New York, NY (April 20, 2022)—Answering the music industry’s desperate need for more vinyl pressing plants to manufacture inventory, three major players have announced expansion plans in Tennessee this month, aiming to expand pressing capacities, ease massive production backlogs and, most of all, cash in on what would appear to be a no-brainer opportunity.
The reemergence of vinyl records as the go-to physical format for music has been one of the most unexpected success stories of recent years. Vinyl albums outsold CDs in the US in 2021 for the first time in 30 years, according to the MRC. Last year, 38.3 percent of all U.S. album sales were on vinyl, and record album sales were up 51.4 percent over 2020. That means 41.72 million newly pressed records were sold last year—and that’s just in the U.S.
Powered by high-profile events like Record Store Day—the 15th edition of which takes place this Saturday, April 23—and high-profile artists like Taylor Swift and Adele championing the format, newly pressed records are flying off the shelves not only at independent record stores but also major retailers like Walmart and Target.
While consumer demand continues to skyrocket, however, manufacturing capacity has been at a comparative standstill, creating jaw-dropping backlogs at vinyl pressing plants; in many cases, labels and artists have to wait upwards of 10 months to a year for an order to be produced.
Much of the logjam stems from the fact that the analog listening format requires an equally analog manufacturing process. Most vinyl record presses in operation today are aged machines that were built decades ago and which have to be operated by hand. At top speed, a press can average about a record per minute, and while some new presses have been built in recent years, overall, manufacturing capacity is still lags far behind consumer demand for the format.
On Tuesday, Europe’s largest vinyl record manufacturer, GZ Media, announced it has founded a new pressing business in Music City—Nashville Record Pressing. Built with a $13.3 million investment from the Czech Republic-based company, the new business will offer manufacturing, distribution and back-end functions, and is expected to generate 255 jobs for North Davidson County within the next five years. The facility will be equipped with brand-new equipment and infrastructure, and is led by CEO Drake Coker. As it gets underway, Nashville Record Pressing will surely benefit from its parent company’s experience—GZ Media currently employs nearly 2,000 people in the Czech Republic and 500 in North America.
Coker noted a statement, “We’re launching Nashville Record Pressing as a direct answer to customer requests to make more vinyl and locate that new production in Nashville. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from Tennessee and the warm welcome we’ve received from Music City. We’re committed to becoming a source of pride for the community. We’re here to be Nashville’s favorite vinyl pressing plant.”
It’s not the only pressing plant in the region, however. Nashville has long been the home of United Record Pressing—arguably the highest profile pressing outfit in North America. United announced in early April that it is expanding its operations this year, and hand-in-hand with that move, is also looking for new employees. The company currently produces 40,000 records a day on its 40 record presses, and hit $40 million in sales in 2021. Now United has announced plans to expand with 48 new presses, and is looking to bring on employees in bulk—50 in the near-term and 200 once the new presses are in place.
Three hours away on the other side of Tennessee, Memphis Record Pressing has begun construction on a nearly $30 million expansion that is expected to triple the size of the company and more than double its workforce. A new packaging facility is expected to open in June, while a new 33,000-square-foot addition designed to house 36 new presses will be operational by September. Like United, Memphis Record Pressing is faced with having to staff up quickly, too, as it plans to expand its headcount to 480-plus by early 2023 as it hires Vinyl Record Press Operators, Maintenance Technicians, Quality Control Technicians, Material Handlers, Packaging Technicians, Customer Service Representatives and more.