century Bible. And an upcoming order will include shredded cash. The plant has to draw a line when a client’s order includes bodily fluids. “At least once a month a band wants to press their blood into the record,” says Gotta Groove VP of sales and marketing Matt Earley, who always says no.

Now, you might think adding blood or coffee to vinyl is a sign that the format has officially crossed the line from cultural commodity to tchotchke—and there are certainly bands that would agree. In fact, Beeler at Asthmatic Kitty says some of his label’s artists are beginning to resist colored vinyl and other exclusives. But Asthmatic Kitty and others still do it, because consumers demand it, and those limited-edition releases drive sales. (These sorts of exclusive releases also often bypass distributors and record stores, driving sales directly to a label’s web store.)

“We are doing more multiple-color pressings than ever,” says Matt Lunsford, cofounder of Polyvinyl Records, whose roster currently includes Japandroids and of Montreal. At this point, Polyvinyl presses limited-edition “Early Bird” versions of releases, as well as picture-disc pressings, and a 7” subscription series—which this year sold out before the first month was mailed.

 

So who’s buying? Anecdotally, it’s a broad range. On a recent visit to Columbus shop Lost Weekend Records, owner Kyle Siegrist had just helped three customers who were purchasing vinyl for themselves and also for their dads for Father’s Day. The cycle seems to have gone something like this: Twenty years ago, diehard vinyl fans were still buying LPs and saying, “The kids don’t get it.” Then, about five years ago, the younger generation started buying vinyl, and their parents were flummoxed. Now, millennials and boomers are all together in the same stores buying LPs.

Marc Weinstein, the 57-year-old co-owner of California’s Amoeba Musicstores, has seen many of his friends dust off their old turntables as vinyl sales at Amoeba have doubled over the last half decade. Simultaneously, young buyers are purchasing new releases alongside a handful of classics. (“College kids still listen to Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, and they probably will forever,” Secretly’s Blandford says.) Demographics can trend even younger than that: Teens are buying vinyl, too. “I coach a high school wrestling team,” says Dayton-based Misra Records manager Leo DeLuca, “and freshmen are buying record players and asking if we press vinyl.”

Vinyl buyers are unique in their purchasing habits. In the first week of June, just before Jack White stormed the charts and skewed the numbers, Sharon Van Etten’s latest Jagjaguwar release Are We There took the #2 spot on the vinyl chart, selling 2,115 LPs of the total 8,930 copies sold that week. Which means vinyl sales accounted for more than 20 percent of the singer/songwriter’s first-week sales, a number that’s consistent with most of Secretly Label Group’s releases.

 

Contnue reading at…

http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/9467-wax-and-wane-the-tough-realities-behind-vinyls-comeback/

 

Jack White sets US record for biggest one-week vinyl sales since… forever

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jun/19/jack-white-sets-us-record-vinyl-sales-lazaretto

 

Jack WhiteJack White photographed for the Observer New Review at Third Man Records, Nashville USA by Mike McGregor May 2014 Photograph: Mike McGregor for the Observer

Jack White has set a US record for the biggest one-week vinyl sales since the industry started counting accurately. Fans snatched up 40,000 vinyl copies of White’s new solo album, Lazaretto, which was packed with special effects that only work on turntables.

Prior to Lazaretto’s blockbuster week, Nielsen SoundScan’s vinyl record had remained unbroken for almost as long as the organisation has been monitoring sales in 1991. The previous benchmark was Pearl Jam’s LP Vitalogy, released three years after SoundScan’s creation, which moved 34,000 copies in its first seven days. Unlike White’s split song intros and hidden tracks, the grunge band’s only trick was its sale date: Vitalogy’s vinyl edition dropped two weeks before it came out on CD or cassette.

Lazaretto doesn’t have a cassette version. But its CD edition scarcely outsold the vinyl. Overall, including more than 80,000 digital purchases, Lazaretto sold about 138,000 copies – the same figure as White’s solo debut, 2012’s Blunderbuss. Though this number pales next to top-sellers like Taylor Swift, who sold 1.2m albums in one week in 2012, it was enough to make Lazaretto this week’s Billboard No 1 full-length. According to Billboard, White’s vinyl sales alone, split from the rest, would be enough to make it No 4.

“This [object] … is my proudest moment with Third Man Records,” White said on a recent Conan O’Brien appearance. “We got away with a lot of things.” In the UK, Lazaretto debuted at No 4.

 

Jack White’s new vinyl record

Jack White’s New Vinyl Record Features Hidden Tracks And Holograms

 

Jack White recently broke a record for the fastest ever creation of a vinyl cut, by recording the title track to his new album Lazaretto, then pressing it to wax and packaging it all in less than four hours. Now, his vinyl-based conjuring continues with the announcement of an ‘Ultra’ LP version of the album, which comes packed with bizarre curiosities.

The 11-track album on White’s label Third Man Records, includes different mixes and sequencing to the digital version, and will play at 33.3rpm as normal. However two secret tracks hidden in the centre label will play at 45 and 78rpm respectively – a repeat of the trick White pulled with his Dead Weather supergroup and their album Sea of Cowards.

Side A meanwhile demands that you place the needle on the inside of the record as it works its way outward, eventually getting caught in a perpetual locked groove at the outer edge (the more jaded White fan might suggest that you won’t be able to tell when said groove begins). The first song on Side B however, has two different intros, one acoustic and one electric, which differ depending on where the needle is dropped. The two grooves then blend into one halfway through the song.

 

If that wasn’t enough to play with, there is also a hologram on Side A hand-etched by artist Tristan Duke, featuring a spinning angel appearing to float in the blank area between the groove and the label. Side B is given a matte finish so it resembles a shellac 78rpm record.

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“We’ve pulled off a lot of interesting ideas all within this one LP,” White says in an introductory video, adding how he thinks that the locked groove, the three speeds within one record, the dual groove, and the hologram vinyl extras have never been attempted before, but with a caveat: “Of course there’s no knowing unless you go through every record ever made.”

This release is far from the first innovation that Third Man has attempted. They’ve printed records on old medical X-rays, created ‘Texas-sized’ 8-inch and 13-inch vinyls, and encased 7-inch singles within 12-inch albums that need to be destroyed to access the secret record. 2013′s collaborative release with Revenant Records, that compiled the bluegrass, gospel and blues songs released by Paramount Records in the 1920s, was housed in a velvet-lined oak cabinet with LPs kept inside a “laser-etched white birch LP folio” and digital files stored on a brass USB stick.

 

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Sade’s ‘Stronger Than Pride’ To Be Released On Limited Edition 180g Vinyl LP

Sade’s ‘Stronger Than Pride’ To Be Released On Limited Edition 180g Vinyl LP

 

“A sublime, enduring classic…Sade’s timeless masterpiece.”

 

Sade :: Stronger than pride

 

Camarillo, CA – Music aficionados worldwide are buzzing with excitement over the release of Sade’s ‘Stronger Than Pride’ on limited edition 180g vinyl on Marshall Blonstein’s Audio Fidelity. In 1988, three years after leaving their fans begging for more, Sade released their third studio album, ‘Stronger Than Pride’, one of their best works ever. An international hit that lit-up the Pop, Jazz and R & B charts.

 

The platinum selling album includes sensual Brazilian bossa nova inspired acoustic material as well as three Billboard charted singles – the #1 smash “Paradise,” “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “Turn My Back On You.”

 

On ‘Stronger Than Pride’, probably Sade’s most stripped down and sparse album, the band creates the perfect groove for romance and fulfills the promise of their stunning debut by continuing a sense of sophistication and understated elegance, two hallmarks of the Sade sound. Sade’s singing is exquisite.

 

‘Stronger than Pride’ exudes a greater confidence than the first two records, the talented band no longer has anything to prove. Stuart Matthewman on guitar and sax, Paul Spencer Denman on bass and Andrew Hale on keyboards are strong musicians/composers with distinctive character, the perfect vehicle for Sade’s mature, lush vocal lead.

 

Sade offers cool composure… a unique sound that infuses Soul, Pop, Contemporary Jazz and a little Middle-Eastern flavor. It’s impossible to separate the allure of this sultry music from the persona of the woman singing it, for Sade truly is a femme fatale of mythic dimension.

 

“…brilliant, exceptional, amazing and original – a warm and blissful pop-flavored modern jazz treasure.”

 

Tracks

Love Is Stronger Than Pride

Paradise

Nothing Can Come Between Us

Haunt Me

Turn My Back on You

Keep Looking

Clean Heart

Give It Up

I Never Thought I’d See the Day

Siempre Hay Esperanza

 

Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio

 

For more information: http://www.audiofidelity.net/content/sade-sronger-pride

 

Wooden Record with Radiohead and Velvet Underground

LISTEN TO THE WORLD’S FIRST LASER-CUT WOODEN RECORD; RADIOHEAD AND VELVET UNDERGROUND CARVED INTO MAPLE

Great Gatsby on vinyl

Great Gatsby’ Soundtrack to be Released on Vinyl by Third Man Records

Jack White’s label will give old-school treatment to anticipated film music

April 26, 2013 5:55 PM ET

'Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film The Great Gatsby'
‘Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby’
Courtesy of Interscope Records

The Jay-Z-produced soundtrack to The Great Gatsby is getting a release worthy of the Jazz Age. Today, Jack White‘s Third Man Records announced that they will produce the much-anticipated film’s music on vinyl as well as digitally. The label will also be releasing seven-inch singles of key tracks, including the boss’s howling ballad, “Love is Blindness.”

Listen: Clips from ‘The Great Gatsby’ Soundtrack

The soundtrack features new tracks from White, Florence and the Machine, Emeli Sandé and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, Beyoncé and Andre 3000 and more. Jay-Z worked with the film’s composer, Craig Armstrong, and music supervisor, Anton Monsted for the album, which will be released on May 7th, three days before the film opens.



Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/great-gatsby-soundtrack-to-be-released-on-vinyl-by-third-man-records-20130426#ixzz2SmemPiJV
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Melodiya rereleases classic Russian albums on vinyl

Music fans themselves had the opportunity to select which releases should make the top 50 “golden collection” by casting their votes on openspace.ru.

 

Melodiya rereleases classic Russian albums on vinyl

While in Europe, young people are among the most ardent buyers of vinyl disks, in Russia the industry still depends on collectors. Source: ITAR-TASS

In 1991, Melodiya, the Soviet Union’s sole record label, put out its last vinyl release, “Neizvestny Utyosov” (Unknown Utyosov), a collection of lesser-known material by Soviet jazz singer Leonid Utyosov. Back then, the vinyl format appeared to be dead. Now, Melodiya is reviving it by rereleasing its “golden collection” on vinyl.

“The beginning of 2012 signified the return of the vinyl disc, which we can call triumphant, practically all over the world,” Melodiya general director Andrei Krichevsky told The Moscow News. International acts such as Radiohead release new albums on vinyl, while popular music shops like Moscow’s Ukeleleshnaya spurn CDs for records.

“In Russia, we can also see quite a significant interest in vinyl.” Krichevsky said. It was vinyl that brought Melodiya to the international limelight after it opened in 1964.

Krichevsky said that the label still has a huge collection of records on analog tape. The latter is most suitable for vinyl releases as it preserves the “warmth” of the sound, which is lost in digital recordings. Melodiya long used St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow as its recording studio, thanks to the building’s excellent acoustics.

Melodiya announced its plans to resume putting out vinyl releases a year ago. Music fans themselves had the opportunity to select which releases should make the top 50 “golden collection” by casting their votes on openspace.ru.

Topping the list was “Geroi Asfalta” (Hero of Asphalt), the 1987 debut album by Aria, one of the first Soviet heavy metal acts. In late April, it became Melodiya’s first vinyl release in more than two decades, and the 500-copy run immediately sold out.

On the people’s choice list, “Geroi Asfalta” was followed by Kino’s 1988 “Noch” (Night); the soundtrack to the 1969 children’s cartoon “Bremenskiye Muzykanty” (Town Musicians Of Bremen); Paul McCartney’s “Snova V SSSR” (Back in the USSR), recorded live in a studio and originally released only in the Soviet Union in 1988; and Nautilus Pompilius’s 1988 album “Knyaz Tishiny” (Prince of Darkness).

It comes as no surprise that most picks voted for rerelease date back to 1987 to 1989 – a time when, thanks to perestroika, Melodiya shed its ideological bias and began to put out records by local rock bands, which previously had been available only on samizdat (self-distributed) tapes. These early Melodiya rock records sold millions of copies, and are still fondly remembered by several generations of music fans.

According to Krichevsky, Melodiya aims to release all the albums on the top 50 list, although not necessarily in the order they were voted. “Negotiations with the rights holders have a serious impact on the speed of preparing albums for rerelease,” he said. “Of course, we will first put out those albums for which the material is completely ready.”

The next titles slated for release are “Bremenskiye Muzykanty/Po Sledam Bremenskikh Muzykantov” (In the Footsteps of the Bremen Town Musicians), which will be a double LP featuring the soundtracks of both the original cartoon and its 1973 sequel, and a collection of songs by famed bass Fyodor Chaliapin. Several more reissues are scheduled for this summer, including the 1976 radio play “Alisa v Strane Chudes” (Alice in Wonderland), which includes songs by bard Vladimir Vysotsky.

But now, as CDs too seem a thing of the past, many music fans are dusting off their turntables (or buying new ones) and returning to LPs.By the time Melodiya put out its last vinyl release, it was no longer the only record label in the country. Newly arrived independent labels were quite active in the niche of domestic and Western rock. However, just a few years later, vinyl seemed obsolete, and they switched to the newer format of compact discs. Record collectors saw their hard-built vinyl collections lose their value as people increasingly switched to CDs.

The vinyl resurrection has prompted new stores to pop up around Moscow. Radiotekhnika, which sells both records and audio equipment, recently opened at Flacon design factory.

According to Yevgeny Ivanov, Radiotekhnika’s co-founder, interest in vinyl is partially driven by record labels looking to cash in as CD sales plummet. “[Vinyl disks] are not that easy to counterfeit,” he said.

While in Europe, young people are among the most ardent buyers of vinyl disks, in Russia “the industry still depends on collectors,” Ivanov said.

Melodiya’s Krichevsky disagrees. “Unexpectedly, the main buyers of vinyl LPs are young people between 20 and 30 years old, for whom it must be a lifestyle choice,” he said. He added that rock and classical music are the most popular genres.

However, all is not rosy for vinyl fans, as high prices concern customers and retailers alike. Imported records available in Russia are more expensive than in Europe, Ivanov said.

“Customs duties and transportation costs drive up the retail prices a lot,” he said.

In recent years, domestic artists such as Mumiy Troll and NRKTK have also begun releasing vinyl disks. But although Radiotekhnika purchases the bands’ albums from distributors, Ivanov said the cost is not substantially lower. “We’d like to see some breakthrough in prices,” he said.

Melodiya releases are not cheap, either, compared with prices for CDs. “Geroi Asfalta” sold for 1,000 rubles, which may not have been a problem for collectors or hardcore Aria fans, but was steep enough to put off regular customers.

Local vinyl releases would be cheaper if they were produced in Russia. But at the moment, the country has no capacity for vinyl manufacturing. Melodiya releases come from Germany. Back in the Soviet era, Melodiya controlled several record manufacturing plants, including in St. Petersburg and the town of Aprelevka outside Moscow. Both of them went out of business in the mid-1990s.

Meanwhile, Krichevsky is optimistic, stressing that qualified personnel is what is needed to launch local production of vinyl records. As vinyl sales increase, he thinks, young people may take interest. “I believe it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

First published in The Moscow News.

Rioters destroy music warehouse

 

Record Labels Hit Hard as Fire Set by London Rioters Destroys Warehouse

Independent music labels were hit hard after rioters in London set fire to a 215,000-square-foot warehouse owned by the Sony Corporation on Monday night, destroying vast amounts of compact discs, vinyl albums and other stock, Reuters and the BBC reported.

The fire at the warehouse in the London neighborhood of Enfield started about 11:30 p.m., and the entire structure was gutted by Tuesday morning, according to a statement from Sony quoted by The Financial Times. “The fire is under control but can be described as smoldering, consequently no one can enter the facility,” said the statement, which was released on Tuesday morning. “Therefore at this time we are unable to confirm the extent of the damage.”

The Sony warehouse was the main distribution hub for PIAS, the biggest distributor of independent labels in the Britain and Ireland. More than a dozen influential labels lost stock in the fire, among them Sub Pop, Beggars Group, Domino, Warp, XL and Soul Jazz. Although the extent of the damage remained unclear, officials at PIAS said it was extensive. “I can confirm that the Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield did burn to the ground,” Darren Hemmings, the head of digital marketing for PIAS, said in a Twitter message. People in the music business feared the worst. Twitter was flooded with messages from small labels, like One Little Indian and Memphis Industries, saying they had lost everything.

Speaking to the BBC, Spencer Hickman, an official at the Rough Trade East record store in London, said the fire could wipe out many small labels and would cripple the distribution of others. “It’s complete chaos,” he said. “We don’t know how long it’s going to take them to get back on their feet.”

There was little doubt some albums would not be available in stores as a result. A statement from Domino Records said the release of the Arctic Monkeys’ single “The Hellcate Spangled Shalala” would be delayed. “While relieved that no one was injured in the incident, we’re upset about the loss and destruction of our stock,” the label said in its statement, reported by New Music Express.

180 Gram Records announces the release of Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffet

180 Gram Records announces the release of Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffet on 180-gram vinyl, available for a limited time through Kickstarter.com. This music project with Kickstarter involves all 7-LPs from Johnny Cash’s early work for Sun Records, and two of Jimmy Buffett’s earliest albums from Barnaby Records.

Each collection will be created in the best audiophile format available today: 180-gram virgin vinyl. 180-gram vinyl is a premium format chosen by audiophiles for its warm, rich tones, increased durability after many playbacks, and exceptional audio reproduction. In addition, 180 Gram Records will be using all original artwork and masters for the production of both artists’ works.

180 Gram Records’ Mark Carter says, “Our goal is simple: to honor and commemorate the artistry of the amazing performers and musicians who have contributed to our rich heritage of popular music, by re-releasing their albums in the best audio format available.” This will be the first re-release of either group of works, in vinyl, since their initial pressings. Kevin Gray of Cohearant Audio will master each collection, with the manufacturing support of Chad Kassem at Acoustic Sounds/Quality Record Pressings.

Supporters of this project will be helping to restore the music and art of these never-re-released LPs, support the continuing growth and restoration of vinyl records, and promote great music to all generations of listeners. Pledges can be as little or as much as they choose and each supporter will receive any or all of these albums, depending on the amount of donation.

Multiple pledge packages are available, each with a thank you gift to the donator. Choose from bronze, silver, gold, platinum or double platinum packages or make a donation of your own chosen amount. There is a deadline for this project so time is essential.

180 Gram Records is a premier producer and distributor of collectible vinyl records from best selling music artists and other limited-run collectible merchandise. They offer select and expertly crafted items to satisfy the demands of collectors, music enthusiasts, and fans alike. For additional information about either collection or about 180 Gram Records, please visit their web site at http://www.180gramrecords.com.

Spin Cycle – Vinyl Resurgence

http://www.thestar.com/business/smallbusiness/article/1026887–spin-cycle-resurgence-of-vinyl-records-means-new-business-up-their-sleeve

Spin cycle: Resurgence of vinyl records means new business up their sleeve

Published On Tue Jul 19 2011

Paul Miller, left, and Alex Durlak, both 30, bought a disused record sleeve fabricating machined and set up shop.

Paul Miller, left, and Alex Durlak, both 30, bought a disused record sleeve fabricating machined and set up shop.

VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR

Zoe McKnightStaff Reporter

The print shop at the Record Jacket Corp. is dim, loud and hot. A single fan pushes the humid air around, and concrete walls and corrugated metal ceiling do their best to trap it inside.

The Wade Ave. workshop near Bloor St. and Lansdowne Ave., all 2,000 square feet of it, looks like an industrial relic, but it just opened in the spring.

A Winkler und Dünnebier record sleeve fabricating machine, 31 feet long and 2 tonnes of steel, takes up a third of the space. Manually operated, it can cut, fold and glue up to 10,000 12-inch record jackets per hour. The machine was made in the 1970s and fell out of use, but just like vinyl sales, has been resuscitated.

Co-owners Paul Miller and Alex Durlak, both 30, and sole employee Jason Cousineau, have tattoos and facial hair. Giant Mac screens sit on the office desks. Close friends, Miller and Durlak bonded over a mutual love of art, music and record collecting.

In 2010, a chance to buy the machine arose, and they decided to combine talents and clients to tap into a vinyl production market that, in Canada, had all but disappeared.

The new venture is one of only two record jacket companies in the country. There are just five vinyl manufacturing plants in North America. Record Jacket sells to music distributors and record labels as well as to individual independent bands. They’ve sold 15,000 sleeves since April.

Miller, from Thornhill, also runs Samo Media, a music brokering firm. Durlak, from Markham, owns Standard Form, a small press and bindery.

“The thing about vinyl is that it’s fundamentally an artifact,” Durlak says. “It’s an artifact that has a desire to be collected in a way no other format does.”

He doesn’t believe in a vinyl revival.

“I think it’s a steady niche that’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere,” Durlak says. Some genres, such as punk, hip-hop, electronica and indie rock, always produced LPs, regardless of mainstream sales. But now those mainstream sales are increasing.

Miller says his brokering business has “absolutely flipped” from CDs to vinyl.

“Although we still do CD production and we have a few in the system now, it’s at least 85- to 90 per cent vinyl. That’s really what carried us,” Miller says.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, Canadian CD sales have dropped precipitously over the last decade but the reverse is true for vinyl. Though record sales are nowhere near CDs, overall there’s an upward trend in vinyl across North America. In 2009, 2.8 million LPs were sold in the U.S., up from a low of 857,000 in 2005.

“There are people who feel that there is actually a better and more organic sound quality that comes from vinyl, as opposed to digital and there are more artists who want to have that option available to listeners,” says Paul Tuch at Nielsen SoundScan, which monitors the sales activity of 14,000 North American retailers.

When vinyl sales slumped over the ’80s and ’90s, many companies sold off their equipment and got out of the business. When the last Canadian pressing plant in Pickering, closed in 2008, many sounded a death knell for the medium. But just a year later, when record sales were at their peak, a new plant opened outside of Montreal. The company, RIP-V, is pressing new material from bands like Arcade Fire, and reissues of older music like Nirvana and Tom Waits.

Brad Davis, 35, has worked at Bloor St. record store Sonic Boom since it opened 10 years ago. Business is so good, the store is opening a second location focusing strictly on vinyl.

Davis says there is no one type of buyer. The demographic is eclectic, just like musical tastes.

“People of all ages are buying LPs. There are the people who never stopped buying it and the people who are just getting into it and are really excited about it,” Davis says. Though the store has a huge stock of older and second-hand titles, more and more new releases sell on vinyl.

“There are some titles we will sell more on LP than CD, which in the past hadn’t been the case,” he said.

Some customers are even buying records to replace the CDs they bought to replace their records.

“It’s a strange cycle,” said Davis. Some of the increase in sales and interest may come from major labels catching onto the trend.

“The fact that the new Adele record is selling hand over fist on LP, you can’t really call that a hipster thing, if it’s the biggest record in the country and No.1 on Billboard,” he says.

At the Record Jacket Corp., an upward tick in vinyl sales is no hipster fad but the spread of collector culture to the mainstream. And maybe a backlash against the intangible quality of digital music.

“I don’t know when I downloaded anything. But I do remember when I found every rare 7-inch of a band that I loved,” Cousineau says.

“The history of the music is contained in vinyl. That’s what makes me go buy those records,” Miller says.